Tribe claims it's right where it wants to be with land claims

 

“Tribe attorney Mason D. Morisset said Carr’s willingness to oversee the settlements was a win for the tribe and still meant it could approach the U.S. Department of the Interior to have the land taken into trust.”

 

By MATTHEW RINK

Matthew.Rink@IndeOnline.com

April 17, 2007

 

            The Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma is not folding on an attempt to open casinos in Ohio just yet.

            The tribe is declaring victory in its land-claim lawsuit, despite a federal judge’s refusal to accept settlements that could be viewed as land claims.

            “We are pleased to end this contentious litigation on terms that resolve the tribe’s land claims, and allow us to go forward,” Chief Glenna Wallace said in a prepared statement. “This is victory – the tribe has successfully returned to Ohio.”

            Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge James G. Carr said he would dismiss the case, but would do so without signing anything that could be viewed as a settlement of a land claim.

            The tribe sued several counties, cities and landowners in 2005 in an attempt to take back thousands of acres of reservation land and hunting, gathering and fishing territory it claimed it was forced from in the 1830s.

            Carr said the tribe’s proposal was defective and “could be perceived as accepting and endorsing the proposition that the settlements resolve ‘land claims’ under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

            “Whether they do or not is something that I do not either wish to address or think to consider,” the judge said.

            Among the settlements is a tract of 49 acres at Ohio 21 and Arcadia Street Northwest in Lawrence Township that is owned by N&N Development.

            Carr gave the parties until Monday to respond to his proposed order. He said he would still be willing to retain jurisdiction to enforce the parties’ settlements, but would not endorse them as land claims.

            Tribe attorney Mason D. Morisset said Carr’s willingness to oversee the settlements was a win for the tribe and still meant it could approach the U.S. Department of the Interior to have the land taken into trust.

            He said the settlements contained a provision that made them effective if the case was dismissed and the court retained jurisdiction to enforce them.

            The tribe, in a press release, said the settlements make it a landowner in Ohio.

            “It’s clear that the tribe had land claims and settled these land claims by these documents, so we’ll proceed forward,” Morisset said.

            Morisset said he does not see Carr’s ruling as a setback.

            “We had to get to this spot before we could go on before approaching the Department of the Interior,” he said. “There are a lot of ways to do things.”

            The tribe’s efforts have been rejected locally. Canal Fulton City Council, which had discussed the plan for a resort-style casino with the tribe, refused to negotiate with it on a revenue-sharing plan and later asked that it take the plan elsewhere.

            Wallace, in the prepared statement, said the Eastern Shawnee “seek to reestablish a presence in Ohio as part of a welcome and mutually beneficial relationship conducted on a government-to-government basis with the state and the local governments.

            “As the process moves forward, we will continue to work with local governments and state officials,” she said.

            The Ohio Attorney General’s Office could not be reached for comment.