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Amendment raises hope for Massachusetts casino plan

28 September 2009

BOSTON, Massachusetts -- As reported by the Boston Herald: "Months after the Supreme Court derailed the Mashpee Wampanoag's plan to put its land into trust for a casino in Middleboro, a U.S. senator is offering to change the rules.

"Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, has introduced a measure to amend the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. If passed, the bill would affirm the Interior Secretary's authority to take land into trust for all tribes, regardless of when they were recognized.

"'We're very encouraged by the amendment introduced today by Senator Dorgan, and we are hopeful that Congress will take this opportunity to resolve the inequitable situation caused by Carcieri v. Salaza,' said Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, referring to the Supreme Court decision that limited the federal government's authority to hold land in trust for Indian tribes.

"While the Supreme Court decision stemmed from a case that pitted the Rhode Island governor against the Narragansett tribe, it chilled plans for other tribes to build casinos.

"The court's decision was a setback for the Wampanoags, who were recognized in 2007 and stalled their application to put more than 500 acres in Middleboro into federal trust for an Indian casino.

"'Inaction by Congress could significantly impact planned development projects on Indian trust lands, resulting in a loss of jobs in an already challenging economic environment; and create costly and unnecessary litigation," Dorgan said in introducing the bill. "If the decision stands, it would create two classes of Indian tribes and that's unacceptable...'"

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