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Tribes accept gaming ban in hopes of recognition

Update: The House passed H.R.1294, the Virginia tribes recognition, by a voice vote this afternoon. The bill pased after House Democrats, earlier in the day, rejected a Republican-led attempt to block consideration. Statement from Rep. Jim Moran.

Fears about gaming continue to affect Indian legislation on Capitol Hill, with two federal recognition bills bearing the stamp of casino foes.

On April 25, the House Natural Resources Committee approved H.R.1294, a bill to recognize six Virginia tribes, and H.R.65, a bill to recognize the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. The action came after amendments to both measures barred the tribes from engaging in gaming.

In both cases, the tribes affected agreed to the prohibition. The Virginia tribes and the Lumbees cite religious and social objections to casinos, which they feel could hurt their chances at gaining full recognition.

But the main proponents of the ban include noted foes of gaming. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Virginia), a longtime critic of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, cited the Jack Abramoff scandal as one of the reasons to oppose gaming for the six Virginia tribes.

"Why won't the tribes accept a law that would prevent gambling on tribal lands?" Wolf asked at an April 18 hearing. "If the tribes are not interested in gambling, why not make that the law?"

There aren't any recognized tribes in Tennessee but that didn't stop Rep. John Duncan (R-Tennessee) from pushing the gaming ban on the Virginia tribes and the Lumbees at the April 25 markup. Duncan said he acted after Wolf described the gaming industry as "out of control."

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), the co-chairman of the Congressional Native American Caucus and the only Native American in Congress, opposed the amendments. "I don't think you should have to bargain away pieces of your sovereignty to get sovereignty," he said at the markup.

The committee, though approved Duncan's amendments to H.R.1294 and H.R.65. The move helped put the Virginia tribes on the fast track in the House, which is voting on the bill today.

But Cole's concerns could raise problems in the future. A handful of tribes, mainly in the East, are subject to the same types of gaming bans that are in the two recognition bills.

For some, the ban has been nearly detrimental. The Tigua Tribe and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, both of Texas, lost their main source of revenue when the courts upheld a gaming ban in their federal recognition laws and forced them to shut down their casinos.

The tribes were then victimized by the convicted lobbyist Abramoff, who pressured the Tiguas into paying millions to an associate in hopes of passing legislation to rescind the ban. The Alabama-Coushattas unwittingly donated money for a lavish trip to Scotland that helped put a Republican Congressman in prison sentence.

In New England, a handful of tribes have had their sovereignty virtually decimated by agreeing to submit to state gaming and other laws. A series of ruling from the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals has hurt at least five tribes in Maine and Rhode Island.

Even in cases where a tribe agreed to a restriction rather than a total prohibition on gaming, the effects haven't been positive. Through its federal recognition act, the Catawba Nation is subject to the gaming laws of South Carolina and is now barred from opening a video gaming facility on its reservation under a recent state court decision.

The Virginia and Lumbee tribes, however, don't foresee any major problems if they gain recognition with the gaming prohibition bans. "Indian gaming has gotten so out of hand that no ones wants to touch it," Arlinda Locklear, a Lumbee lawyer, told The Robesonian newspaper following the markup.

According to the amendment in H.R.1294, the Virginia tribes "may not conduct gaming activities as a matter of claimed inherent authority or under the authority of any Federal law, including the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act." It contains additional language that bars gaming under "regulations thereunder promulgated by the Secretary or the National Indian Gaming Commission."

Virginia Recognition:
Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act | House Report 110-124

Lumbee Recognition:
Lumbee Recognition Act (H.R.65)

Committee Hearings:
Full Committee Markup (April 25, 2007) | Full Committee Legislative Hearing: H.R. 1294 and H.R. 65 (April 18, 2007)

Relevant Links:
Virginia Indians Tribal Alliance For Life -
Official Lumbee Tribe website -
House Resources Committee -
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