Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Massachusetts) has introduced a bill into the US House of Representatives that would “prohibit the Trump Administration from threatening tribal reservation lands in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The introduction of the bill on June 11 came less than a week after a federal judge ordered that the Interior Department maintain the reservation status of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s land until a new decision on the tribe’s eligibility under the Indian Reorganization Act is issued.
The Interior Department had ordered in March that the reservation status of the tribe’s 321 acres of land be revoked.
“In the midst of a pandemic that has uniquely threatened Native Americans, Tribes should be focused on caring for their communities, not fighting back against a hateful, ignorant Administration,” Rep. Kennedy said in a news release.
The joint news release from Rep. Kennedy and Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) stated, “As the Department of Interior considers further dangerous actions against the Mashpee Wampanoag people, this legislation would give the tribe certainty and would ensure no other tribe in the country would face similar attacks.”
Reps. James P. McGovern, Ayanna Pressley and Lori Trahan, all Democrats representing Massachusetts, also have cosigned the bill.
“If President Trump is willing to threaten the very existence of the Tribe that welcomed the Pilgrims to our shores, no tribal lands in this country are safe from his attacks,” Rep. Kennedy said in the release. “Under the Tribal Reservation Pandemic Protection Act, we can ensure our nation’s priorities lie with the Native Americans who deserve our protection.”
Another bill to protect the Mashpee’s tribal lands, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, has stalled in the US Senate since it passed the House with bipartisan support in May of last year.