Court denies tribe’s latest appeal

Tribe leader said while she’s disappointed, the tribe will move forward with plans.

A federal reservation ruling in favor of the Mashpee Wampanoag could have implications for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). -MV Times

Updated @6:40 pm

A federal appeals court has rejected a request for an en banc review of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) versus the town and state.

In a brief decision posted Monday, the judges stated, “The petition for rehearing having been denied by the panel of judges who decided the case, and the petition for rehearing en banc having been submitted to the active judges of this court and a majority of the judges not having voted that the case be heard en banc, it is ordered that the petition for rehearing and the petition for rehearing en banc be denied.”

Last month the tribe’s attorneys filed the petition seeking the full court’s review, stating that the decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals essentially provided a “roadmap to impede” the tribe’s casino plans in Aquinnah. The tribe hopes to build a Class II casino, which is an electronic bingo facility, under federal law,.

The town essentially won its appeal on a technicality. Tribe attorneys failed to appeal the full ruling by a lower court, allowing attorneys for the town and state to file for and win a final judgment that allowed for a casino to be built on tribal lands, but not without going through the permitting process.

The tribe’s attorneys had argued that the appeals court decision is at odds with other decisions made by the court with regard to the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1985. The tribe has argued that their project only requires federal review under the National Indian Gaming Commission.

“We are obviously very disappointed in the decision,” Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, chairwoman of the Aquinnah Wampanoag, told The Times in a text message. “While these requests are rarely granted, in our opinion, the extremely rare circumstances which surrounded this appeals process should have been granted special consideration. We believe that the decision is wrong.

“While disappointed, the fact still remains that the Appeals Court rejected the state’s and town’s challenges to the tribe’s right to game under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and made clear that the town cannot use the permitting process to interfere with those rights. The tribe will proceed with the establishment of a Class II gaming facility on our Indian lands, which will provide needed jobs and necessary governmental revenue to provide programs and services to our members. The facility will provide a first-class entertainment venue for the entire Island and its millions of visitors.”

Before the most recent court action, both the MVC and the town vowed to work with the tribe.

“As we proceed, we are hopeful the town and Martha’s Vineyard Commission will heed the court’s direction and not do anything to impede the process,” Andrews-Maltais wrote.

Jim Newman, chair of the Aquinnah select board, could not be reached.

Updated with a comment from Andrews-Maltais.


  1. Just a thought outside the line
    I am not an advocate for gambling.
    Each time the easy theme of legal gambling pops up around here or anywhere in the USA with native Americans or others, I can’t help but think there are other alternatives especially here on MV.
    To share, One of the greatest pleasures going on a rare vacations for me, has been a fantastic day spa. Not a resort, just one of those wonderful places where there are excellent massages, various steam rooms, sweat lodge, clay baths, warm salt water tubs. All with a view of the ocean, etc, etc.. Maybe a yoga car in there too.
    So instead of ‘Lets Go Gambling’ how about something more in kind to what the Vineyard has naturally. Clay, salt water, rocks, persons that can massage, local produce for a cafe…
    You get the jist…

  2. I think that’s a great idea, “D.” Likely there would be a lot more people, especially those already here on vacation, who would be interested in being pampered for a day, rather than having their pockets picked in the much more obvious way of gambling. They’d actually get something for their money.
    Bravo to you!

    • I am sure this is true for many visitors and residents—that they would love to enjoy a well-designed spa that combines Native American traditions, local Island features (such as the use of local clays, seawater, seaweed, etc), and up-to-date treatments of various kinds.

      The sad truth is that for many people, a significant component of the gambling draw, even with bingo, it that it is addictive and/or quickly becomes addictive. Possibly this addictive aspect may ensure the success of a gaming business. An unsettling thought.

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