Key House Committee Approves Mashpee Wampanoag Reservation Bill

Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell

Published May 2, 2019

WASHINGTON — On Wednesday the House Natural Resources Committee moved H.R. 312, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, closer to becoming law by voting to move the bill forward out of that Committee. The Committee’s strong bi-partisan action follows a positive hearing on the bill only three weeks ago, and paves the way for consideration and passage by the House of Representatives.

“Today’s action by the House Natural Resources Committee provides an incredible lift for my people. The remarkable bipartisan support of the legislation has served to be a unifying force not only across Indian Country but across the United States of America.” said Chairman Cedric Cromwell.

“We are deeply appreciative of Congressmen Keating and Kennedy for their unwavering support of the Mashpee Wampanoag, to the long list of GOP cosponsors like Tom Cole and Don Young who have stood up for what is right, and to Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva, and Subcommittee Chairman Ruben Gallego and Ranking Member Paul Cook, for their courageous leadership on this issue,” Cromwell added.

In 2015, the Department of the Interior created a reservation for the Tribe, thereby ending generations of landlessness and putting the Tribe on an equal footing with other federally recognized tribes. With its reservation, the Tribe has been able to provide employment, health care, language immersion programs, education, elder housing, and many other desperately needed governmental services.

But a massive commercial gaming interest from Chicago — Rush Street Gaming owned by billionaire Mr. Neil Bluhm, has funded huge litigation, lobbying and P.R. campaigns in both Boston and Washington, D.C. to disestablish the Tribe’s reservation, all as part of its effort to convince the State of Massachusetts to abandon the Tribe and issue a commercial gaming license for Rush Street.

The Tribe’s reservation also has come under furious attack from Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, who made clear in testimony before Congress that her overriding concern is the protection of Rhode Island’s monopoly on the commercial gaming market in southeastern Massachusetts. Massachusetts patrons currently generate about one third of Rhode Island’s gaming revenue at Rhode Island’s two casinos, both located adjacent to the State’s border with Massachusetts.

The United States has not disestablished an Indian reservation for more than half a century. The threat to the Tribe’s reservation has caused enormous hardship to the Tribe and its members, has threatened its funding, caused it to incur crushing debt, and forced it to close programs and lay off employees.

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