Just before the Bureau of Indian Affairs was expected to issue a ruling on the status of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, the tribe has suspended that request and vowed to focus their attention on appealing an earlier federal district court decision against them.

In addition to a federally-recognized tribal home for the Mashpee, at stake is the tribe's plan to build a resort casino in Taunton.

 A federal district court ruled against the Department of the Interior (which includes the BIA) last July after a group of Taunton residents opposed to the casino plan sued the tribe, saying the Department did not have authority to hold land in trust for the tribe. At issue was a 2009 Supreme Court ruling in Carcieri v. Salazar, which found that land could only be held in trust for tribes that were federally recognized prior to the 1934 passage of the Indian Reorganization Act. While the state recognized the Mashpee Wampanoag in 1934, they weren't federally recognized, so the court ruled against the tribe. The tribe has an ongoing appeal of that ruling.

The Mashpee also considered arguing another legal angle — that they were under federal jurisdiction in 1934, which should qualify them to have land held in trust. It's that legal argument that the tribe has now dropped, on the same day that the BIA was expected to issue a ruling.

“We will continue our existing appeal while working closely with the Interior on more options to forever protect our land base, bring thousands of jobs to Southeastern Massachusetts, and secure a prosperous future for the Tribe and the entire region,” Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a written statement.

In April 2016, the tribe broke ground on a $1 billion casino project on 151 acres in Taunton that were being held in trust for them by the federal government. That casino plan is now in limbo.