lawyer Mason D. Morisset of Seattle, Wash., said the
aboriginal hunting and gathering claim could ultimately lead to new
the 11,000 square miles of land - from casinos to simply a museum
honoring the Shawnee.”
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
suit claims Ohio
tribe has been negotiating for casinos
By Jon Craig
COLUMBUS - The Eastern Shawnee tribe
Oklahoma filed a federal lawsuit in Toledo Monday claiming ownership
rights to land in three western Ohio counties as well as "hunting,
fishing and gathering" rights in 33 other counties - including all of
Clermont County, most of Hamilton County and parts of Butler and Warren
Tribal lawyer Mason D. Morisset of Seattle,
said the aboriginal hunting and gathering claim could ultimately lead
to new uses for the 11,000 square miles of land - from casinos to
simply a museum honoring the Shawnee. Or it could simply yield
surprising guests in local back yards.
"All of Indian Hill would be part of the
hunting, fishing and gathering could take place," said Terry Casey, a
Columbus lobbyist hired by the Indian tribe. "I gather most people
would not want that on their private property."
At a news conference in Columbus, Morisset said the
land had been taken
violently from the tribe when it was driven out of Ohio by soldiers and
Various treaties also gave the tribe continued hunting and fishing
rights, he said. If the state does not agree to give any land back, he
said, the tribe is asking for an acceptable financial settlement, which
he said could be "astronomical."
"We've asked for an accounting,'' he said."We don't
know the numbers, but they are huge. ... The tribe is always open to
The Eastern Shawnee previously announced plans to build casino resorts
in Monroe as well as Logan, Shelby, Mahoning, Stark and Wayne counties.
"It might lead to gambling," Casey said. "The question is how directly
and how quickly."
"The Eastern Shawnee want to return to Ohio,"
Morisset said. "The Eastern Shawnee came from here." The Shawnee had 27
Ohio villages between 1731 and 1786, according to
Morisset. They used vast hunting grounds in the Muskingum Valley and
between the Great and Little Miami rivers. He said his research will
prove the Shawnee were illegally forced onto reservations far from
their aboriginal homeland and denied fair compensation.
The Shawnee are eyeing a possible casino in Monroe, but they made no
claim to that land in Monday's suit. The Eastern Shawnee tribe has an
option to buy 150 acres in Monroe from Murray Guttman and a limited
partnership called Corridor 75 Park.
Earlier this year, Monroe passed legislation to
enter into a revenue-sharing agreement with the tribe. Local voters
will be asked to approve that agreement on a Nov. 8 ballot.
Morisset, who says he has won dozens of similar land claims nationwide,
estimated that there have been 200 successfully argued land claims by
various Indian tribes.
Morisset was joined by Eastern Shawnee Tribe Chief Charles Enyart of
Oklahoma in saying they would rather settle with the state than pursue litigation. But they
Attorney General Jim Petro has failed to respond to their requests for
meeting. If the state doesn't negotiate, Morisset said, a court victory
"might be highly disruptive of the current owners."
In a prepared
statement, Petro said, "While
have not seen the complaint, we will continue to vigorously defend the
and laws crafted by the state which do not allow for Class III casino
we do not believe that the Eastern
Shawnee are entitled to any
land in Ohio, whether state owned or not, we do not see
to meeting with them. If this lawsuit is an effort to further expand
in the state, I will do everything I can to stop it."
The 2,300-member Eastern Shawnee have been federally recognized since 1937
the Bordertown Bingo Hall & Casino in Seneca,
Mo. In May, Enyart sent a letter to Petro
claims, saying, "The time to make the Shawnee
whole has come."
said the Shawnee "don't want to go moving into someone's
even though it might be on an Interstate exchange that would be very
nice for a
casino. (They want) to go where they are welcome and where they can be
to a local community."
said he was disappointed the state ignored letters from the tribe:
discourteous treatment harkens to an earlier era in this nation's
we had believed to have long since yielded to a more enlightened course
dealings between tribes and state governments."
Earlier this month, Petro turned down a
from the Ottawa Indians of Oklahoma. The tribe argued that it was
350 acres of North Bass Island in Lake
Erie. The Ohio Department of
Natural Resources owns much of the island, less than 20 miles from Port
Clinton. In January, the Ottawa
tribe told Petro that it wanted the land for hunting and fishing.
tribe is pretty much set on the view, as am I, that they should have
rights as any other Indian tribe in the country," Morisset said.
"Which means that if you end up with tribal land, you can do what
can do. One of the things they can do is gaming."
and anti-gaming campaigner Phil Burress said he doesn't buy the notion
tribe merely wants to fish, hunt and gather in Butler
and adjoining counties.
Burress, president of Citizens for Community
said: "It's all about money. Why don't they just claim the whole