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Tribe requests decision timeline

Wampanoags seek recognition

The Mashpee Wampanoags, who have been seeking federal recognition for more than two decades, will ask a judge in Washington today to set a timeline for a decision on their petition.

''It was a quest that was started by our elders a long time ago," said Glenn Marshall, chairman of the tribe, based on Cape Cod. ''We continue to walk that path, because it's what they've asked us to do."

The application for the 1,500-member tribe has been making its way through the courts since the tribe sued the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2001.

The hearing today in US District Court for the District of Columbia gives the tribe a new opportunity to seek a BIA timeline for recognition.

Dan DuBray, a spokesman for the Department of the Interior, said he could not comment on pending litigation.

Federal recognition allows tribes to receive federal funding and opens the door for possible casino gaming.

The Mashpee Wampanoags formally notified the government of their plans to seek recognition in 1980, but didn't petition until 1990.

The petition was returned as inadequate and the tribe filed its completed petition in 1996.

In 2001, when there were 10 tribes with pending applications, the Wampanoags sued, seeking to force the BIA to act quickly on the application.

In December of that year, the tribe won a ruling in its favor that ordered the BIA to make a preliminary decision in six months, and a final determination in a year.

The government appealed, and in August 2003, a federal appeals court reversed the lower court decision, saying the district court was wrong to disregard BIA's ''first-come, first-served" procedure.

That decision returned the case to US District Court, where Judge James Robertson is scheduled to hear the case today.

The Mashpee Wampanoags claim an area on Cape Cod's southern coast as tribal lands.

The Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe of Martha's Vineyard is Massachusetts' only federally recognized tribe.

They have tried to open a casino but have been blocked by political opposition.

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