US Senate Candidate Markey Files Bill To Assist Mashpee Tribe’s Reservation Plans
By: Geoff Spillane
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe appears to have a friend in US Representative Edward Markey.
Rep. Markey, who is a candidate for the US Senate seat vacated by former Senator John F. Kerry, has given a potential boost to the tribe’s efforts to establish reservation lands in Mashpee and Taunton with a bill he filed to reaffirm the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for recognized Indian tribes.
The bill is intended to “fix” the 2009 Carcieri v. Salazar decision by the US Supreme Court, which ruled that the US Department of the Interior could not grant reservations for tribes that were not under federal jurisdiction prior to 1934. While the Mashpee did not receive federal recognition until 2007, tribal leaders have long claimed that they can document federal ties with the tribe prior to 1934.
“This legislation has been the priority for Indian tribes since the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2009. As the ranking member of the natural resources committee that has responsibility for Native American issues, I’ve supported legislation to correct the flawed ruling, which held that the Secretary of the Interior may only take land into trust for Indian tribes under federal jurisdiction as of 1934. Tribes, like the Mashpee, that were federally recognized well after 1934, are therefore significantly impacted by the decision and efforts to establish their reservation and create a homeland for their citizens jeopardized. I co-sponsored legislation in the last Congress and have reintroduced it with my colleague(s) in the beginning of this Congress,” Rep. Markey said in a written statement provided to the Enterprise.
Rep. William R. Keating, a Democrat who represents the Cape and islands and South Coast, including Taunton, and Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Massachusetts) are among the 11 co-sponsors of the bill.
The bill has already been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee, but a spokesman for Rep. Markey said that he could not predict when the bill may be moved forward on Capitol Hill.
In addition, a similar bill has also been introduced by Rep. Thomas J. Cole (R-Oklahoma).
Late last year, a Carcieri fix bill sponsored by former senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), who retired in January, was widely thought to stand a good chance at being presented and voted upon during the lame duck session of Congress. That was not to be, however, as it was derailed due to the “fiscal cliff” crisis.
In 2012, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe spent $123,500 on federal lobbying efforts, according to information from the Center for Responsive Politics. At least $80,000 of the total went to the lobbying firm of Akerman, Senterfitt & Eidson and lobbyist Joseph Findaro for efforts to pass prior versions of a Carcieri fix bill.
Information on campaign donations to Rep. Markey and others in 2013 is not yet available.
“While we are confident that the Department of the Interior has the legal authority to take land into trust on our behalf, a clean Carcieri fix would help clear up the confusion caused by the Supreme Court’s 2009 decision and would spur economic development across Indian Country,” Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a prepared statement provided to the Enterprise.
The tribe has aspirations to build a $500 million destination resort casino in Taunton but must have the proposed 146-acre site of the development placed into trust before it can commence gaming operations.
“The people of Massachusetts have rendered their verdict on gaming. It is coming to our state. In light of that fact, I have supported the state developing a gaming compact with the Mashpee Wampanoag as a way to support revitalizing its tribal culture, providing fundamental health, housing and other government services to its people, and encouraging economic independence,” Rep. Markey said.
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