Thursday, November 07, 2013

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Supreme Court issues 1st ruling!

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe now has it's own Supreme Court.  They issued their first ever ruling from the Mashpee Tribal headquarters where the courtrooms are located in a double-wide trailor. On the inside, the setting looks like any other courtroom on Cape Cod and they have three Supreme Court Justices.  Two of the justices had to remove themselves from the case because of conflict of interest.  The decision overturned a lower court ruling that allowed a tribal council member, Marie Stone, to sue her fellow councilors after she was suspended from the council for two weeks without pay.  She claimed that she was not provided due process and there was malfeasance on the part of the councilors.

In 2007, after 32 years, the tribe of approximately 1,500 members received the news of their federal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. (the 2nd tribe to do so)  Since gaining this status, the Mashpee tribe has created its own government, approved a constitution, passed laws and created a court system.  For the full-text of the constitution online, click here.  Please contact The National Indian Law Library for other requests you may have.

After notifying the government in 1975 of its plans to seek recognition, they did not apply until 1990. That was rejected and the tribe refiled in 1996.  No action was taken for years, and the tribe sued the Department of Interior to speed up the review.  Click on the link to see a copy of the Final Determination for federal acknowledgment as a sovereign American Indian Nation for the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribal Council, Inc., dated 2/15/2007.

Here is the link to the National American Rights Fund, where you can search for information by tribe.  Here is the link to the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) of Massachusetts.  You will find tribal code, court opinions (when they publish them), bulletins and more.

For more on the subject, see our webpage on Law About American Indians.