No Meeting About Mashpee Tribe Land Claim, But Town Counsel Expresses Little Concern

A provision in the state-tribal compact that calls for the governor to assist the tribe in resolving unsettled title claims for and in and around Mashpee caused concern among town officials and residents, but the initial shock appears to be settling down a bit.

A meeting between the tribe and town officials scheduled for last week was canceled at the last minute and has not been rescheduled. But that is okay, according to Mashpee Town Counsel Patrick J. Costello.

“I have had a discussion with an attorney for the tribe, and based on our discussion, I do not see any imminent threat or concern for the town. There is no need to schedule a meeting until additional specific information is available,” Mr. Costello said, adding that the town feels very comfortable that the intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the tribe remains solid.

Mr. Costello did note that there is a clause in the IGA that states, “Furthermore, nothing herein shall prevent or preclude the tribe and town from engaging in negotiations or transactions subsequent to the date of this agreement regarding the transfer of title to or interest in any town property upon terms mutually acceptable to the parties.”

“Representatives from the Town of Mashpee and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe are in communication. Preliminary conversations have been respectful and productive, and we expect that these open lines of communication and cooperative spirit will continue,” Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a written statement.

Nonetheless, the Mashpee Board of Selectmen will take up the matter in executive session Monday evening. According to the meeting agenda, there will be a discussion about the “purchase or exchange of real property in relation to the compact executed by and between the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on July 12, 2012.”

Town officials have referred all inquiries about the land claim provision in the compact to Mr. Costello.

Tribal council officials have said they are interested in discussing land issues with the town, including the possibility of pursuing town-owned land. Vicechairman Aaron Tobey Jr. said the negotiations are an opportunity to "correct some wrongs."

Mr. Tobey and Mr. Cromwell have repeatedly emphasized a desire to build on the positive relationship between the town government and the tribal council in recent years.

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