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Grand Ronde Tribes continue fight against Cowlitz Tribe casino

Filed Under: Casino Stalker | Litigation
More on: bia, carcieri, cowlitz, grand ronde, land-into-trust, oregon, supreme court, washington

The Spirit Mountain Casino in Grand Ronde, Oregon. Photo from Facebook

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde continues to oppose a proposed casino in neighboring Washington.

The tribe operates the Spirit Mountain Casino on its reservation in Oregon. The facility draws patrons from the Portland area, about 60 miles away.

Artist's rendering of the proposed Cowlitz Casino Resort. Image from Cowlitz Indian Tribe Environmental Impact Statement

The Cowlitz Tribe will compete for the same patrons with a casino just across the border in Washington. The 152-acre site is about 30 miles from Portland.

The prospect of a rival prompted the Grand Ronde Tribes to sue the Bureau of Indian Affairs to block the Cowlitz Tribe's land-into-trust application. But a decision hasn't been made in the case even though final briefs were submitted back in January.

With no ruling in sight, government attorneys filed a notice in court last week that said the BIA will place the 152-acre site in trust as soon as January 15, 2015. The Grand Ronde Tribes are calling the decision premature.

“It doesn’t make sense for the Department of the Interior to take the La Center land into trust,” said Chairman Reyn Leno said an article on Smoke Signals. “That would allow the Cowlitz Tribe to move forward with its casino. Then, if the court says it was illegal for the department to take the land into trust, the Cowlitz would have to close their casino. This is truly putting the cart before the horse.”

The Cowlitz Tribe, on the other hand, welcomed the move. Chairman Bill Iyall said the process has been drawn out for far too long.

"We have pressed on for 12 years in an effort to fully service tribal members with services and programs only available on trust land," Iyall said in a press release.

As part of its lawsuit, the Grand Ronde Tribes are raising the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar. The ruling restricts the land-into-trust process to tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" as of 1934.

The Cowlitz didn't receive formal recognition until 2000. The BIA, however, has determined that the tribe passes the 1934 test.

Get the Story:
Feds set deadline to take Cowlitz land into trust (The Battle Ground Reflector 10/28)

Related Stories:
Editorial: No logic in putting Cowlitz Tribe's gaming site in trust (10/28)

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