Native American Mashpee tribe turns to Congress in land dispute

Trump administration reversed Obama-era decision to recognise the Mashpee Wampanoag reservation in Massachusetts.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has bipartisan support in Congress [Shafik Mandhai/Al Jazeera]
The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has bipartisan support in Congress 

Washington, DC – A Native American tribe is calling on members of Congress to help protect the status of its reservation after the Trump administration reversed an Obama-era decision to hold its land in trust.

Former President Barack Obama’s administration took the land of the Mashpee into trust in 2015, giving the tribe jurisdiction over the reservation, which is located in Massachusetts.

Less than a year later, a judge ruled that the Obama administration had acted outside of its remit in entrusting the reservation to the federal government.

That ruling was based on a controversial reading of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, which does not qualify the Mashpee as “Indian”.

In September, the US Department of Interior, under the Trump administration, decided not to challenge the ruling. The tribe then filed a lawsuit against the administration, saying its decision was “arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law, and if left unaddressed, will have a devastating impact on the tribe”, according to local media.

On Wednesday, members of the tribe and supporters from across the US gathered at the Capitol to call on Congress to use its plenary powers to pass legislation that would override the Department of the Interior’s authority on the issue.

If Congress does not pass legislation protecting the tribe and the legal challenge fails, the Mashpee would be stripped of their right to exercise sovereign jurisdiction over their land.

Jessie Little Doe Baird, the tribe’s vice-chairwoman, told Al Jazeera that loss of jurisdiction would prevent the tribe from running indigenous language schools, tribal courts, and housing projects, as well as its own police.

“We have our own police force, which is important because they’re tribal citizens and since we’ve had our own police force, none of our men have been beaten or shot, which we’ve had before with non-tribal police,” she said.

Baird, an MIT-trained linguist who has played a pivotal role in reviving the Wampanoag language, said she feared the government’s decision was the first step in a gradual encroachment on the sovereignty of Native American reservations.

Jessie Baird Mashpee has played a pivotal role in reviving the Wampanoag language [Shafik Mandhai/Al Jazeera]

Disheartening

The Mashpee have the support of Native American organisations from across the country and Wednesday’s action on the Capitol drew speakers from different tribes.

Members of the Mashpee’s wider Wampanoag tribe were the first to greet the pilgrims in the 17th century, and the American holiday of Thanksgiving has its roots in meals shared between the tribe and early English settlers.

Mashpee member Cameron Frye called the tribe’s recent experience “disheartening”.

“We’re the tribe that greeted the pilgrims, everybody knows about Thanksgiving,” he said, adding, “We’re the tribe that welcomed them and greeted them but here we are still fighting to protect our sovereignty.”

We’re the tribe that greeted the pilgrims, everybody knows about Thanksgiving. We’re the tribe that welcomed them and greeted them but here we are still fighting to protect our sovereignty.

CAMERON FRYE, MEMBER OF THE MASHPEE TRIBE

Frye feared that if left unchallenged, the decision would set a precedent for future government action against other Native American tribes.

“Under this administration, it’s very frightening for all tribes, not just our own … If they can do this to us then they can do this to other tribes.”

Congressional bill

Members of Congress in both the House of Representative and the Senate have introduced bills to reaffirm the decision to take the Mashpee’s land into federal trust.

If passed, the Mashpee Reservation Reaffirmation Act would supersede the court ruling preventing the original Obama-era decision.

Massachusetts congressmen Bill Keating and Joe Kennedy were present at the Capitol on Wednesday to show their support for the tribe. The pair are Democrats but the Mashpee cause has drawn bipartisan support.

“We shouldn’t have to be doing this,” said Keating, who authored the House bill.

“The administration has taken a decision to make one decision and Congress is here to try to straighten that out.

“This is an existential issue, this is about the existence of this tribe, it’s that fundamental.”

Legislation has been introduced in Congress to reaffirm federal protections for the Mashpee reservation

 

Trump ‘not welcome’ in Pittsburgh after synagogue shooting

City’s Jewish leaders publish open letter to US president demanding that he stops rhetoric against minorities.

A woman pays respects at memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue following Saturday's shooting [Cathal McNaughton/Reuters]
A woman pays respects at memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue following Saturday’s shooting [Cathal McNaughton/Reuters]

Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh, including the former president of the Tree of Life synagogue that was targeted in Saturday’s deadly shooting, have said US President Donald Trump is not welcome in the city because of his rhetoric against minorities.

letter published by Behind the Arc, which describes itself as a movement for progressive Jews, said Trump would not be welcome until he distanced himself from white supremacists.

“For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement,” the letter read, addressing the US leader directly.

“You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s [Saturday’s] violence is the direct culmination of your influence,” it continued.

The group said Trump had “undermined the safety” of Muslims, the LGBTQ community, people of colour, and those with disabilities.

“Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country.”

Robert Bowers, the man police say is responsible for the slaying of 11 Jewish worshippers, had blamed a Jewish organisation, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) for helping bring immigrants to the US.

He said HIAS was bringing “invaders” into the country, in posts he made on Gab, a social media network that serves as a sanctuary for far-right activists barred from other sites.

Trump has condemned the killings and Bowers criticised the US president for not hating Jews strongly enough.

Opponents accuse Trump of having contributed to the climate of hate that made the attack possible.

Mourners at a memorial service at the Sailors and Soldiers Memorial Hall of the University of Pittsburgh [Cathal McNaughton/Reuters]

Speaking to CNN after the Behind the Arc letter was issued, Lynette Lederman, the former president of the Tree of Life synagogue said she agreed with the letter.

“I do not welcome this president to this city,” she said, describing the Republican leader as a “purveyor of hate speech”.

“The hypocritical words that come from him tell me nothing.

“We have a very strong leadership in this city, we have a very strong mayor with very strong values, a very strong county executive…we have people who stand by us, who believe in values, not just Jewish values…and those are not the values of this president.”

On Monday, the White House announced that the president and First Lady Melania Trump will visit Pennsylvania on Tuesday “to express the support of the American people and to grieve with the Pittsburgh community”.

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, the Tree of Life’s spiritual leader who survived the attack, told NBC that he would welcome a visit from Trump, but that “we turn to leaders of our country, and we’ve gotta stop hate … we need to act to tone down the rehtoric”.

Trump slammed for suggesting armed groups would have helped

Trump also drew criticism for saying that the synagogue should have had an armed guard.

“If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him,” the president said just hours after the incident.

Trump also called for the death penalty, and he said the shooting looks “definitely like it’s an anti-Semitic crime, and that is something you wouldn’t believe could still be going on”.

According to a 2017 study by Brandeis University, 63 percent of the city’s Squirrel Hill community, where the shooting took place, were a little or somewhat concerned about anti-Semitism. About 18 percent were very much concerned, the study found.

The Anti-Defamation League found that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the US rose 57 percent in 2017 when compared with the previous year.

Vigils

Communities across the US held ad-hoc vigils over the weekend to mourn those who were killed by Bowers, and more are planned for the week.

US flags were flown at half-mast over public buildings in the capital Washington, DC, and elsewhere to remember the victims.

People mourn the loss of life as they hold a vigil for the victims of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S [John Altdofer/Reuters]

A multi-faith ceremony in Pittsburgh drew Christian choirs and Islamic groups, who announced they had raised more than $123,000 in a crowdfunding campaign for survivors and relatives of those who died.

A separate GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $609,000 for those affected.

Shannon Watts

@shannonrwatts

Americans at a vigil tonight to honor the victims of the mass shooting inside a Pittsburgh synagogue chanted one simple word over and over again:

* vote *

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

How White Supremacist Ideology & Conspiracies Have Fueled U.S. Domestic Terror & Hateful Violence

STORYOCTOBER 30, 2018

Domestic terror swept the country last week, when a white gunman stormed a peaceful synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 peaceful worshipers in what has been described as the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. The attack came a day after an avid Trump supporter in Florida was arrested and charged with mailing bombs to more than a dozen of the president’s prominent critics, and three days after a white gunman fatally shot two African Americans at a grocery store shortly after trying and failing to enter a black church. We speak with Lois Beckett, a senior reporter for The Guardian covering gun policy, criminal justice and the far right in the United States. “The shooter in Pittsburgh was not just anti-Semitic,” Beckett says. “He had been radicalized by white supremacist ideology.”

What the fuck, America (as a boy, I just never thought it was like this..) in New Hampshire an 8-Year-Old Biracial Boy Survived Being Hung from Tree in Attempted Lynching.

H14 lynching

Supreme Court Lifts Restrictions on Trump’s Travel Ban, Affecting 24,000 Immigrants (cuz no one’s ancestors ever came here as an immigrant, right?)

H13 travel ban

Back in the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily lifted restrictions on President Trump’s travel ban—meaning about 24,000 refugees may now be barred from entering the United States. Last week, an appeals court in Seattle ruled that tens of thousands of refugees who had received promises of assistance from refugee resettlement organizations should be allowed to enter. But on Monday, the Supreme Court intervened to block this ruling. The Supreme Court is soon expected to issue a fuller ruling on the ban, which blocks refugees and all citizens of six majority-Muslim nations from entering the U.S.