Posted on April 3, 2020

Feds Revoking Reservation Status for Tribe’s 300 Acres

Philip Marcelo, Washington Post, March 30, 2020

A tribe is losing reservation status for its more than 300 acres in Massachusetts, raising fears among Native American groups that other tribes could face the same fate under the Trump administration.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe was notified late Friday by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs that it will be rescinding its reservation designation and removing the land from federal trust, according to Cedric Cromwell, the tribe’s chairman.

He said the move is “cruel” and “unnecessary” as the tribe and others across the nation are struggling to respond to the coronavirus pandemic within their sovereign lands.


The decision is the latest concerning sign that the Trump administration is willing to use its discretionary powers to attempt to take lands away from tribes, said Jean-Luc Pierite, of the North American Indian Center, a Boston-based advocacy group.

“This is an existential crisis for tribes,” Pierite said. “It’s a power grab and a land grab by the Trump administration.”


The tribe’s more than 300 acres — about half of which are located in the town of Mashpee and the other half in Taunton near the Rhode Island state line — also remain in the tribe’s ownership, as it had before the federal government took them into trust. {snip}

But the decision, if allowed to stand, would destroy much of what the tribe has worked to build in recent years on its sovereign lands. {snip}

That includes establishing an independent judicial system, police force and Wampanoag-language school, as well as beginning construction on a roughly 50-unit tribal housing development and breaking ground on a $1 billion resort casino.