A 10-foot tall, bronze statue of Ponca Chief Standing Bear was erected October 15, 2017, along a plaza leading to the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln. In 1879, Standing Bear convinced a federal judge to allow him to return to his homelands in northeast Nebraska, a decision that is today considered an important civil rights victory for Native Americans. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

Ponca Tribe faces challenge to casino as city in Iowa moves forward with lawsuit

The descendants of Ponca Chief Standing Bear are facing a legal challenge to plans for a casino in Iowa.

According to news reports, the city of Council Bluffs plans to sue the National Indian Gaming Commission for paving the way for the project. But Chairman Larry Wright Jr. of the Ponca Tribe told KETV that he was confident of his people's efforts, which have been under review for more than a decade, would survive a challenge.

“We’re confident that the National Indian Gaming Commission, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Justice have all thoroughly vetted this issue,” Wright told the station.

The tribe owns land in Carter Lake where it plans to open the casino. Council Bluffs, located just across the Missouri River, is home to three non-Indian gaming facilities.

“I don’t recall us ever interfering when Council Bluffs built three casinos,” Carter Lake Mayor Gerald Waltrip said at a city council meeting in Council Bluffs on Monday night, when the issue was discussed, The Daily Nonpareil reported.

Ponca Tribe on YouTube: Casino Announcement

The tribe's land in Carter Lake was placed in trust in 2003. Generally, land acquired after the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988 cannot be used for gaming.

But Section 20 of the law contains exceptions to that general rule. According to the NIGC, the "restored lands" exception applies to the Poncas, whose federal recognition was restored by Congress in 1990 after they were subjected to the disastrous termination policy.

"The commission recognizes that all tribes have unique histories that must be considered on a case-by-case basis when making these decisions," Jonodev Chaudhuri, the chairman of the federal gaming agency, said in a news release earlier this month, when the NIGC approved the tribe's gaming ordinance.

The tribe celebrated the decision but has not announced details on plans for the casino.

Read More on the Story:
Carter Lake leaders support casino as possible lawsuit looms (KETV November 27, 2017)
Council Bluffs will file lawsuit over plans for casino in Carter Lake (The Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil / The Omaha World-Herald News Service November 27, 2017)
Council Bluffs City Council weighs options to fight casino in Carter Lake (The Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil November 27, 2017)
Council Bluffs likely to challenge Carter Lake casino (KMTV November 28, 2017)

National Indian Gaming Commission Documents:
November 14, 2017 Decision | December 31, 2007 Decision

8th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Nebraska v. Department of Interior (October 19, 2010)

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