Shawnee claiming victory in land case

“According to the tribe’s attorney, Mason D. Morisset, recognizing the settlement means Eastern Shawnee can now take the next step in developing casinos”


Tuesday, April 17, 2007 — Time: 11:37:02 AM EST

By STEPHEN ORAVECZ Tribune Chronicle


            The Indian tribe hoping to build a casino/resort in Lordstown declared victory Monday in its effort to claim Ohio land, but the attorney general’s office said that may be premature.

            ‘‘The tribe has successfully returned to Ohio,” said Chief Glenna Wallace of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, which claims to have roots in central and southern Ohio.

            The Eastern Shawnee and the Ohio attorney general on Monday both accepted Judge James G. Carr’s proposed order to dismiss the case. In the proposed order, Carr notes that the Eastern Shawnee and several defendants have reached a settlement.

            According to the tribe’s attorney, Mason D. Morisset, recognizing the settlement means Eastern Shawnee can now take the next step in developing casinos, asking the U.S. Department of Interior to take the land into trust for the tribe. He said that process, which is complicated and will take time, should begin in the next several months.

            Michael Deemer, chief deputy attorney general, said he was pleased that Carr recognized the attorney general’s objections to the Eastern Shawnee claims. Dann has called the land claim a ‘‘sham’’ designed solely to bring casino gambling to Ohio.

            Deemer said Carr twice rejected proposals from the Eastern Shawnee that would have put his stamp of approval on the land settlement. In an April 3 ruling that included the order both sides accepted, Carr said nothing in his proposal should be interpreted as an endorsement of the settlement.

            That is not a problem, Morisset said. According to the tribe’s attorney, Carr has said he wants to remain neutral and nothing in his rulings should prevent the Eastern Shawnee from succeeding in their attempt to have the land taken into trust.

            Deemer would not say whether the attorney general will opposed the Eastern Shawnee if they apply with the Department of the Interior. He said the office will decide on its next step once it sees what the Eastern Shawnee do.

            The tribe originally sued the state and more than 60 defendants seeking title to 92,800 acres of former reservation lands and hunting, fishing and gathering rights to approximately 11,315 square miles in 36 in central and western Ohio. Settlements include land in Lima in Allen County, Lawrence Township in Stark County, Botkins in Shelby County and in Warren County

            The Lordstown site is not part of the lawsuit. However, the Eastern Shawnee are still interested in developing a casino/resort in Trumbull County. The tribe hopes to negotiate a gambling compact with Ohio that would include Lordstown.