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Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe looking toward Dec. 31 deadline for update on reservation land

Sarah Mizes-Tan

With the end of the year just around the corner, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is waiting for word from the Biden administration about the status of its reservation land.

A federal judge has asked the administration to provide an update to the court by Dec. 31, according to a Washington, D.C. lawyer who represents the tribe.

The lawyer tells CAI it’s a deadline to report to the court — not for a decision on the reservation. But it could prompt the administration to act.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman ruled that the Trump administration’s effort to cancel the tribe’s reservation was “an abuse of discretion and contrary to law.”

The lawyer for the tribe says the court doesn’t have the authority to reaffirm the reservation; it can only tell the executive branch to go back and fix the problem.

Tribe Chairman Brian Weeden says until that happens, the Mashpee Tribe is missing out on federal housing grants and can’t pursue a casino in Taunton.

The reservation comprises about 170 acres in Mashpee and 151 acres in Taunton. The Department of the Interior took the land into trust for the tribe’s benefit in 2015 — during the Obama administration — and proclaimed it to be a reservation.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.