Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell speaks at a Tribal rally for its sovereign rights to land in front of the U.S. Capitol in November 2018. (Photo by Native Business)
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe asked the District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday to issue an emergency restraining order to prevent the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) from taking its land out of trust.
On March 27, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt “disestablished” the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s reservation status, and plans to take away the 321 acres of land put into trust during the Obama Administration.
At a hearing Tuesday in the District Court for the District of Columbia, Tribal officials said they learned the court will issue a formal order confirming that the federal government must refrain from disestablishing its land base until the court is able to rule on the Tribe’s motion for a preliminary injunction.
“While the Tribe is grateful for this temporary reprieve, we remain deeply concerned about the fate of our reservation,” said Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell. “That said, the outpouring of support from both the Native and non-Native community gives us hope, and bolsters our courage. We thank everyone who ‘Stands with Mashpee,’ your support is powerful.”
Support continues to grow for the Mashpee Wampanoags as other Tribal Nations rise up against the cruel and unnecessary removal of Indigenous land from a Tribe whose ancestors were there to welcome the Pilgrims when they landed at Plymouth Rock. It was the Mashpee Wampanoags who helped to save the first colonists from starvation. The relationship between the Mashpee Wampanoag and the first European settlers is one of the oldest such relationships in the United States.
As Cromwell has long articulated, Tribal rights to land is about so much more than the land itself.
“A Tribal land base is critical for the exercise of Tribal sovereignty, and for the protection and continuation of Tribal culture, and represents the foundation for Tribal economic development,” Cromwell said.
The Interior’s actions represent more erosion of responsibility by the federal government to protect land that is sacred to Native American Tribes. “Sacred land at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the Tohono O’odham Nation Reservation are other instances of the federal government balking at its responsibility to Native Americans,” according to a Tribal statement. “Tribes rely on their land to provide culturally based education, modern healthcare, food and housing.”