Tribe still seeking casino in Lordstown: Plan awaits Obama policies


By AMANDA SMITH-TEUTSCH / Tribune Chronicle POSTED: February 26, 2009


LORDSTOWN - While renewing its option to purchase a tract of land in Lordstown to build a casino resort, a Native American tribe put the project on hold while waiting to see what new policies come from the Obama administration.


President Obama said he is undertaking a careful and diligent review of many policies related to Native Americans.


In the meantime, the Eastern Shawnee of Oklahoma have renewed an option to purchase land for the resort on state Route 45 until 2010, said Terry Casey, a consultant for the tribe.


''It means the tribe is very interested in doing something with the project,'' Casey said.


The land claim the tribe has in Lordstown is not as strong as in other parts of the state, he said, ''but they remain interested in doing that project.''


The statements came Wednesday, just days after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling gave state more rights to regulate tribal activity. Mason Morisset, the Seattle-based lawyer who represents the Shawnee tribe, said that case, Carcieri v. Salazar, wouldn't apply to his clients.


The U.S. Supreme Court limited the federal government's authority to hold land in trust for Indian tribes, a victory for Rhode Island and other states seeking to impose local laws and control over development on Indian lands. The court's ruling applies to tribes recognized by the federal government after the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act.


The Eastern Shawnee of Oklahoma were federally recognized before the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act.


The U.S. government argued that the law allows it to take land into trust for tribes regardless of when they were recognized, but Justice Clarence Thomas said in his majority opinion that the law ''unambiguously refers to those tribes that were under the federal jurisdiction'' when it was enacted.


The ruling comes in a case involving the Rhode Island-based Narragansett Indian Tribe and a 31-acre tract of land that the tribe purchased in rural Charlestown, about 40 miles south of Providence.


At issue was whether the land should be subject to state law, including a prohibition on casino gambling, or whether the parcel should be governed by tribal and federal law.


Morisset and Casey both said they expected legislative action if the Supreme Court ruling was held to have a broad application that might have impacted existing tribal businesses.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.