REPS. HAALAND AND KENNEDY INTRODUCE BILL TO PROTECT TRIBAL LANDS DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

June 14, 2020
In The News

WASHINGTON — Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM) and Congressman Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) on Thursday introduced the Tribal Reservation Pandemic Protection Act, which would prohibit the Trump administration from threatening tribal reservation lands in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill is intended to protect the sovereignty of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, which won a court decision on Friday, June 5 when a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the U.S. Department of the Interior’s decision to take the land out of the trust was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law.”

Even after the court victory for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, the potential of a lengthy appeals process threatens the sovereignty and survival of the tribe. As the Department of Interior considers further actions against the Mashpee Wampanoag people, this legislation would give the tribe certainty and would ensure no other tribe in the country would face similar attacks.
“Tribal sovereignty and the government-to-government relationships must be respected, but the Department of Interior chose to use this public health emergency to illegally move land out of trust. This bill will prohibit this Administration from dodging the rules and taking Tribes’ land during this public health emergency,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland.

“In the midst of a pandemic that has uniquely threatened Native Americans, Tribes should be focused on caring for their communities, not fighting back against a hateful, ignorant Administration,” said Congressman Kennedy. “If President Trump is willing to threaten the very existence of the Tribe that welcomed the Pilgrims to our shores, no tribal lands in this country are safe from his attacks. Under the Tribal Reservation Pandemic Protection Act, we can ensure our nation’s priorities lie with the Native Americans who deserve our protection.”

Last month, Congresswoman Haaland and Congressman Kennedy filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. In April, Kennedy led a bipartisan letter to Senator Mitch McConnell demanding the immediate passage of his Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, which passed the House in 2019.