The federal government has officially placed 321 acres in Mashpee and Taunton into trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. The move brings the tribe one step closer to establishing a reservation, and possibly the development of a tribal resort casino.

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell announced the news last night at the opening of an exhibit on the tribe’s history.

“Seeing this exhibit here, and especially on a very important day for our tribe. We have land into trust

You know, the deeds have been recorded. The land has been conveyed to the United States. It’s all good.”

The tribe was pretty sure they’d get their land in trust when their application was accepted back in September. But Cromwell says what happened yesterday means a Wampanaoag reservation is nearly a done deal. They’ll know for sure within a few months.

“It’s a blessing, it’s a major opportunity for our people. And it’s the Creator’s wish and will that we do have our sovereign land to govern on. So, very exciting for our people and we’re going to continue to move forward as Mashpee Wampanoag people.”

Vernon Lopez is the tribe’s chief.

“It will open up a lot of doors, and not only that, but I think it will give the tribe a good feeling that somebody has finally paid attention to us after 400 years.”

He’s hoping one door that will open will be to the tribe’s planned casino in Taunton.

“Hopefully it will boost us up and give us some self preservation and create jobs for the tribe.”

At a recent meeting of the state Gaming Commission, developers of a proposed rival casino in Brockton testified that lawsuits would tie up the Wampanoag’s casino plans for a decade. Cromwell says that’s not true.

“We heard about these lawsuits, and they don’t appear. We heard that we’d never have land into trust. That’s false. It’s the same people that constantly promote this negativity. It’s a very greed based argument for them, and it’s sad and unfortunate.”

Right now, he says, they’re celebrating being one step closer to establishing a sovereign nation for the Mashpee Wampanoag people.