It was with great interest that I read Harold Monteau’s editorial, “Regarding Gaming Compacts and Their ‘Illusory Exclusivity,’” in which he criticized the tribal-state compact reached between the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Our tribe was re-acknowledged by the federal government in 2007 after hundreds of years of struggles that, while familiar to many tribes, were unique to our tribal nation. Through early exposure to European explorers and settlers, warfare and slavery, brutality and broken promises, the loss of our land and attempts to exterminate our culture, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe persevered.
Now, after a 35-year federal recognition process, we are working diligently to provide for our tribal citizens, which will only be possible with economic self-sufficiency. This includes our successful fight to have our sovereign rights respected in the Massachusetts Expanded Gaming Act and the negotiation of a tribal-state compact to allow Class III gaming.
While I respect Mr. Monteau’s concern and his service to Indian country, I believe that he is unaware of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s specific circumstances and the decisions that we as a sovereign nation must make to provide for the future of our people.
As a landless tribe, without the legislation authorizing the governor to negotiate the compact in recognition of our inevitable rights and the Commonwealth’s support for our gaming efforts, we would have first been expected to acquire lands eligible for gaming and only then could have required the Commonwealth to enter compact negotiations under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
The Compact reflects concessions from the Commonwealth on matters that the Commonwealth was not required to negotiate and which are of immense value to our Tribe, both economically and otherwise.
Further, as a result of our negotiations, the Commonwealth elected to forego moving forward with a commercial gaming company in our region—the alternative permitted under that law if the Compact had not been approved by July 31 of this year.
It is vital for the future self-sufficiency of our tribe that the compact be approved. While other tribes in different circumstances negotiate different compacts, this compact reflects our needs, our priorities, and our specific circumstances. This compact should in no way be construed to have any bearing on other tribes. I wholeheartedly support each tribe’s right to negotiate compacts based on what is in the best interest of their people, and I hope that Indian country will afford the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe the same respect.
Cedric Cromwell is the chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. The tribe was re-acknowledged as a federally recognized tribe in 2007 and signed a Tribal-State Compact with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in July of this year.