Scott Sprague serves as chairman of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, also known as the Gun Lake Tribe, whose homelands case was the subject of Patchak v. Zinke. Photo: MBPI
Land Acquisitions | Legislation | Litigation

Gun Lake Tribe welcomes victory as Supreme Court puts end to homelands lawsuit

The leader of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians is hailing a decision from the nation's highest court as a victory for all of Indian Country.

By a vote of 6 to 3, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed that Congress can protect the tribe's homelands from from litigation. The ruling puts an end to a long-running lawsuit that had questioned the status of the Gun Lake Casino in Michigan.

“This decision ends a decades-long struggle, and ensures the tribe can carry on our elders’ vision for growth and self-sufficiency," Chairman Scott Sprague of the Gun Lake Tribe said in a statement on Tuesday.

"We are thankful the Supreme Court upheld the many lower court decisions in favor of the tribe," Sprague added. "This is a significant development for not only the tribe, but also all of Indian Country.”

The tribe was represented by the Akin Gump law firm. In a statement, attorneys said the new decision in Patchak v. Zinke assures the legality of the Gun Lake Trust Land Reaffirmation Act, which confirmed that the site of the casino was validly placed in trust and directed the dismissal of any lawsuits that questioned the tribe's land-into-trust application.

"Beyond resolving an important issue of constitutional law, today’s decision brings this long- running lawsuit to an end—thereby providing the tribe certainty and security in its crucial land-development efforts," the firm said.

Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments in Patchak v. Zinke

Oral arguments took place on November 7, 2017, with Akin Gump attorney Pratik A. Shah presenting the tribe's side. One of his key points was embraced in the court, with Justice Stephen G. Breyer noting that Congress often takes action to settle tribal homeland disputes.

"That's precisely what Congress has done for over 150 years," Shah told the court during the argument.

The Gun Lake Casino debuted in February 2011. It's becoming a major economic engine, employing more than 1,000 people and contributing more than $100 million in revenues to the state and ti local governments.

Amid the litigation, the tribe completed the second phase of a $76 million expansion of the facility last September. A larger parking deck is now under construction.

U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Patchak v. Zinke:
Syllabus | Judgment [Thomas] | Concurrence [Breyer] | Concurrence [Ginsburg] | Concurrence [Sotomayor] | Dissent [Roberts] | Full Document: Patchak v. Zinke

More U.S. Supreme Court Documents:
Oral Argument Transcript | Docket Sheet No. 16-498 | Questions Presented

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Patchak v. Jewell (July 15, 2016)

U.S. Supreme Court Decision:
Patchak v. Jewell (June 18, 2012)

Prior D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Patchak v. Salazar (January 21, 2011)

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