- 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.
Support Independent Indigenous Journalism
Native News Online is an independent, Indigenous-led newsroom with a crucial mission: We want to change the narrative about Indian Country. We do this by producing intelligent, fact-based journalism that tells the full story from all corners of Indian Country. We pride ourselves on covering the tribes you may have never heard of before and by respecting and listening to the communities we serve through our reporting. As newsrooms across the country continue to shrink, coverage of Indian Country is more important than ever, and we are committed to filling this ever-present hole in journalism.
Because we believe everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities, the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers. But we hope it inspires you to make a gift to Native News Online so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount, big or small, gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.