April 24, 2020
PRESS RELEASE: BERKSHIRES DSA CONDEMNS BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS ATTEMPT TO DISESTABLISH MASHPEE WAMPANOAG NATION, CALLS ON FEDERAL AND STATE OFFICIALS TO ACT
Pittsfield, MA — The Berkshires chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America strongly condemns the actions taken by the Bureau of Indian Affairs against the Mashpee Wampanoag Nation and calls on the state’s representatives and senators in Boston and Washington, D.C., to reintroduce, co-sponsor, and publicly support the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act.
On March 27, the Bureau of Indian Affairs notified the Mashpee Wampanoag that their reservation land will be taken out of trust, following an order from Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.
Land “held in trust” by the federal government grants a tribe special legal status and autonomy to decide how to tax, develop, and manage a plot of land. Decisions regarding land trusts are generally made by the Department of the Interior, which had approved trust status for the Mashpee land in 2015. But in February, the tribe was dealt a legal defeat when the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston upheld a lower court decision that the federal government could not take the land into trust.
“Berkshires Democratic Socialists of America stands in solidarity with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe in their struggle to assert their sovereignty and autonomy over their tribal lands, the rightful land of their ancestors,” says Christian Kennedy, the Berkshires DSA’s new Co-Chair. “We are calling on U.S. Senators Markey and Warren to reintroduce and co-sponsor S.2628 Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act; for U.S. Representative Neal to co-sponsor and support Representative Keating’s House version of the bill; and for State Senators Hinds and Cyr, and State Representatives Farley-Bouvier and Vieira to publicly support the bill and call on their constituents to pressure our federal officials to support and pass this critical legislation.”
In an email to the leadership of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Jean-Luc Pierite, head of the North American Indian Center of Boston, described the federal government’s action as an existential crisis for all tribes federally recognized after 1934. (The Cape Cod-based Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe received federal recognition in 2007.) The department’s action without a court order signals that reservations in the United States could be removed from trust at the discretion of the Secretary of the Interior, Pierite said.
“For the federal government, it could mean a situation in which hundreds of tribes seek reaffirmation through an act of Congress, as the Massachusetts delegation has done,” Pierite said.
“We have survived, we will continue to survive,” Tribe Chairman Cedric Cromwell said. “These are our lands, these are the lands of our ancestors, and these will be the lands of our grandchildren. This Administration has come and it will go. But we will be here, always. And we will not rest until we are treated equally with other federally recognized tribes and the status of our reservation is confirmed.”
The DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States. DSA’s members are building progressive movements for social change while establishing an openly democratic socialist presence in American communities and politics. We believe that working people should run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few. DSA members use a variety of tactics, from legislation to direct action, in the fight to empower working people.
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