Jamie Stuck serves as chairperson of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians in Michigan. Photo: FireKeepers Casino
Casino Stalker | Land Acquisitions

Nottawaseppi Huron Band praises denial of off-reservation gaming projects



While one tribe in Michigan is vowing a fight, another is praising the Trump administration for rejecting proposals for two off-reservation casinos.

Chairperson Jamie Stuck of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi said the Department of the Interior made the right call in denying the projects. He accused the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians of trying to "shop for reservations" outside of its aboriginal territory.

"We have expended resources to fight this effort because we believe in protecting the current system of tribal gaming and complying with the basic principle that tribes should stay within their historic aboriginal territories when acquiring lands into trust status," Stuck said in a statement on Friday. "What the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe was trying to do would have set bad precedent for all tribes in Michigan."

In June 2014, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe filed land-into-trust applications for parcels in Lansing and in Sibley. A July 24 letter signed by Jim Cason, the Associate Deputy Secretary at Interior, cited the long distances between the tribe's headquarters in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the two sites in the Lower Peninsula.

"Here, the distances are even greater - the tribe's headquarters is approximately 260 miles (287 miles by road) from the Lansing parcels, and approximately 305 miles (356 miles by road) from the Sibley parcel," Cason, who is a political appointee of President Donald Trump, wrote in the letter.

Indianz.Com on Google Maps: Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Gaming Operations

In comparison, both sites are much closer to the Nottawaseppi Huron Band's FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek. The facility is about 50 miles from the Lansing parcel and about 95 miles from Sibley.

"We appreciate the efforts of the Interior Department to consider all sides of the matter and evaluate the evidence before them," Stuck said. "We hope that this concludes the efforts of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe to develop casinos in lower Michigan and hope that any future efforts by them focus on their homelands in the Upper Peninsula."

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe has indicated otherwise. Chairperson Aaron A. Payment promised to explore all options -- legal, administrative and political -- to secure approval of the land-into-trust applications.

"Our tribe is within federal law and our legal rights to pursue these opportunities to create thousands of new jobs and generate millions of dollars in new revenues that will enhance our tribal land base and benefit our members, the people of Lansing, public school students in Lansing, the people of Huron Township, and the entire state," Payment said. The Sibley site falls within Huron Township.

Chairperson Stuck's full statement follows:
The Interior Department’s decision rejecting the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe’s efforts to establish reservations for the purpose of building casinos more than 300 miles away from their homelands was the right one for Michigan citizens. For the past five years, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe has been arguing that the Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act mandated the federal agency to take any lands anywhere in the state into trust status for the tribe. Such an argument was not only a threat to the current system of tribal gaming in the state but also to the longstanding expectations of local municipalities of where tribal reservations may be located.

The Interior Department’s decision reaffirms what the drafters of the original legislation have been saying all along, that Congress never intended to allow any tribe to use the law to shop for reservations throughout the state or to acquire land for gaming purposes.

For five years, the federal government and local governments of Lansing and Romulus have expended resources on this matter. We have expended resources to fight this effort because we believe in protecting the current system of tribal gaming and complying with the basic principle that tribes should stay within their historic aboriginal territories when acquiring lands into trust status. What the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe was trying to do would have set bad precedent for all tribes in Michigan.

In addition, the Sault Tribe’s proposed off-reservation casinos would violate the Michigan Tribal-State gaming compacts. One of the gaming compact provisions requires tribes to obtain written agreements amongst all the state’s tribes in order to pursue off-reservation casinos. The Sault Tribe has never attempted to address this reasonable provision.

We appreciate the efforts of the Interior Department to consider all sides of the matter and evaluate the evidence before them. We hope that this concludes the efforts of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe to develop casinos in lower Michigan and hope that any future efforts by them focus on their homelands in the Upper Peninsula.

Related Stories:
Sault Tribe vows fight after Trump team rejects land-into-trust applications (July 27, 2017)