Litigation | Openings & Closings

Tribes clash over new casino but agree on #NoDAPL movement




Shana and Kari Lombard, young members of the Cowlitz Tribe, at the #NoDAPL encampment in North Dakota. Photo from Facebook

After years of being at odds over a new casino, the Cowlitz Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde can finally agree on one thing: both oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The two tribes have sent delegations and submitted letters to show solidarity with the #NoDAPL movement. Grand Ronde also authorized a $2,500 donation to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

But the unity appears to end there because the Cowlitz Tribe is calling out Grand Ronde's anti-casino allies. One of the construction companies with a contract to build the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota is connected to the non-Indian card rooms in Washington that oppose the ilani Casino Resort, The Longview Daily News reports.

Dave Barnett, a member of the Cowlitz Tribe, told the paper that the construction firm, Michels Corporation, has shown "disregard for Native cultures" in both states.

But there's more: the non-Indian card rooms have objected to the Cowlitz Tribe's casino water system, saying it will be harmful to the environment. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has raised similar concerns about the pipeline.

“It’s pretty hypocritical for Michels Corporation to raise the water supply critiques here," Barnett told the paper.

Steve Michels, the owner of two non-Indian card rooms, sits on the board of directors for Michels, which was founded by his father, but told the paper that he isn't involved in the pipeline project. He defended it anyway.

“They all have to go pass water supplies. The safest way to transfer liquid is via pipeline instead of rails or trucks,” Michels told the paper.

The non-Indian card rooms and the Grand Ronde Tribes have been trying to stop the Cowlitz Tribe from opening the new casino. In July, the opponents lost a major decision before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which happens to be the same court that is hearing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's Dakota Access lawsuit.

The card rooms, however, have not said whether they will join the Grand Ronde Tribes in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the D.C. Circuit's decision. So far, it appears Grand Ronde will be going it alone in that battle.

Read More on the Story:
Dakota pipeline has ties to Cowlitz casino opponents (The Longview Daily News 9/20)
Cowlitz Tribal members recall "earth-moving" experience at Dakota Pipeline protest (The Longview Daily News 9/20)
Town hall meetings new in La Center (The Battle Ground Reflector 9/13)

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon v. Jewell (July 29, 2016)

Federal Register Notices:
Notice of Final Federal Agency Actions on Transportation Project in Washington State (May 3, 2016)
Proclaiming Certain Lands as Reservation for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe (November 13, 2015)
Land Acquisitions; Cowlitz Indian Tribe (May 8, 2013)

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

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