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News - 2020

Feb. 2020

Ben Wish quoted in Boston Globe article on appeals court argument in Mashpee Tribe land trust dispute

Benjamin J. Wish was quoted in The Boston Globe on the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe’s appeal to the First Circuit for a ruling that it was entitled to have the U.S. Government take land into trust for its benefit.

The Tribe was part of the tribe that met with the Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving and was federally recognized in 2007. The government took land into trust for the Tribe in 2015.

Mr. Wish, representing the Tribe, argued that the Indian Reorganization Act gives the Tribe the right to sovereign land.  The Tribe is seeking to overturn a lower court decision that the federal government had wrongly acquired the land in trust for it.

At issue in the case is whether the Tribe is “Indian” under the Act, such that they are entitled to the Act’s benefits.  That determination turns on whether the phrase “such members” in the second of three definitions in the Act is ambiguous.  If it is ambiguous, the Tribe argues that principles of statutory interpretation and the legislative history require that the Tribe be defined as “Indian.”

As to legislative history, Mr. Wish argued that the Act was intended to cure centuries of mistreatment:  “This was not a statute meant to nibble around the edges . . . but rather to hit a body blow against centuries of mistreatment,” Wish said.

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