Business Deals | Openings & Closings

Cowlitz Tribe turned down Donald Trump for gaming partnership


Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, right, with Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty in Oklahoma on September 25, 2015. Photo from Facebook

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump courted the Cowlitz Tribe of Washington in hopes of landing a gaming deal, The Longview Daily News reports.

In a January 4, 2011, letter, Trump offered to develop a "world-class operation" for the tribe. But he also wrote to then-Chairman John Barnett two months earlier in hopes of dispelling concerns about his negative record in Indian Country.

Trump was well known for making racial comments about other tribes that threatened his gaming interests. He characterized the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe of New York as drug traffickers, accused the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation of Connecticut of not being authentic and claimed the tribal casino industry was going to be overrun by organized crime.

"I never meant any statements to in any way to impugn the sovereignty of recognized Native American tribes or their ability to pursue self-reliance by any legitimate means," Trump wrote to Barnett, who passed away in June 2008 after leading his people through the lengthy federal recognition process.


Donald Trump wrote to then-Chairman John Barnett on November 20, 2000, just a few months after the Cowlitz Tribe's federal recognition was finalized.

Trump's attempt to explain his comments didn't sway the tribe, though. Neither did the terms of his proposed deal -- he wanted a slew of fees for designing, developing and managing the potential casino under his name, the paper reported.

The tribe also knew that Trump didn't have a great track record either. The Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians in California terminated its costly partnership with the mogul after just three years.

The Cowlitz Tribe ended up going with the Mohegan Tribe, the owners of the successful Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. The two tribes hope to break ground on the long-delayed Cowlitz Casino and Entertainment Resort next year.

“The tribe-to-tribe relationship was really significant,” David Barnett, the son of the late chairman, told The Daily News.

Get the Story:
Donald Trump offered to back Cowlitz Tribe's casino 15 years ago (The Longview Daily News 10/4)

Federal Register Notice:
Land Acquisitions; Cowlitz Indian Tribe (May 8, 2013)

DOI Solicitor Opinion:
M-37029: The Meaning of "Under Federal Jurisdiction" for Purposes of the Indian Reorganization Act (March 12, 2014)

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