Chairperson Aaron Payment of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, center right, with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Sault Tribe faces doubts about long-stalled off-reservation casino

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians might be looking elsewhere for opportunities as an off-reservation casino hangs in limbo thanks to the Trump administration.

The tribe's agreement with the city of Lansing, Michigan, expires at the end of the year. But recently-inaugurated Mayor Andy Schor (D), whose predecessor was an over-enthusiastic backer of the project, doesn't think it's worth renewing due to opposition at the federal level.

"I’m always willing to have the conversation with them,” Schor told Michigan Radio. “But at this point, it’s moot. Because the federal government has said no to any casino in Lansing.”

And though the remains committed to the plan, a spokesperson acknowledged other sites could be on the table.

“If the city were to decide to abandon plans for a casino adjacent to the Lansing Center, the tribe could certainly look at alternative locations in Lansing or elsewhere,” spokesperson John Wernet told Michigan Radio.

At issue are two land-into-trust applications, one for a casino in Lansing and another for a casino in Sibley. The Trump administration rejected both applications almost a year ago, saying the sites were too far from tribal headquarters.

The tribe, however, believes the Bureau of Indian Affairs must approve both applications, citing a provision in the Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act that mandates acquisition of certain lands in the state.

The tribe's board of directors subsequently voted to pursue litigation but it's not clear whether any lawsuits have been filed. Wernet told Michigan Radio that the tribe has "no intention of giving up or going away.”

Following the rejection of the applications, the Trump administration proposed regulations that would make it harder for tribes to acquire land away from existing reservations. Tribes have expressed near unanimous opposition to the changes.

The final meeting for the Fee-to-Trust Regulations (25 CFR 151) took place on May 31 in Rapid City, South Dakota. Written comments are due June 30.

Read More on the Story:
Prospects for a casino in downtown Lansing are getting dimmer (Michigan Radio June 11, 2018)
Lansing Mayor says long-awaited casino project a no-go (WLNS June 11, 2018)

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