Tribe names Lawrence in land-claim lawsuit

By MATTHEW RINK, Massillon Independent

 

The Eastern Shawnee of Oklahoma asked a federal judge this week to make a Lawrence Township landowner a party defendant in its land-claim lawsuit.

 

Tribe attorney Mason Morisset said the motion to add N&N Development LLC, which owns a 49-acre tract at Ohio 21 and Arcadia St. N.W. in the township, as a defendant in the case is merely a legal formality.

 

The tribe wants to build casinos in a handful of Ohio communities, including Botkins, Monroe and Lewiston. It also finalized a settlement agreement this week with Lima.

 

The tribe filed a lawsuit in 2005 in U.S. District Court seeking thousands of acres of former reservation land and hunting, gathering and fishing territory. The suit claims the tribe was unjustly forced from the land.

 

The land claim originally named dozens of counties, municipalities and private landowners as defendants. N&N Development was not originally among those named.

 

Morisset said the tribe added dependents as “things shook out,” in court.

 

“Potentially, we could have sued tens of thousands of people, but that’s absurd so what we did was bring a cross section,” he said.

 

Whether or not the settlements are accepted is now a decision for Judge James Carr. The tribe needs the settlements so that it can have the land taken into trust by the Department of the Interior.

 

Though just a legal formality, it shows that the tribe continues to push for the land despite being asked by officials in the township and Canal Fulton to stay out of the community.

 

Both communities wrote letters to the tribe following months of public debate and a city-issued surveyed that showed mostly opposition to the plan.