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

Ponca Tribe faces more litigation as opponents continue to fight casino

The Ponca Tribe continues to face opposition to its casino on ancestral land in Iowa.

The tribe opened the Prairie Flower Casino on trust land in Carter Lake last fall. A federal judge earlier this month ruled that the National Indian Gaming Commission made the right call in confirming that the land can be used for the Class II facility.

Despite the decision, governmental opponents in Iowa and Nebraska continue to fight. They are now taking the case to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, The Omaha World-Herald reported.

“It’s time to put the lawsuits behind us and focus on our shared interest of bringing more economic growth the area," Chairman Larry Wright Jr. had said following the favorable ruling this month.

The Prairie Flower Casino in Carter Lake, Iowa, features 200 electronic gaming machines and is just five minutes from downtown Omaha, Nebraska. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

The case already went before the 8th Circuit nearly a decade ago as part of a lawsuit filed by the same opponents in Iowa and Nebraska. In 2010, the court ordered the NIGC to take another look at the issue after the agency had supported the tribe's gaming rights.

The NIGC responded -- seven years later -- with a second decision in favor of the tribe. Following yet another lawsuit from opponents, the agency again supported the tribe this past April.

The notice of appeal filed by the state of Iowa, the state of Nebraska and the city of Council Bluffs in Iowa indicates that the opponents plan to challenge all of the decisions issued so far in their lawsuit.

The tribe opened the casino last October following more than a decade of litigation from Iowa and Nebraska. The facility is named for Prairie Flower, a daughter of famed Chief Standing Bear who died when her people were forced to leave their homelands by the federal government in 1877.

Thanks to Standing Bear's legal efforts, his people were allowed to stay on their homelands in present-day Iowa and Nebraska. But a hundred years later, the situation changed when the federal government terminated its government-to-government relationship with the tribe.

The pendulum shifted again when the tribe was restored to federal recognition in 1990. The Ponca Restoration Act identifies areas in the two states where the tribe can restore its homelands -- including the county where Prairie Flower is located.

The casino was the subject of considerable discussion during the recent confirmation hearing of E. Sequoyah Simermeyer to serve as the new Chairman of the NIGC. Since joining the independent federal agency, he has refused to support the decisions in favor of the tribe, not just once but twice.

When asked about the matter by Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Simermeyer refused to offer any details, citing the ongoing litigation. Despite his reticence, the committee on July 31 voted to advance his nomination to the full U.S. Senate.

The chamber is in recess until early September so Simermeyer must wait for further action before taking control of the NIGC. He was nominated to serve as Chairman by President Donald Trump.

Read More on the Story
Nebraska, Iowa and Council Bluffs file appeal to pull plug on Prairie Flower casino (The Omaha World-Herald August 27, 2019)
Legal dispute over Prairie Rose Casino in Carter Lake continues (Radio Iowa August 28, 2019)

National Indian Gaming Commission Documents
April 30, 2019 | 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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