- By Levi Rickert
WASHINGTON — On Friday, a federal judge ruled in favor of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in its battle with the Trump administration to retain its tribal land in trust.
Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District Of Columbia ruled that the Department of Interior’s 2018 decision that the Tribe was not under federal jurisdiction in 1934 was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law.”
In doing so, Friedman effectively ruled that the DOI incorrectly applied its own guidelines when it decided the Mashpee tribe did not qualify to have its land taken into federal trust.
Friedman ordered the Interior Department to maintain the reservation status of the tribe’s 321 acres of land until the department issues a new decision on remand over whether the tribe qualifies as “under federal jurisdiction” in 1934.
“This is a huge victory for our tribe that met the Pilgrims 400 years ago on Plymouth Rock,” Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a telephone interview with Native News Online on Friday evening. “And, we are still here.”
On March 30, 2020, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe filed an emergency injunction and temporary restraining order in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia after the Bureau of Indian Affairs informed tribe’s Chairman Cedric Cromwell that U.S. Dept. of Interior (DOI) Secretary David Bernhardt was ordering Cromwell to disestablish his tribe’s reservation.
“Today, the DC District Court righted what would have been a terrible and historic injustice by finding that the Department of the Interior broke the law in attempting to take our land,” Cromwell said on a post to the Tribe’s website.
“While we are pleased with the court's findings, our work is not done. The Department of Interior must now draft a positive decision for our land as instructed by Judge Friedman. We will continue to work with the Department of the Interior — and fight them if necessary — to ensure our land remains in trust,” Cromwell further wrote in his post Friday night.