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Rejected tribes want casinos too far from reservations


After months of anticipation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs finally issued "guidance" on taking off-reservation land into trust for gaming purposes.

According to the new policy, 30 tribes want to open casinos away from their existing reservations. Interior Department officials rejected 11 proposals on Friday, leaving 19 more in the wings.

So what happened? Here's a review of the 11 land-into-trust applications and why they were rejected by the BIA.

Big Lagoon Rancheria/Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Indians, California
In a March 2006 application, the two tribes proposed side-by-side casinos in Barstow, about 550 miles from the Big Lagoon Rancheria and about 115 miles from the Los Coyotes Reservation. The BIA said the 43-acre joint gaming site was not within a "reasonable commuting distance" for tribal members who live on reservations and therefore would not benefit them.

Chemehuevi Tribe, California
The tribe submitted an application in February 2006 for a 40-acre parcel in Barstow, about 136 miles from the reservation. The BIA said the application didn't state in detail why the casino would help the tribe fund governmental services on the reservation and that the gaming was not within a "reasonable commuting distance" from the reservation.

Hannahville Indian Community, Michigan
The Potawatomi tribe submitted an application in February 2006 for 9.8 acres in Romulus, nearly 500 miles from the reservation. The BIA said the application failed to detail the benefits of the proposed casino and that the gaming site was not within a "reasonable commuting distance" of the reservation.

Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico
The tribe's December 2004 application was for 78 acres in Anthony, nearly 300 miles from the reservation. The BIA said the application indicated that non-Indians, not tribal members, would be hired for the casino because the gaming site is not within a "reasonable commuting distance" of the reservation.

Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Wisconsin
The tribe submitted an application in September 2001 for 20 acres in Shullsburg, about 300 miles from the reservation. The BIA said the application did not state in detail the benefits of the proposed casino and that non-Indians would mostly be hired because the gaming site is so far from the reservation.

Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Mississippi
The tribe submitted an application in November 2005 for 61 acres in Jackson County, about 175 miles from the reservation. The site is adjacent to about 40 acres that were previously taken into trust -- but not for gaming purposes.

The BIA pointed out that the tribe already operates a casino on its reservation but said the tribe did not provide "sufficient detail" in the application to describe how the new casino would benefit tribal members on the reservation. The BIA also said the gaming site was not within a "reasonable commuting distance" from the reservation.

In November, voters in Jackson County rejected the proposal in a non-binding referendum. The BIA did not address this issue in its decision.

St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, New York
The tribe's application for 29 acres in Monticello was first submitted in 1998. The site is about 350 miles from the reservation, which the BIA said was too far for tribal members to commute to obtain jobs.

The letter did not mention local and state support for the project. Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) strongly backed the casino, as did his predecessor, who had pushed a state law to authorize the project after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, Wisconsin
The tribe submitted an application in February 2002 for 333 acres in Thompson, New York, about 1,000 miles from the Wisconsin reservation. The BIA noted that the tribe already operates a casino on the reservation and that the New York gaming site was not was not within a "reasonable commuting distance" from the reservation.

Seneca-Cayuga Tribe, Oklahoma
The tribe's application for 230 acres in Montezuma, New York, was submitted in April 2006. The BIA said the site, about 1,500 miles from the Oklahoma reservation, would not provide "meaningful employment opportunities" for tribal members. The BIA also said the application failed to state in detail the benefits of the proposed casino.

United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Oklahoma
The tribe's application for 10 acres in Fort Smith, Arkansas, was unique because the site is only 70 miles from tribal headquarters in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The tribe also does not have currently have trust land.

Despite the tribe's circumstances, the BIA cited "jurisdictional problems and conflicts of land use" because local and state officials in Arkansas oppose the casino. The decision letter did not address opposition from the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.

Other Tribes
The BIA sent letters to 12 other tribes with pending land-into-trust applications for off-reservation casinos. The BIA said the applications were not complete and that they would not be processed until more information is submitted.

The letters went to the Tigua Tribe of Texas for a site in New Mexico, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota, the Muckleshoot Tribe in Washington, the Lower Elwha Tribe of Washington, the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Michigan, the Kickapoo Tribe and the Sac and Fox Nation for a joint site in Kansas, the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin for a site in Illinois, the Dry Creek Rancheria in California, the Colorado, the Colville Tribes of Washington, the Burns Paiute Tribe of Oregon, and the Colorado River Indian Tribes of Arizona and California for a site in California.

Off-Reservation Gaming Policy:
Guidance on taking off-reservation land into trust for gaming purposes (January 3, 2008)

BIA Letters:
Big Lagoon Rancheria | Chemehuevi Tribe | Hannahville Indian Community | Jemez Pueblo | Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa | Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Indians | Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians | St. Regis Mohawk Tribe | Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohican Indians | Seneca-Cayuga Tribe | United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians | Other January 4 Tribes

Relevant Links:
Bureau of Indian Affairs - http://www.doi.gov/bureau-indian-affairs.html

Related Stories:
Carl Artman letter on off-reservation gaming (1/4)
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe responds to BIA rejection (1/4)
Bush holding back off-reservation gaming proposals (11/16)
BIA tackles land-into-trust backlog (11/9)
New York tribe pushes Interior to act on casino land (11/1)
BIA still having trouble accounting for land-into-trust (10/5)
Cason explains misgivings on land-into-trust (4/20)
Artman jumps into job as new head of BIA (4/12)
Artman highlights priorities as head of BIA (4/5)
Leadership changes at BIA under Artman (4/2)
New York governor approves off-reservation casino (2/20)
Off-reservation gaming concerns at Interior (2/16)
BIA continues work on gaming land regulation (12/04)