A memorandum of understanding will continue another year between the Town of Mashpee and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to supply public safety on tribal lands.
Mashpee selectmen signed the fourth year-long agreement February 11, the first time the compromise was reached without any public contention.
The year-long memorandum essentially lays the groundwork for the town to supply some emergency services on tribal sovereign ground.
Since 2016, following the federal government’s decision to grant the tribe land in trust, the tribe and town have entered the agreement annually. But each time, the two governmental agencies have had their disagreements.
Last year, selectmen used the memorandum as leverage to call for a long-promised meeting between the Mashpee Wampanaog Tribal Council and the selectmen. At the time, it had been two years since a contentious May Town Meeting when residents asked for better communication between the two governments. Shortly after signing the memorandum, the two entities met at the tribal headquarters.
(Ironically, Selectman Andrew R. Gottlieb made a remark at the time that President Donald J. Trump would meet with North Korea before the selectmen and tribe met. Selectmen and the the tribal council met in March, and the president met with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un in June).
Selectmen’s frustration most likely stemmed from the previous year when selectmen refrained from renewing the one-year agreement because of unanswered questions about the tribe’s land status and, similarly, in hope of setting up a joint meeting. Selectmen were in the dark as to the question of whether tribal lands were in trust or not.
At the time, a federal judge had agreed with tribal opponents in Taunton, stating that the federal government had erred when providing the tribe land in trust, although the judge also provided an opportunity to the federal government to revise its decision.
The tribal government had responded that the land was still in trust and the public safety memorandum was signed, but a meeting never occurred until the next year.
When the memorandum was originally signed, it took several months of negotiations between the two entities, much of which took place behind closed doors. At one point, selectmen signed a draft of the agreement, only to have the tribal council reject it, and the negotiations continued. At the time, there was a misunderstanding over jurisdictional issues.
The memorandum reads like a mutual aid agreement. It states that the tribe intends to serve jurisdiction over trust lands in accordance with federal law, while accepting the city’s fire and emergency service during an interim period.
According to the memorandum, state and local government hold criminal jurisdiction over non-Native Americans on the trust lands.
According to the document, the tribe would grant permission to city officers for them to enter the trust lands for the purpose of law enforcement of non-native Americans. City police must ascertain the identity of the subject and inquire if the subject is Native American.
In the event the subject claims to be Native American but is not in possession of a Tribal Enrollment Card, a city officer shall contact a tribal police officer to verify the status. If the subject is a non-native, the city officer will take jurisdiction; if the subject is a tribal member, a tribal officer would detain the subject.
If a city officer believes a Native American threatens public safety, the officer must provide a notice of entry onto the trust land and report the identity of the Native American. The city official can detain the Native American subject until the tribal officer assumes custody of the individual. The tribal officer will make every effort to detain the subject within two hours, and the city must then “immediately” release the subject.