Massachusetts Tribes Mattakeeset and Mashpee Quarrel Over Casino Privileges in Taunton

Posted on: December 9, 2020, 08:54h. 

Last updated on: December 9, 2020, 01:41h.

A recently revived Massachusetts Native American tribe is staking its claims that it has historical ties to Taunton.

Massachusetts tribal casino Taunton
Mattakeeset Massachusetts Tribe Chief Sachem Larry Fisher (front) says the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe does not have exclusive tribal rights to build a casino in Taunton. (Image: AP)

The Mattakeeset Massachusetts Tribe says the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has pulled a fast one on the state and nation. The Mattakeesets say their tribe — not the Mashpees — has its roots based in Taunton, and that the land the Mashpees have for years been trying to build a $1 billion casino resort on should be reserved for them.

They blatantly fooled the whole entire country about this land belonging to them,” declared Larry Fisher, the Mattakeeset council chief sachem. “We just want the truth to be told. It belongs to us. The Mattakeesets.”

For more than half of a decade, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has been embattled in a legal conflict regarding its desire to build an Indian integrated resort casino in Taunton.

In 2015, The US Interior Department took 151 acres of the tribe’s land in Taunton into federal trust, clearing the way for the tribe to build a Native American gaming facility. However, the Interior reversed that decision under the Trump administration and removed the land from the federal registrar.

Latest Controversy

No skilled betting man would wager on the Mashpee’s casino resort dreams coming to reality anytime soon. The Mattakeeset claim this week is only the latest polemic in the ongoing saga. The project has been dubbed the First Light Resort & Casino.

The Mashpee casino effort in Taunton has made its way into the DC political arena. US Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass) have both backed congressional legislation that would bypass the Interior Department’s ruling and authorize the Mashpee people to move forward with their casino ambitions.

President Trump successfully convinced Republican senators to block the bill after it passed the House.

The dispute remains tied up in courts. The primary issue is whether tribes federally recognized after the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act qualify to have newly acquired property placed in the federal trust. The Interior Department under President Obama said they do — under Trump, they do not.

Adding to the chaos, federal bribery and extortion charges were filed last month against Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell. The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts says a grand jury concluded that there’s ample evidence to warrant prosecution that Cromwell allegedly orchestrated a bribery scheme in relation to the casino development.

Law enforcement alleges that Cromwell received nearly $60,000 in payments and benefits from an architectural firm in exchange for a $5 million design contract.

Mistaken Identity? 

Responding to Fisher’s claims that the Mattakeesets are Taunton’s true Native American ancestor, Mashpee spokesperson Steven Peters said the smaller, unrecognized tribe is misguided.

Larry is well-meaning, but very confused,” opined Peters. “The Mattakeesets … are Wampanoags.”

Peters contends that the Mattakeesets are simply a small fraction within the Mashpee tribe, which inhabited what’s known today as Massachusetts some 400 years ago.