Massachusetts Federal Court Decides Littlefield v. Dept. of the Interior [Mashpee Wampanoag]

Here are the materials in Littlefield v. Dept. of the Interior (D. Mass.):

45 Littlefield Motion for Summary J

47 Interior Cross-Motion

49 Tribe Cross-Motion

50 Littlefield Reply

51 Interior Reply

52 Tribe Reply

55 DCT Order

Administrative Law Review Podcast on the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Federal Recognition Struggle


On today’s episode of A Hard Look, a Junior Staffer on ALR, Olivia Miller, joins host, Sarah Knarzer, and Professor Matthew Fletcher to discuss the tribal recognition process and the barriers it poses to tribes across the United States, and in particular the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. Earlier this year, and in the middle of a surging coronavirus pandemic, the Bureau of Indian Affairs announced its intention to revoke the Mashpee Wampanoag’s land from its federal trust. This action is only a continuation of the Mashpee Wampanoag’s four hundred year struggle for tribal survival, dating back to the origins of the Thanksgiving myth.

Olivia and Professor Fletcher discuss Olivia’s comment, which she wrote as part of ALR’s comment writing process, to identify why the tribal recognition process is such a difficult, expensive, and frustrating administrative process for tribes who want and need to be federally recognized.

First Circuit Briefs in Littlefield v. Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe


Mashpee Brief

Littlefield Answer Brief

Mashpee Reply

Prior posts here.

Mashpee Wampanoag Litigation

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts is currently involved in federal litigation against the U.S. Department of Interior, challenging its decision that the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 did not bring it under federal jurisdiction.

See the filings below:

Doc 1 – Complaint

Doc 15 – Intervenors’ Motion to Transfer Venue

Doc 17 – Memo in Opp to Motion to Transfer Venue

Doc 20 – Reply in Support of Motion to Transfer

Doc 21 – Order on Motion to Transfer

Interior Loses Mashpee Wampanoag Trust Acquisition Challenge

Here are the materials in Littlefield v. Dept. of Interior (D. Mass.):

56 Interior Motion for Summary J

59 Plaintiffs Motion for Summary J

69 City of Taunton Amicus Brief

81 DOI Supplemental Brief

82 Plaintiffs Supplemental Brief

83 USET Amicus Brief

86 Plaintiffs Response to 83

87 DCT Order

BIA’s Brief in Support of Partial Dismissal in Mashpee Wampanoag Carcieri Challenge

Here are the materials, so far, in Littlefield et. al. v. U.S. Department of Interior (D. Mass.):

Doc. 1 – Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief

Doc. 10 – United States’ Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Partial Dismissal


Plaintiffs’ Fifth Cause of Action seeks a declaration that the IRA, enacted over eighty years ago, is unconstitutional. Plaintiffs specifically allege that the IRA’s provision authorizing the Secretary to acquire land in trust on behalf of federally-recognized Indian tribes somehow reflects an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority. This legal question, however, has long been resolved against Plaintiffs by all courts to consider it, including the First Circuit in a decision binding on this Court. Federal courts have held, consistently and repeatedly, that the Secretary’s authority to acquire land in trust under the IRA does not violate the United States Constitution because there are sufficient intelligible principles provided in the statute and its legislative history to guide the Secretary’s discretion whether to acquire land in trust on behalf of a tribe. Moreover, it has been over 85 years since the Supreme Court invalidated any statute on the grounds of excessive delegation of legislative authority. The Supreme Court in fact has only found two statues to be a violation of the non-delegation doctrine, neither of which are comparable to the statute at issue here. Accordingly, the Court must dismiss Plaintiffs’ Fifth Cause of Action.

BIA Issues Land into Trust Decision for Mashpee Wampanoag


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn today issued a decision approving a request by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to acquire 170 acres of land into trust in the town of Mashpee, Mass., for tribal governmental, cultural and conservation purposes, and 151 acres in trust in the City of Taunton, Mass., for the purpose of constructing and operating a gaming facility and resort. The lands in both Mashpee and Taunton will become the tribe’s first lands held in trust.