Bush v. Texas Tribes
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NOVEMBER 3, 2000

Much has been made about Texas Governor George W. Bush's battle with tribes in his state over gaming. But can any of it be accurately traced to Bush?

The Tigua Tribe and the Kickapoo Tribe opened gaming facilities a few years ago. The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe announced plans last year to do the same.

At the time, reports of conflicts between the state and the tribes were mostly limited to regional news. However, when Bush told reporters in New York last year that he believed state law reigned supreme when it came to tribes, many in Indian Country stood up and took notice. Many wondered how Bush's views would figure in with Indian policy, which, in most cases, dictates federal law has precedence.

But is all the attention on Bush warranted? When it comes to the Tigua and Alabama-Coushatta tribes, Bush isn't wrong about state law applying to the two, who were federally recognized by Congress in 1987.

A provision of the tribes' restoration act says that state laws regarding gaming will apply on tribal land. Since Texas law prohibits casino-style gaming and bingo, both are prohibited to the tribes as well, unless the state and the tribes can come to an agreement.

The Tigua tribe attempted to do just that in 1992. But it was Governor Ann Richards who turned the tribe down, not Bush. Bush wasn't elected Governor until 1994.

By that time, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals had already ruled the tribe was subject to state gaming law. That decision has not yet been overturned.

The only action Bush has taken directly against any tribe was to let Attorney General John Cornyn go ahead and sue the Tigua tribe. That, and a $1.5 million grant he gave to Cornyn in 1999 to battle Internet and illegal gaming in the state. Bush has gone after non-Indian forms of gaming as well.

The Tigua aren't the only tribe in a similar situation. The law which settled the land claims of the Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island also declared them subject to state law.

The tribe attempted to get around the situation but were eventually stopped short by a special amendment to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Called the Chafee Amendment, for Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee, the provision makes it clear IGRA doesn't allow the tribe to game because the tribe had earlier successfully argued that IGRA overruled their settlement act.

Get the Story:
Tigua Tribe loses gaming appeal (Money Matters 11/3)

Relevant Links:
Office of Attorney General, Texas -