Haaland, Kennedy Introduce Bill to Protect Tribal Lands

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe rallied for its sovereign rights to land in front of the U.S. Capitol in November 2018. (Photo by Native Business)

The Tribal Reservation Pandemic Protection Act would prohibit the Trump Administration from threatening Tribal reservation lands in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the world and Indian Country, disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, were responding to the health and economic crisis, the Trump administration on March 27th revoked the reservation status of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe — the original inhabitants of these lands who welcomed the first settlers to Plymouth Rock in 1620.

Fortunately, victory came for the Mashpee Wampanoag on June 5th, when a federal judge remanded the case to the U.S. Department of Interior to reexamine its previous decision that disestablished the Tribe’s reservation status in Massachusetts. Judge Paul L. Friedman called Interior’s 2018 order that led to the department’s March 27th decision to take Mashpee Tribal lands out of trust, “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law.”

The timing of the move to strip the Tribe of its land base — in the midst of a global pandemic — added insult to injury. Congressman Joe Kennedy III (D-Massachusetts) labeled the Trump Administration’s decision “hateful” and “ignorant.”

On the heels of the ruling in favor of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) and Congressman Kennedy introduced a bill to bar the Trump Administration from threatening any Tribal reservation lands during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Tribal Reservation Pandemic Protection Act would protect the Mashpee Wampanoag and any other Tribe that could face such an attack. 

“Tribal sovereignty and the government-to-government relationships must be respected, but the Department of Interior chose to use this public health emergency to illegally move land out of trust. This bill will prohibit this Administration from dodging the rules and taking Tribes’ land during this public health emergency,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland.

As is stated in the #StandWithMashpee video below: “If they can do this to one of the most well-documented Tribes in America, they can do this to any Tribe.”

“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,” said Congressman Kennedy. “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. Under the Tribal Reservation Pandemic Protection Act, we can ensure our nation’s priorities lie with the Native Americans who deserve our protection.”

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