Tribe vows to continue to fight for bingo hall

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Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, chairwoman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), called a stay the Supreme Court petitions expected and disappointing. – Stacey Rupolo

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) is vowing to continue to fight for its homeland after the town, state, and a community group filed petitions to have the gambling issue decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In an email to the Times, tribal council chairwoman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais wrote that the filings were expected. “The most recent actions by the commonwealth, the town, and the community association continuing their efforts to stifle the tribe’s sovereignty and rights are not unexpected — albeit disappointing,” she wrote. “Our tribe has lived on Noepe [Martha’s Vineyard] for over 13,000 years, and we will continue to defend our homelands, our people, and our rights from the overreach by those who have come to our homelands with the intent to control our community and disregard our rights.”

The petitions filed Tuesday ask the nation’s highest court to review the case because the First Circuit Court of Appeals decision contradicts a decision on a similar case in the Fifth Circuit, and because, they say, it contradicts previous opinions by the Supreme Court with regard to “implied repeals.”

The tribe’s argument, which the First Circuit upheld, is that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 supersedes the settlement agreement reached the year before and approved by the same Congress. In that 1987 agreement, the tribe agreed to follow local and state laws, with specific reference to a ban on games of chance, including bingo, in exchange for nearly 500 acres of land.

In her email, Ms. Andrews-Maltais also provided a statement from the tribe’s lead attorneys, Scott Crowell and Leal EchoHawk.

“The petitions disingenuously attempt to manufacture a split in the circuits regarding the well-settled principles of implied repeals as the reason why the Supreme Court should hear the case,” they wrote. “There is no disagreement as to the law regarding implied repeals, and there is no split in the circuits. Both the Fifth and First circuits applied those well-settled principles to the statutes before them to conclude the Isleta Pueblo and the Passamaquoddy may not offer gaming under IGRA, and the First Circuit applied the same case law to different statutes to conclude the Aquinnah and Narragansett Tribe may offer gaming under IGRA. We expect the Supreme Court will conclude that their limited time and resources should be devoted to cases worthy of their review and deny the petitions.”

Indeed, the Supreme Court review remains a long shot. The court accepts only about 1 percent of the nearly 8,000 cases it is asked to review each year.

The tribe’s argument, which the First Circuit upheld, is that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 supersedes the settlement agreement reached the year before and approved by the same Congress. In that 1987 agreement, the tribe agreed to follow local and state laws, with specific reference to a ban on games of chance, including Bingo, in exchange for nearly 500 acres of land.

In her email, Ms. Andrews-Maltais also provided a statement from the tribe’s lead attorneys, Scott Crowell and Leal EchoHawk.

“The petitions disingenuously attempt to manufacture a split in the circuits regarding the well-settled principles of implied repeals as the reason why the Supreme Court should hear the case,” they wrote. “There is no disagreement as to the law regarding implied repeals and there is no split in the Circuits. Both the Fifth and First circuits applied those well-settled principles to the statutes before them to conclude the Isleta Pueblo and the Passamaquoddy may not offer gaming under IGRA, and the First Circuit applied the same case law to different statutes to conclude the Aquinnah and Narragansett Tribe may offer gaming under IGRA. We expect the Supreme Court will conclude that their limited time and resources should be devoted to cases worthy of their review and deny the petitions.”

Indeed, the Supreme Court review remains a longshot. The court only accepts about one percent of the nearly 8,000 cases it is asked to review each year.