The Mashpee Wampanoag is one of only two federally-recognized tribes consisting of Wampanoag people in the state of Massachusetts. Recognized back in 2007, the tribe is based in Mashpee of Cape Cod. The other federally-recognized tribe of this native people is the Wampanoag Tribe of Martha’s Vineyard.
As estimated in 2019, this tribe includes over two thousand and nine hundred enrolled members. In 2015, their one hundred and seventy acres of land located in Mashpee and around one hundred and fifty acres in Taunton were taken into trust by the United States Department of Interior. This decision made on the tribe’s behalf established these two land parcels as reservation property.
Shortly after the Tribe gained its federal recognition in 2007, it almost immediately lobbied the state of Massachusetts for approval to construct a casino venue on their reservation Mashpee land. All of the Indian gaming operations in the state are regulated and licensed by the National Indian Gaming Commission which established the fundamental Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
The Tribe’s Casino Land
According to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and other laws related to gambling established by the NIGS, there is a general prohibition against casino facilities on land parcels which are put into trust by tribes which are federally-recognized and this affected the Tribe and both of its land parcels were established as reservation land.
The federally-recognized tribe’s attempts to be granted approvals to operate a casino venue on its land have been met with both government and legal challenges. Then, in November of 2011, the state’s newest legislature passed a new law according to which thee sites were licensed to offer casinos and gaming resorts. The Tribe was among the very first entities to be given a head start which allowed it to begin working on its casino plans for its Taunton land parcel.
The Tribe Appealing an Earlier Federal Court’s Decision
As expected, not everything was running smoothly. As reported by different news outlets, they will appear in a Massachusetts federal court this week in order to appeal a previously made decision which prevented it from conducting its plan to construct and manage the First Light Resort and Casino venue.
The tribe will have its petition heard by the US Court of Appeals while both sides involved will engage in oral arguments. All in all, the tribe’s officials hope that the upcoming hearing will result in the federal court of Boston granting it the mandatory rights and permissions to build and run its envisioned resort and casino located on a three hundred and twenty-one-acre land parcel near the city of Taunton.
The tribe won federal recognition back in 2007 and after a thirty-two-year struggle, it had hoped to open its First Light Resort and Casino in 2017. However, this project run into multiple obstacles after a local group of residents decided to initiate legal action against the tribe which ultimately questioned the legality of the United States Department of the Interior’s 2015 land-into-trust move which had given the federally-recognized tribe necessary permissions to host the gambling establishment.
At this point, the tribe is hoping to move forward with its envisioned plans for its Taunton land parcel. However, before any steps can be taken, the court has to issue a new ruling within the following several months.