A welcome sign on the Colville Reservation in Washington. Photo: Jimmy Emerson

Colville Tribes weigh possible casino on ancestral territory

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation announced the acquisition of 184 acres of ancestral territory in Washington and is weighing a casino and other economic development at the site.

The land is located near Pasco, one of the three communities that make up the Tri-Cities region in the southeastern part of the state. Several hundred citizens live in the area, Chairman Rodney Cawston said on Friday.

“We will consult regularly with Franklin County officials, mayors and city councils in the Tri-Cities of Richland, Pasco and Kennewick, and other community leaders, as we develop plans,” Cawston said in a news release. “We want any tribal economic development project to benefit the entire area, creating good paying new jobs, increasing tourism, and providing a catalyst for a number of new businesses. I look forward to mutually- beneficial partnerships with Franklin County, the City of Pasco and other governments in this area.”

The site, located near the intersection of two major highways, is about 160 miles from tribal headquarters in Nespelem. But it's part of the historic territory of the Palus people, one of the 12 bands on the reservation. Nez Perce homelands are nearby as well.

“Nez Perce and Palus members on the Colville Reservation always lamented the loss of their sacred homelands, which hold the bones of our ancestors” said Cawston. “Many of our tribal members carry the names of our Palus and Nez Perce ancestors. We also carry on our traditional religion, our ceremonies and the teachings of our ancestors.”

Generally, land acquired in trust after 1988 can't be used for a casino but Section 20 of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act contains a number of exceptions, including one affecting land claim settlements. The Colville Tribes settled a land dispute with the United States through the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation Grand Coulee Dam Settlement Act of 1994.

For tribes that do not qualify for an exception, IGRA authorizes gaming on newly acquired lands through the two-part determination process. Approval from the federal government is required along with that of the state government.

Washington happens to be home to two two-part determination casinos. Both are located in Airway Heights, just outside of Spokane, the second-largest city in the state. That area is about a two-hour drive from the Tri-Cities.

Read More on the Story
Tribal casino may be coming to Tri-Cities. Colvilles purchase local land (The Tri-City Herald June 21, 2019)

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