The infighting is so bad that three newly-elected tribal council members could be removed from office in the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. The brouhaha is partially over the proposed Taunton casino, west of Cape Cod, to be called First Light Resort & Casino.
The members in jeopardy are Rita Gonsalves, Carlton Hendricks, Jr., and Aaron Tobey Jr. They face a disciplinary hearing. The issue seems to revolve around the planned tribal Massachusetts casino to the tune of one billion. OMG. Hendricks even incited a riot and broke “rules of decorum.” The crime for Gonsalves was “breach of executive session.” No info on Tobey has been aired.
No doubt the considerable tribal debt ($375 million in 2016 or even more to date) is the culprit. The tribe owes Genting Malaysia that had propped it up in the hopes of seeing the new casino come to fruition. Funds are low for Mashpee Wampanoag, prompting a no confidence vote for tribal council Chairman and President of the Gaming Authority Cedric Cromwell.
Things got back to normal pretty quickly, however and the vote on Cedric was rescinded and his power was restored. No financial impropriety was found. Tribal Council Secretary Ann Marie Askew said that “we are tired of beating a dead horse. Our ancestors are twisting in their graves over people running to the news media to try and divide us. United we stand. That’s the kind of people we are.”
Now a decision has to made about tribal land in Taunton. Is it a sovereign reservation and not under Massachusetts state jurisdiction? The land in question was granted to the tribe in 2015 by the Department of Interior but the act has been reversed of late. Thus the casino may not be built and gaming offered under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The DOI action was apparently not completely sanctioned. A court ruling has deemed the land transfer in violation of a 2009 Supreme Court Ruling (the Calcieri Decision).
The tribe as expected is fighting the ruling, noting that it has already paid Taunton $515,260 for a property that would include three hotels, 40 poker tables, 3,000 slots and 150 game tables. The outdoor water park and numerous restaurants would benefit the community. For some reason Mayor Thomas Hoye, Jr. is silent on the subject.
A version of this article first appeared at casino.org