Aquinnah selectmen seek possible appeal of tribe ruling

Town administrator Adam Wilson meets with selectmen Juli Vanderhoop and Gary Haley before Thursday’s executive session. The board voted to research all aspects of appeal. —George Brennan

Aquinnah selectmen voted Thursday to pursue possible appeals of a federal court ruling that paves the way for a gambling facility operated by the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah).

At a hastily called meeting at Aquinnah Town Hall, selectmen Juli Vanderhoop and Gary Haley met for 30 minutes behind closed doors with the town’s attorney Ronald Rappaport. A third board member, Jim Newman, was away and unable to attend Thursday’s meeting.

Vanderhoop and Haley emerged making no comment, but town administrator Adam Wilson announced the two members had voted during the executive session.

“There was a motion to move forward and research every aspect of appeal,” Wilson said. The vote gives Rappaport the authority to consult with other parties to the suit, including Attorney General Maura Healey’s office and attorneys for the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association.

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U.S. Appeals Court Reverses, Ruling Soundly for Wampanoag Tribe In Casino Case

In a stunning reversal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit has overturned a decision by a federal judge in the casino case involving the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) — solidly backing the tribe’s right to operate a gambling facility on protected tribal lands.

The 23-page ruling issued Monday roundly rejected arguments by the town of Aquinnah and the commonwealth on appeal, siding with the tribe on critical points. The decision by the three-judge panel was unanimous.

The pivotal issues were whether the tribe qualified for gaming under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and, if so, whether IGRA trumped an earlier Settlement Act for the Aquinnah tribe and endorsed by Congress.

U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor 4th had ruled for the town and the state in late 2015, finding that the tribe does not have the right to conduct Class II gambling (electronic bingo). The appeals court panel reversed Judge Saylor’s findings and remanded the case back to the district court for entry of judgment in favor of the tribe.

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Martha’s Vineyard tribe wins court appeal

A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), paving the way for the tribe to open a bingo hall in a building that had been set aside as a community center.

The three-judge panel has remanded the case to U.S. District Court in Boston, which had previously ruled against the tribe’s rights under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, the tribe’s chairwoman, applauded the court ruling.

“We are simply thrilled with the First Circuit Appellate Court’s decision,” she wrote. “The decision is exactly on point and supports the Tribe’s legal position. Hopefully this decision will help people better understand the responsibilities, rights and privileges of our Tribe.

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This fight is for real - Editorial, MV Times

On Martha’s Vineyard we prefer to fight in the winter — it is our off-season sport — and at this point the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival is a coming attraction. Before a plan was displayed or a permit application filed, last week a hue and cry rose up across the West Tisbury Facebook landscape over a broad proposal by Film Festival leaders to purchase a 12-acre property off Old County Road and build a campus.

Islanders like their controversies in crystallized form. If personalities are in play, all the better. But even as our focus turns to summer, and more easily digested storylines, a looming court case that hinges on complex legal issues, and which has significant consequences for the character of the entire Island, has attracted scant attention. That is unfortunate.

On Friday, a team of lawyers in the Department of Justice filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in support of the view that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) “implicitly repealed” the Settlement Act that has been the bedrock upon which the longstanding legal relationship between the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and the rest of the Martha’s Vineyard community has stood.

The suit was brought by the town of Aquinnah, the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, to stop the Wampanoag Gaming Corporation from building a Class II casino — think flashing high-stakes bingo parlor — in Aquinnah.

The Justice Department’s letter raises the stakes. Although the feds are not a party to the suit, their interest in the case will carry weight. And unlike the town and the Commonwealth, theAquinnah/Gay Head Community Association, which has stood tall where others might shrink away, cannot dig into tax coffers to pay

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Obama administration sides with Wampanoag tribe in casino appeal

The Wampanoag tribe said it plans to complete its community center even as it continues to battle for the right to open a gaming facility on tribal lands.

The U.S. Department of Justice has stepped into the legal battle over the rights of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) to build a casino on tribal lands in the smallest town on Martha’s Vineyard. In a brief filed Friday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, Justice Department lawyers argued that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act “implicitly repealed” the Settlement Act that has checked the tribe’s gaming ambitions for almost three decades.

The tribe is seeking to overturn a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV, issued Nov. 13, 2015, that the tribe could not turn its unfinished community center into a class II gambling facility. Judge Saylor said the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), signed in 1988, does not trump the Settlement Act, signed by tribal leadership in 1983 and ratified by the state legislature in 1985 and by Congress in 1987.

The settlement agreement stipulated that the tribe was subject to local and state laws and zoning regulations in effect at the time, and it has formed the bedrock of the longstanding legal relationship between the tribe and the rest of the Martha’s Vineyard community.

Following a detailed analysis of the issues in the case, Judge Saylor said, “In summary, the tribe has not met its burden of demonstrating that it exercises sufficient ‘governmental power’ over the settlement lands, and therefore IGRA does not apply. Furthermore, and in any event, it is clear that IGRA did not repeal by implication the Massachusetts Settlement Act.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) brief states: The district court’s judgement should be reversed

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NOVA Film and Magazine Article Chronicle Lighthouse Move

There’s a lot of buzz around town stemming from the airing of the NOVA documentary about the move of the Gay Head Light. The film, which was shot before and during the historic relocation of the iconic structure last spring, appeared on WGBH and other PBS stations on May 4. It is now available for streaming at

And Popular Mechanics magazine sent a reporter to cover the move. His article appears online here: How to Move a Lighthouse.

Visit the lighthouse website to learn more.