Here’s a bit of legislative mystery which has mostly flown under the radar. It involves a piece of legislation introduced in the Senate in March which would clear the way for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe in Massachusettes to restart construction on a massive casino complex located south of Boston. Nothing too unusual about the bill, really, since native tribes have been pushing to develop casinos and generate tribal revenue for decades. But this bill was sponsored by Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Since Warren represents Massachusetts (and the bill was co-sponsored by the state’s junior senator as well) that might not sound controversial either. But when you look a bit closer into Warren’s legislative history and the legal troubles the tribe has encountered, it all gets a bit strange. (Washington Times)
She’s never been a gambling fan, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren is pushing federal legislation to help deliver a casino to a tribe with a checkered past as she struggles to neutralize her “Pocahontas” problem.
Her bill, introduced in March with fellow Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Edward Markey, would allow the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to build a $1 billion gaming resort about halfway between Boston and Cape Cod even though a federal court blocked the project in 2016.
The Senate bill and its House companion have drawn cheers from tribal leaders eager to resume construction on the lavish complex while stirring resentment among locals irritated at the prospect of Congress big-footing the ongoing Interior Department review.
As the linked article reminds us, Warren is an unusual choice to sponsor a bill supporting a new casino. She opposed a 2011 state measure which expanded casino gambling in the state and supported a failed attempt to repeal the law in 2014. She’s also been an activist seeking to help people with gambling addictions. In that light, this new effort seems like a total flip-flop on the question of casino gambling.
So is this just an effort to make nice with Native Americans after her “cultural appropriation” problems? (She still refuses to take a DNA test to settle the matter.) Perhaps, but this particular tribe might not be the best one to hitch her wagon to, if you’ll pardon the phrase. This casino project has been in trouble from day one. Many of the locals opposed the project and went to court to try to stop it. Also, the required federal stewardship of the tribal lands where it’s being constructed was challenged when a federal court rejected the Interior Departments decision to take the land into trust, saying that they could only do so for lands owned by tribes which were recognized prior to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. That wound up shutting down construction on the casino complex three years ago.
Further, the Mashpee Wampanoag were one of the tribes caught up in the Jack Abramoff scandals more than a decade ago. Their leadership got into hot water over charges ranging from embezzlement and illegal lobbying to campaign finance law violations. So why is Warren so interested in making nice with this particular tribe? Perhaps she’s just trying to send a signal to Native Americans across the country to convince them that she’s got their backs. But that’s not exactly a driving voting block for national elections and every time she generates another headline having anything to do with Native Americans it brings up her past issues with claiming that heritage to gain advantages in her younger days.
It almost seems as if there has to be more to this story than what we’re hearing. But at least thus far it looks like nothing more than a tone-deaf political maneuver.