At 4pm on Friday, March 27th, just at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and national shut-downs, the chairman of the of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe got a phone call from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
But instead of the offer of help he was expecting, he was told the Department of the Interior was taking their land out of trust.
The Harvard Crimson reports "the U.S. has not taken land out of trust since the 1950s, and the consequences of doing so are devastating. The tribe will no longer have sovereign control over its land, and its government and social services will have to be dissolved in the midst of a pandemic. While the tribe will still technically own their 321 acres, they no longer have the trust protections that keep any of their land from being taken away."
UMD's Tadd Johnson served as a tribal attorney for more than 20 years, and has also served as a tribal court judge and administrator. He is nationally recognized in the area of Native American Law and we spoke to him to find out more about where - and why this decision came from, and what effect it could have on tribes in Minnesota and Wisconsin.