Pride and Prejudice of New England Tribal Gaming

Indigenous People’s Day inspired this post. We’ve seen tribal success stories in New England with Connecticut’s Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequots. On the other hand, so many Native Americans struggle across the country to keep their tribes afloat. Some have had recognition and land trusts taken away in New England. Let’s look at Pride and Prejudice of New England Tribal Gaming.

Pride and Prejudice of New England Tribal Gaming

Pride and Prejudice of New England Tribal Gaming
Chief Massasoit negotiating a peace agreement with the Pilgrims of Plymouth, 1621.

The Mashpee Wampanoags“Not Real Indians?”

As we approach Thanksgiving, we remember the Mashpee Wampanoag assisted the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. In contrast, hundreds of years later, the government is taking away their reservation.

Pride and Prejudice of New England Tribal Gaming.
Mashpees Wampanoag Tribal Emblem

The Mashpee Wampanoags won federal recognition in 2007. This allowed the Interior Secretary to grant them a reservation. However, a recent lawsuit claimed it was wrong to take Mashpee’s land into trust. Why? Because the Mashpee Wampanoags ”did not fit the definition of Indian.”

The Narragansetts of Rhode Island

In 2008, a similar reaction occurred to the Narragansetts. As a matter of fact, the tribe’s ancestors lived in the Rhode Island area for more than 3,000 years. It has about 2,400 enrolled members. In 2008, they received 31 acres in trust.

Then-Governor Donald L. Carcieri sued the Department of Interior because they didn’t have the authority to do so. In fact, a possible Narragansett casino was Carcieri’s main concern, which he strongly disapproved of.

Double StandardsPride and Prejudice of New England Tribal Gaming

The Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegan Tribes are federally recognized. However, other Connecticut tribes can’t say the same. In 2015, the Bureau of Indian Affairs ruled that other tribes could not “re-petition” to be federally recognized.

Connecticut officials believed that the previously proposed ruling was too threatening for Connecticut citizens. Under those circumstances, allowing “re-petition” would put thousands of property owners at risk. In addition, it would have ensured the recognition of three additional tribes. These tribes included the Eastern Pequot, the Golden Hill Paugussett Nation, and the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation.

Pride and Prejudice of New England Tribal Gaming.
Eastern Pequot Tribal Members

But, wasn’t that land taken from those tribes over three hundred years ago in the first place?

Federally Recognized Tribes in New England

  • Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians
  • Narragansett Indian Tribe
  • Passamaquoddy Tribe of Indians – Indian Township Reservation
  • Passamaquoddy Tribe of Indians – Pleasant Point Reservation
  • Penobscot Indian Nation
  • Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation
  • Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)
  • Aroostook Band of Micmacs
  • Mohegan Tribe
  • Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

15 New England tribes remain not federally recognized.

How Did This All Come About?

  • In 1830, the Indian Removal Act allowed the government to give Indians land west of the Mississippi. It was in exchange for the land (ancestral reservations) the government had already taken away.
  • Tribes such as the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokees, and Creeks were marched westward on foot, with little or no food and supplies.
  • In 1851, Congress passed the Indian Appropriations Act. As a result, they created the Indian reservation system. It provided funds to move Indian tribes onto farming reservations. Unbelievably, Indians could not leave reservations without permission.

When Did Conditions Improve?

Pride and Prejudice of New England Tribal Gaming.

In 1934, the Indian Reorganization Act intended to restore Indian culture and return surplus land to tribes. Modern Indian reservations still exist across the United States. These lands fall under the umbrella of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Consequently, the tribes on each reservation are sovereign nations and not subject to federal laws.

Unfortunately, Tribes lose their sovereignty when the land is taken out of trust. The tribe becomes subject to state and local laws and taxes. The state also gains the right to take the land away if those taxes are not paid. (Example, Mashpee Wampanoags in Massachusetts.)

B-I-N-G-O Started It

Several Native Tribes in the 1970s opened bingo halls. The Seminoles in Florida were the first. Quickly, local and state officials shut it down.

Many other local and state municipalities filed lawsuits against such activity. Actually, the landmark case California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians paved the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). But, unfortunately, the Supreme Court sided with the Cabazon tribe. Native American Tribal gaming erupted from that point.

SummaryA Few Facts

  • California and Oklahoma are the most significant Indian gambling states in terms of annual revenue. Florida, Washington, and Arizona follow them.
  • There are 493 Indian gaming operations in 28 states.
  • 240 federally recognized tribes own those properties.
  • 562 federally recognized tribes in the United States are not part of the gambling industry.
  • Native American casinos in the United States provide 612,000 jobs in the country.
  • Tribal casinos pay $9 billion in taxes and revenue sharing to federal and state governments.
  • The tribes invest much of their casino revenue for better schools, improved roads, better infrastructure, and community services.

“The current number of Native Lands/ Tribe gaming establishments is around 470 in the United States. They are consistently moving in on the market leaders, the privately-owned casinos.”

Bradley Retter of