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'Just the start of justice': With reservation land secure, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe discussing casino

Sarah Mizes-Tan
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Headquarters

The U.S. Department of the Interior has affirmed the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s right to reservation land taken into trust six years ago.

The tribe has been waiting for the decision for months. It complies with a 2020 court order that blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to cancel the Mashpee reservation.

Tribe Chairman Brian Weeden said the decision is bittersweet, in light of how little ancestral land the tribe owns — just half of one percent — and the recent death of community elder Amelia Peters Bingham, who fought to preserve tribal land.

“This is just the start of justice for our people,” he said.

The tribe wants to negotiate with the state and federal governments to acquire more land, he said.

The decision also means the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has the right to pursue a casino in Taunton.

Weeden said members of the tribal community are discussing how to move forward.

“The tribe is getting ready to sit down and talk, and work out — whether it's a new deal, whatever it might be,” he said. “You know, that's between us and our investors, but that relationship is still very active.”

He said the tribe never should have stopped construction on the casino, which happened under his predecessor.

“I don't plan on making any of those mistakes,” he said. “I plan on exercising our sovereignty to every extent.”

Separately, the tribe also plans to continue construction on a housing development and work with the town of Mashpee on a sewer project to improve local water quality.

The Mashpee Wampanoag reservation consists of 170 acres in Mashpee and 151 acres in Taunton.

Here's the affirmation of decision from the Department of the Interior:

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.