Artist's rendering of proposed Catawba Nation casino in North Carolina. Image: Catawba Nation Project Brief

Catawba Nation predicts 'huge' economic impact with casino on homelands

The Catawba Nation is looking forward to a brighter future with a proposed gaming facility on its homelands in North Carolina.

Chief Bill Harris told The Kings Mountain Herald that the project would generate between 4,000 to 5,000 jobs. He called it a "game changer" for the tribe, whose economic development options have been limited due to restrictions in its land claim settlement act.

“The economic impact of this project will be huge for the Catawba Indian Nation; it will be a game changer for us," Harris told the paper. "That same economic impact will be felt by Kings Mountain and Cleveland County.”

The tribe asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs more than five years ago to place the site for the casino in trust. But a decision has never been made due to a lack of clarity about the Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina Land Claims Settlement Act, The Cherokee One Feather reported.

"Congress always intended for the Catawba Tribe to be able to make mandatory land acquisitions in North Carolina in a service area they have historically occupied," a spokesperson for Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) told The One Feather. "But, because of unclear language in the law itself, the Catawba’s claim is still being disputed 25 years later."

The Harrah's Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel in Murphy, North Carolina. Photo: Warren LeMay

The uncertainty prompted Burr to sign on a co-sponsor to S.790. The bill, which was introduced on March 13, clarifies that the BIA can approve the tribe's land-into-trust application and that the land can be used for a casino, The One Feather reported.

The casino would be located Kings Mountain, which is about 30 miles west of Charlotte, the most populous city in North Carolina. Tribal headquarters are about 47 miles away, across the border in South Carolina.

Despite the distance and the border, the Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina Land Claims Settlement Act includes six counties in North Carolina as the service area for the Catawba Nation. But the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is claiming that area as its "aboriginal lands," Chief Richard Sneed said in response to the legislation.

"This action circumvents the existing process for the Catawba Indian Nation to acquire lands in South Carolina, is unprecedented in US history, and a federal government bully-tactic that should not be part of modern governing," Sneed said in a March 14 statement.

The Eastern Band, incidentally, is seeking approval from Congress to reacquire some of its aboriginal lands in Tennessee. H.R.453, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Historic Lands Reacquisition Act, was introduced on February 5 after a prior version failed to get over the finish line during the last session.

The bill passed the House only to be stall in the other chamber. In a February 8 story, Chief Sneed told The One Feather that Sen. Burr "basically told us he’s going to block it at the Senate level."

The Eastern Cherokees operate the Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort, about 130 miles west of King's Mountain, and the newer Harrah's Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel, about 190 miles. Both are in the far western part of North Carolina.

Read More on the Story
Catawbas seeking casino in North Carolina (The Cherokee One Feather March 20, 2019)
KM casino introduced in US Senate (The Kings Mountain Herald March 19, 2019)

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