Mashpee Wampanoags want state land on Cape 5-3-07

By KEN MAGUIRE
BOSTON (AP) - The Mashpee Wampanoag Indians want the state to give them ownership of the Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod, saying it's their ancestral land, which they want to turn into a revenue-generating “free-trade zone.”

The Mashpee Wampanoags, who separately are buying land in Middleborough as a possible site for a casino, currently own about 150 acres adjacent to the 22,000-acre military reservation, home to Coast Guard and Army National Guard facilities, as well as Otis Air National Guard Base.

“I want that 100 percent,” tribal council chairman Glenn Marshall told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday. “Our lands were taken illegally by the commonwealth and the federal government. Parts of that base were taken from us.”

The Mashpee Wampanoags received federal recognition as a tribe on Feb. 15. The federal status becomes official May 23.

Marshall said he has not made any formal presentations nor filed any documents to support the tribe's claims for the state-owned military reservation, which sits in the towns of Bourne, Mashpee and Sandwich.

George Skibine, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said the state would have to agree to put the land into trust. From there, the federal government would review the proposed use and decide whether to turn it over to the tribe.

But the tribe would have no recourse if Massachusetts rejects their demand, he said.

“The state has to be willful to agree to transfer that land,” he said. “The state can always say 'We're not interested.”'

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation did not immediately return a call.

National Guard spokesman Maj. Winfield Danielson said he's not been notified of the tribe's plans.

“It's too early to speculate on how that may affect us,” he said.

Marshall said the tribe envisions the military reservation becoming a free-trade zone with no tariffs in imports.

“We would be able to turn that over to a manufacturer, or sell it ourselves,” he said, without offering specifics on types of goods.

Marshall said the government took some of the tribe's land before World War II, when the military reservation was being built.

Tribe spokesman Scott Ferson said the tribe would want to maintain the leases allowing the military facilities to operate on the reservation. He said the state would benefit because the tribe would build seasonal housing and create jobs by luring businesses to a tax-free zone.

The Mississippi Choctaw tribe is their model, he said.

“They used their sovereignty to eliminate unemployment in the tribe, before they decided to game,” Ferson said of the Choctaws, who are defense subcontractors as well as operators of a casino.

0
0
0