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Massachusetts v. Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

July 1, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS, Plaintiff,
v.
THE WAMPANOAG TRIBE OF GAY HEAD (AQUINNAH), THE WAMPANOAG TRIBAL COUNCIL OF GAY HEAD, INC., and THE AQUINNAH WAMPANOAG GAMING CORPORATION, Defendants

Page 230

For Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Plaintiff: Bryan F. Bertram, Carrie M. Benedon, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Office of the Attorney General Martha Coakley, Boston, MA; Juliana deHaan Rice, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of the Attorney General, Government Bureau, Boston, MA.

For The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), The Wampanoag Tribal Council of Gay Head, Inc., The Aquinnah Wampanoag Gaming Corporation, Defendants: John J. Duffy, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Washington, DC; Lael Echo-Hawk, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Garvey Schubert Barer, Seattle, WA; Scott D. Crowell, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Crowell Law Offices, Sedona, AZ; Bruce A. Singal, Elizabeth J. McEvoy, Donoghue, Barrett & Singal, PC, Boston, MA.

Page 231

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND

F. Dennis Saylor IV, United States District Judge.

This lawsuit involves a dispute between the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a federally recognized Indian tribe as to who has regulatory jurisdiction over civil gaming on Indian lands on Martha's Vineyard. The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe and related entities have taken steps to commence commercial gaming operations on tribal lands without a license from the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts contends that by doing so, the Tribe violated a 1983 settlement agreement that subject the lands in question to state civil and criminal jurisdiction. Count 1 of the complaint alleges breach of contract, and Count 2 seeks a declaratory judgment.

The Commonwealth filed suit in state court on December 2, 2013. On December 30, 2013, defendants removed the action to this Court on the basis of federal-question and supplemental jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § § 1331, 1367. The Commonwealth has moved to remand the matter to state court. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be denied.

I. Background

Unless otherwise noted, the facts are presented as stated in the complaint.

Historically, the western tip of Martha's Vineyard has been home to the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe. In 1974, the Wampanoag Tribal Council of Gay Head, Inc., sued the Town of Gay Head, asserting aboriginal property rights to certain land within the town.[1] In November 1983, the Commonwealth, the Town of Gay Head, the Taxpayers' Association of Gay Head, Inc., and the Wampanoag Tribal Council of Gay Head, Inc., entered into a settlement agreement. The Town and the Taxpayers' Association conveyed to the Wampanoag Tribal Council approximately 400 acres of land (the " Settlement Lands" ) to be held " in the same manner, and subject to the same laws, as any other Massachusetts corporation." (Compl., Ex. A). The Tribal Council relinquished all claims to other lands and waters in the Commonwealth. The agreement provided that " [u]nder no circumstances, including any future recognition of the existence of an Indian tribe in the Town of Gay Head, shall the civil or criminal jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts . . . over the settlement lands . . . be impaired or otherwise altered" and " no Indian tribe or band shall ever exercise sovereign jurisdiction" over those lands. ( Id. ). The Bureau of Indian Affairs of the Department of the Interior later took the Settlement Lands into trust.

Pursuant to the terms of the agreement, in 1985, the Massachusetts Legislature enacted a statute implementing the settlement agreement.[2] The settlement agreement, however, still required the approval of Congress to take effect.

In 1987, before Congress passed the implementing statute, the Department of the Interior officially recognized the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (the " Tribe" ) as an Indian tribe.

On August 18, 1987, Congress passed the Act implementing the settlement.[3]

Page 232

The federal statute stated that the Settlement Lands are subject to the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts " including those laws and regulations which prohibit or regulate the conduct of bingo or any ...


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