Mashpee Wampanoag Film Thanksgiving Video for Donald Trump

Mashpee Wampanoag First Light Casino Resort

The 2007 US Supreme Court ruling on Carcieri v. Salazar hurts the Masphee Wampanoag’s casino aspirations.

Cedric Cromwell, Chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts, called on President Donald Trump to “do right” and approve the tribe’s First Light Resort casino development plan.

Mr. Cromwell timed his appeal for Thanksgiving, which ostensibly celebrates a 1621 harvest meal between the Pilgrims and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

On October 31, President Trump proclained November to be National Native American Heritage Month. In a press release to make that announcement, Donald Trump said he supports Native American sovereignty claims and self-determination.

In a video which corresponds to Thanksgiving, Cedric Cromwell called on the White House to follow through on its kind words. In the video, Cromwell said, “Today we’re being tested by the courts and tested by people who say ‘No’ to the tribe. But we believe in ‘Yes’, because the tribe provides for everyone.”

Mashpee Wampanoag: The Thanksgiving Story

In American history, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe was the first group of Native Americans to have interacted with America’s white settlers. Those who visit Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts can go to a Mashpee Wampanoag landmark to see how the pilgrims and the Native Americans at the time lived.

Despite its unique role in American colonial history, the tribe, which calls itself the “People of the First Light”, still does not have the same kind of federal recognition that allowed hundreds of other Native American tribes to launch tribal casinos under the 1988 Indian Gaming Act.

First Light Casino in Taunton

For the past few years, the tribe has sought to build a casino in Taunton, a city in southeastern Massachusetts. To do so, they need approval from the U.S. Ministry of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. The tribe has struggled to gain official sanction for its casino development plan, as it has faced opposition from Massachusetts officials and other local gambling interests.

In 2015, the Obama administration set aside over 300 acres of land, stating it belonged to the tribe. The move by the Obama era Interior Department meant the Mashpee Wampanoag could move ahead with their plan to build the First Light Casino in Taunton.

Taunton Casino Legal Setbacks

Since then, the tribe has faced a series of setbacks. Commercial casino interests lobbied the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for a nearby casino in Brockton. Though that plan eventually was defeated, federal approval has been been removed during the Trump administration.

In June 2017, the U.S. Department of the Interior under Ryan Zinke questioned whether the tribe’s 300-plus acres were sovereign tribal land. The news came in response to a series of lawsuits filed by local residents, who say they do not want a casino in-or-around Taunton.

Mashpee Wampanoag Billion Dollar Casino

For their part, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe claims their casino would bring an investment over $1 billion, create over 7,000 jobs, and bring tax revenues to Taunton. The residents in question believe casino gambling would bring crime and social problems to the area, while they question whether lands granted in 2015 can be considered sovereign. Their questions have legal standing, because the Indian Gaming Act calls for tribes to have gained recognition prior to 1934.

The Mashpee Wampanoag of Massachusetts believe their claims to sovereignty are obvious, because the story of Thanksgiving proves they inhabited Massachusetts long before white settlers arrived. The problem with that theory is tribes further west, which dealt with the United States government, often signed treaties with the US federal government, like they were foreign nations.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribes dealt with colonial-era settlers, who lived under the rule of the English crown — and later the British Empire. They never received the kind of recognition that many western tribes — whoever badly they were treated — received.

Cedric Cromwell’s Video Plea

The Thanksgiving Day video thus was an appeal to right an old wrong. In Cedric Cromwell’s video, he called on the American people, “I ask you to join me and my people, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribal nation in holding this White House accountable.”

The White House has not yet responded to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s video.