Dear USET/USET SPF Family,
On December 22, 2021, the Department of the Interior (DOI), in a letter from Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Bryan Newland, to Mashpee Tribal Chairman, Brian Weeden, confirmed that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe was under federal jurisdiction in 1934, meaning the Tribal Nation's homelands remain held in trust by the federal government. The 55-page decision reverses the March 2020 attempt by the Trump Administration to remove Mashpee's homelands from trust. It follows the Biden Administration's withdrawal of DOI's appeal in the case of Mashpee v. Bernhardt last February.
"Our USET/USET SPF family shares in Mashpee's joy and relief in knowing that DOI will continue to hold its ancestral homelands in trust for the benefit of the Mashpee people," said USET/USET SPF President, Kirk Francis. "It is our hope that Mashpee can soon turn the page on challenges to the status of its lands after centuries of injustice. Like all Tribal Nations, Mashpee deserves a land base from which to govern. DOI's reaffirmation brings the Tribal Nation one step closer to certainty in its homelands."
While DOI’s decision is an important step toward righting centuries of wrong against the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, our collective work is not finished. Following DOI's decision, the plaintiffs in Littlefield v. Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe, litigation challenging Mashpee's ability to have the lands placed in trust, have filed a yet another lawsuit, seeking to reopen their case questioning Mashpee's historical connection to Taunton, MA and DOI's decision to call two non-contiguous parcels of land a single reservation.
USET SPF remains committed to restoring and protecting the homelands of Mashpee and all Tribal Nations. This includes continued advocacy for a fix to the Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar. Carcieri has created a deeply inequitable 2-class system, in which some Tribal Nations have the ability to restore their homelands and others do not. This 2-class system serves to deny these Tribal Nations a critical component of the trust relationship, vital aspects of the exercise of inherent sovereignty, and the opportunity to qualify for several government programs. USET SPF continues to call for the immediate passage of a fix that contains the two features necessary to restore parity to the land-into-trust process: (1) a reaffirmation of the status of current trust lands; and (2) confirmation that the Secretary has authority to take land into trust for all federally recognized Tribal Nations.
We will continue to fight for the restoration of Tribal homelands and the full delivery of trust and treaty obligations. We will provide updates on the lawsuit, Carcieri, and other issues related to the land-into-trust process as they develop.
For more information, please contact Liz Malerba, USET SPF Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, at email@example.com.