The Coquille Tribe owns and operates The Mill Casino in North Bay, Oregon. The tribe is seeking federal approval to open another facility in Medford. Photo: Rick Obst

Coquille Tribe 'still very frustrated' with long wait for land decision

It's been more four years since the Coquille Tribe started the land-into-trust process for a property in Oregon and there's still no word of a decision from the Bureau of Indian Affairs

“We are still very frustrated waiting for land to be placed into trust,” Chairperson Brenda Meade told The Medford Mail Tribune of the long wait for an answer from Washington, D.C.

Like many things in Indian Country, gaming has complicated the picture. The tribe plans to use the 2.42-acre site for a Class II facility called the Cedars at Bear Creek and that has drawn opposition from politicians and rivals in the state.

As part of the land-into-trust process, the BIA has been reviewing an environmental impact statement for the acquisition. But the website for the documents,, has since disappeared from the internet.

The tribe, meanwhile, has spent more than $6 million over the past three years to acquire additional properties around the site, The Mail Tribune reported. A total of 45 acres has been purchased.

“They’re very strategic properties as far as we’re concerned,” Ray Doering, the communications director for the Coquille Economic Development Corporation, the tribe's economic arm, told the paper.

Generally, land placed in trust after 1988 can't be used for gaming. The Coquilles, however, are seeking an exception in Section 20 of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act that applies to tribes that were restored to federal recognition.

The tribe gained recognition through the Coquille Restoration Act in 1989. The law requires the BIA to place up to 1,000 acres in trust.

The Cedars at Bear Creek site is in Medford, about 170 miles from the Mill Casino, the tribe's Class III facility in North Bend.

Read More on the Story
Tribe doubles down on casino (The Medford Mail Tribune February 18, 2019)

The Cow Creek Band
Following publication of The Medford Mail Tribune story, the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians responded. The tribe opposes the new Coquille development, which would impact revenues at the Cow Creek's gaming facility.

A statement from Michael Rondeau, chief executive officer of the Cow Creek Band:
This project has been suspect from the start. The Coquille, in their own words, said they wanted a “small facility” but now we know they lied. Their vision for an off-reservation casino in Medford is anything but small and if approved would establish a mega casino the size of those in Las Vegas—45 acres is double the size of any casino in Oregon—opening the gates to more of its kind up across the state without any consent from the Oregonians who live here.

The Coquille have tried to circumvent federal law that requires the Governor’s approval and now we know why. Oregon voters have rejected the expansion of casinos, supporting one casino per Tribe on reservation land - and if approved the voice of Oregonians will be ignored and an explosion of casinos will cascade across the state.

The people of Medford - and all Oregonians - should be alarmed. This one project will forever change our landscape, paving the path for Las Vegas size developments throughout Oregon, all without any consent or voice from the people who live here. Once this gate is opened, it will never be closed.

Michael Rondeau, CEO
Cow Creek Tribe

Federal Register Notice
Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Coquille Indian Tribe Fee-to-Trust and Casino Project, City of Medford, Jackson County, Oregon (January 15, 2015)

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