Indianz.Com Video by Kevin Abourezk: Ponca Tribe Celebrates Opening of New Casino

Ponca Tribe sees setback with federal judge's decision on new casino

As the descendants of Ponca Chief Standing Bear recover from disastrous flooding in Nebraska, a federal judge has cast doubt on their new gaming facility in neighboring Iowa.

In a 36-page decision issued on Tuesday, Judge Stephanie M. Rose said the National Indian Gaming Commission must take another look at the process used to approve the Prairie Flower Casino. The federal agency's analysis was "arbitrary and capricious" because it did not take all the evidence into account, the ruling stated.

As a result, "this matter must be remanded to the commission for further consideration," Rose wrote. It's the second time that has happened in the course of litigation over the casino, which opened last October following the NIGC's favorable review.

Rose's decision does not require the facility to be closed. But it represents a setback for the Ponca Tribe, whose leaders have been fighting for the right to engage in gaming on their homelands for more than 10 years.

Prairie Flower is located on tribal trust land in Carter Lake, Iowa. It is named for a daughter of Chief Standing Bear who died when her people were forced to leave their homelands by the federal government in 1877.

Thanks to the advocacy of Chief Standing Bear, the Ponca were allowed to return home only to see their federal status terminated by the United States a century later. The tribe's recognition was restored in 1990, which the NIGC considered when it determined, first in 2007 and again in 2017, that the casino could open on "restored" lands in Carter Lake.

Prairie Flower is being litigated by the state of Iowa and the city of Council Bluffs, where non-Indian gaming facilities are located. The state of Nebraska also intervened, citing impacts on its interests -- the city of Omaha, the most populous in the region, is next door to Carter Lake.

The same governments sued the NIGC after the original 2007 decision, which resulted in the first remand in the long-running matter.

Prairie Flower has not been impacted by the historic flooding in Nebraska but the tribe and its citizens elsewhere in the state have been negatively affected.

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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