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Campaign Press Release - ICYMI: Chairman Cromwell: Biden-Harris to Restore the Soul of the Nation & Indian Country

October 31, 2020

Today, in an article for Native Business Magazine, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell touted his endorsement of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, praising the Biden-Harris plan for Tribal Nations, and Joe Biden's commitment to restore the soul of the nation and make far-reaching investments to build back better across Indian Country.

In addition to highlighting the Biden-Harris agenda for Indian Country, the article details attempts by the Trump Administration to strip Chairman Cromwell's Tribe of the 321 acres of land that the Obama-Biden Administration put in trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag in 2015. In the beginning of the pandemic, "They called to tell me, we're looking to terminate you, to disestablish your reservation, to take your homelands away," Cromwell said.

"We have endured the pain of the Trump Administration, and I'm shocked that we're still standing. We're still in the arena fighting. We're not going to give up," Cromwell reiterated. "And we're very hopeful for a change in administration, for a Biden-Harris Administration, so that we can get our business back on track again, and be fruitful and prosperous."

See below for coverage excerpts:

Native Business: Chairman Cromwell: Biden-Harris to Restore the Soul of the Nation & Indian Country
[Native Business Staff, 10/30/20]

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell praises The Biden-Harris Plan for Tribal Nations for its commitments to:

  • Restore Tribal lands and make it easier to place land in trust,

  • Increase safety on Tribal lands and tackle the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women,

  • Expand economic opportunity for Tribes and Native-owned businesses,

  • Support the "the health and welfare and safety" of Native people,

  • Reinstate the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference and leverage the White House Council on Native American Affairs, and more.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris are calling the 2020 presidential campaign a "battle for the soul of the nation."

That slogan could just as easily apply to the fight of the Mashpee Wampanoag during the Trump Administration to defend the soul of its Tribal Nation, including its sovereign right to a land base — the irony of which cannot be overstated. The Mashpee Wampanoag people have inhabited present-day Massachusetts for more than 12,000 years.

"The Wampanoag Nation is known for meeting the pilgrims and creating this national holiday Thanksgiving. In fact, the Wampanoag Nation was the Tribe that gave up the first piece of land to form the colonies, which was the anchor to build the United States of America," Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell told Native Business.

The Trump Administration has repeatedly tried to strip his Tribe of the 321 acres of land that the Obama-Biden Administration put in trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag in 2015. The most harrowing blow came on March 27, 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, when Chairman Cromwell received a phone call from the U.S. Department of the Interior. He anticipated the department was calling to support the health and welfare of his Tribal Nation, considering the havoc wrecked by the coronavirus outbreak.

"They called to tell me, we're looking to terminate you, to disestablish your reservation, to take your homelands away," Cromwell said.

A series of legal battles ensued. Fast forward to June 5, 2020, Judge Paul L. Friedman in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Mashpee Wampanoag, calling the Interior's original September 2018 decision that the Tribe didn't meet the definition of Indian, "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law."

[...]

Chairman Cromwell is ready for respect. He's ready for change. Cromwell, and his Tribe, are endorsing Biden-Harris for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency. When the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council passed a resolution on September 30th to support Biden for President of the United States, it marked the first time ever the Tribe has supported a presidential candidate.

"We certainly believe the Biden-Harris Administration will restore our land, respect Tribal sovereignty, protect missing and murdered Indigenous women, and economic development," Cromwell told Native Business.

"We're excited about November 3rd that we'll have a brand new administration of Biden-Harris that truly supports Native economic development, and first and foremost, the health and welfare and safety of our people," Cromwell continued.

Pivotal within the Biden-Harris Plan for Tribal Nations is restoring and taking land into trust — a fundamental responsibility of the United States as a federal trustee to Indian Country. Biden-Harris will build on the achievements of the Obama-Biden Administration, which took 542,000 acres of land into trust for Tribes — including land that the Trump Administration then tried to take away from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

[...]

Resolving and guarding against the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) human rights tragedy has always been paramount to the Mashpee Wampanoag — but right now the urgency of the MMIW crisis is hitting very close to home. Currently, the Tribe is missing an 18-year-old Tribal member. Jalahjia Finklea went missing the day before her 18th birthday. Whereas the FBI generally assists in these investigations, the Tribe has heard nothing from the bureau.

"There are indigenous laws that support missing and murdered Indigenous women. That's important to our Tribe. We have a young lady, Jalahjia Finklea, she's been gone for over a week, and the FBI, under this administration, has seen it in the news and hasn't even reached out to help us, to help find her. And that's very offensive — the fact that we've got a Native woman missing and there are federal laws to protect her," Cromwell said.

Ensuring Tribal Nations have a strong voice and role in the federal government is key to upholding cornerstones of Indian policy, from protecting MMIW to Tribal trust lands. The Biden-Harris Plan for Tribal Nations also identifies how it will build on the Obama-Biden Administration's record of appointing Native Americans to high-level government positions.

Biden promises to immediately reinstate the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference and leverage the White House Council on Native American Affairs. "They met with Tribal leaders, and formed committees in Indian Country to put together policies that reflect our goals and needs," Cromwell said of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, created under the Obama-Biden Administration.

In their 15-page plan for Tribal Nations, Biden and Harris ensure their administration will provide resources and assistance for Tribes to dismantle long-standing economic challenges, including deficient infrastructure, housing instability, unemployment, and insufficient access to capital.

[...]

While the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe continues to fight for the soul of its Nation, Cromwell is hopeful that Biden and Harris will win the election, and see to it that the federal government fulfills its trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations.

"We have endured the pain of the Trump Administration, and I'm shocked that we're still standing. We're still in the arena fighting. We're not going to give up," Cromwell reiterated. "And we're very hopeful for a change in administration, for a Biden-Harris Administration, so that we can get our business back on track again, and be fruitful and prosperous."

Joseph R. Biden, Campaign Press Release - ICYMI: Chairman Cromwell: Biden-Harris to Restore the Soul of the Nation & Indian Country Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347099

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