400 years ago, the first English settlers arrived in Coastal Massachusetts where they were met by a friendly indigenous tribe known as the Mashpee Wampanoag people.
They had inhabited the region for 12,000 years, yet they welcomed the pilgrims with open arms, helping to ensure their survival through a particularly harsh first winter.
The tribe's land has since been whittled down to a 321 acre reservation divided between Mashpee and Taunton. Now even that is at risk.
In late March, members of the Trump administration voted to revoke the tribe's reservation status, effectively terminating their right to govern the land. The decision came in the wake of increasing coronavirus cases in the region.
“Our land is sacred. It’s where our people receive health services. It’s where our children attend our language immersion school ... Taking our land is a direct attack on our culture and our way of living,” Mashpee Wampanoag chair Cedric Cromwell said in a March 22 study.
If the land is taken out of trust, the order would:
- Disqualify the tribe from Indian gaming, with a $1.5 billion casino planned on reservation land in Taunton
- Interfere with an affordable housing project under construction in Mashpee; and
- Impact funding from the federal government.
The tribe has filed an emergency 45-day postponement of the Interior Department order pending oral arguments to be heard by the tribe's lawyers later this week.