The Gun Lake Casino in Wayland, Michigan. Photo from Google+

Gun Lake Tribe hails new law that protects casino from litigation

President Barack Obama signed S.1603, the Gun Lake Trust Land Reaffirmation Act, into law on Friday, a move that puts an end to a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The new law ensures that the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, also known as the Gun Lake Tribe, can operate its gaming facility without fear of litigation. It confirms the trust status of the Gun Lake Casino, which opened in February 2011 and has created more than 1,000 jobs and has generated revenues for the local community.

“This is a historic day for the tribe and Indian Country. This new law not only reaffirms the trust status of our land, but also permanently ends the frivolous legal challenges that our tribe and the local community have faced for more than ten years,” Chairman D.K. Sprague said in a press release today. “We are pleased that Congress and the President of the United States have vindicated our position.”

The tribe was back in court earlier this month in response to the lawsuit filed by David Patchak, a non-Indian who lives about three miles from the casino. His attorney admitted that he is seeking some form of monetary payout but the new law finally resolves the matter.

“This is a victory for jobs and the economy here in Southwest Michigan. Having passed the House by a bipartisan two-to-one margin, this legislation reaffirms once and for all the Department of Interior’s action of taking this land into trust,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Michigan), whose district includes the reservation. “The Gun Lake Tribe has created more than 1,000 jobs here in Allegan County and has shared revenues with the local municipality and schools.”

Patchak argued that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar prevented the Bureau of Indian Affairs from placing the tribe's land into trust. In that case, the justices said only tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" as of 1934 can follow the land-into-trust process.

The Gun Lake Tribe didn't gain federal recognition until 1999. Patchak's lawsuit, however, never got to the actual merits -- in Salazar v. Patchak, the Supreme Court only determined that he could pursue his claim.

“This legislation addresses a technical issue created by a recent court decision, and I was pleased to support the community in passing this bill to promote economic development in the region,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), who introduced the new law a year ago this month.

Get the Story:
Gun Lake Tribe Claims New Federal Law Stops David Patchak Litigation Cold (WHTC 9/29)

Supreme Court Oral Argument in Salazar v. Patchak:

Supreme Court Oral Argument in Carcieri v. Salazar:

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House passes bill to shield Gun Lake Tribe casino from litigation (09/17)

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