The Trump administration was met with outrage after it revoked the reservation status of a Native American tribe that has lived on the land for 12,000 years.
In late March, the US Interior Department ordered the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s 321 acres of land to be taken out of the federal trust and the reservation disestablished. The order strips the tribe of the ability to govern on the land – an area where they have been living long before America was established.
The move sparked anger from Congress. On Friday, 18 members of the house sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer asking to pass a pair of bills reaffirming the tribe’s land, including HR 312, which would restore the trust status to the reservation.
‘It would simply ensure the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is no longer vulnerable to having its land taken out of trust,’ the letter stated.
‘And the tribe is treated equally alongside other Native American tribes so it can care for its members and protect its legacy.’
Days after the order, the Interior Department and the tribe came to an agreement that the land will be subject to a 45-day preliminary injunction period before it was taken from the trust.
If the order stands, the tribe would lose their independent judicial system, their police force and their Wampanoag-language school. It would also halt construction on a tribal housing development, as well as a $1 billion resort casino the tribe planned to build on the reservation.
In their letter, the House members branded the Interior Department’s order ‘highly objectionable,’ especially because it is taking place amid the coronavirus pandemic.
‘The clock is now ticking. In the middle of a worldwide pandemic, with the United States struggling to contain the spread of Covid-19, it is highly objectionable that the DOI would take such action in the first place.’
‘The circumstances in which the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe now find themselves only serves as a reminder of the history of unfair treatment by the federal government…the current situation further demonstrates the systemic way the Mashpee Wampanoag people have suffered unnecessary and indescribable cruelty.’