Shawnee Tribe gets trust land for gaming

BY STAFF REPORTS
01/26/2018 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – At a Jan. 19 ceremony, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke approved the Shawnee Tribe’s application to put 102.98 acres of land in Guymon into federal Indian trust status for gaming.

The Shawnee Tribe proposes to develop a 42,309-square foot gaming facility on the site comprised of a 20,206-square foot gaming floor, a restaurant, retail space and office spaces for the Shawnee Tribe Gaming Commission.

When completed, the project is expected to generate a $30 million annual impact for the local economy, including creating 200 permanent jobs. The federally recognized tribe, landless for well over 160 years, is headquartered in Miami, Oklahoma, and has approximately 2,500 members.

“I want to thank Secretary Zinke for approving the Shawnee Tribe’s application to put land into trust, which will provide the Shawnee people with their first land base in well over a century,” Shawnee Tribe Chief Ron Sparkman said. “We’ve worked hard to set ourselves on the path to a better future, and this project will help us achieve our goals of tribal self-sufficiency through economic progress.”

The tribe’s application was considered under the secretary’s authority to acquire the land in trust for it under the Shawnee Status Act of 2000 through the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.

The application met the DOI’s requirements for placing land into trust for gaming, despite the proposed site’s location being approximately 370 miles west of the tribe’s headquarters in Ottawa County, and the DOI received comments in support of the proposed project.

Gov. Mary Fallin, concurring with the Interior’s positive two-part determination on the application, called for the expedient acquisition of the site into trust. Local officials supporting the application include a Texas County commissioner and the mayor of Guymon.

Oklahoma tribes including the Cherokee Nation, the Eastern Shawnee Tribe, the Miami Tribe, the Modoc Tribe, the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma, the Peoria Tribe of Indians, the Quapaw Tribe, the Seneca-Cayuga Nation and the Wyandotte Nation supported the decision.

Until the approval of its land-into-trust for gaming application, the Shawnee Tribe had been landless since the mid-19th century, when the 1854 Treaty of Washington terminated the tribe’s 1.6 million-acre reservation in Kansas, which had been created under earlier treaties, allotted approximately 200,000 acres to individual Indians, and opened the majority of the remaining lands to non-Indian settlement. In 1869, the United States relocated the Shawnee tribal citizens in Kansas, known as the Loyal Shawnee because of their service to the Union during the Civil War, to present-day Oklahoma, but did not provide the tribe with its own land base.

According to the Treaty of 1869 between the United States and CN, those Shawnees became CN citizens. In 2000, Congress passed the Shawnee Status Act, which reaffirmed the tribe’s federal recognition status. That act also confirmed the tribe’s eligibility to have land acquired in trust, but prohibits it from acquiring trust land within the jurisdiction of the CN or any other tribe without its consent. The CN Constitution prohibits it from consenting to any action that would diminish its jurisdiction.

Because of the act’s limitations, the only place the Shawnee Tribe can effectively acquire trust land is in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

Some have complained the Shawnee Tribe has no historical ties to the proposed site of Golden Mesa Casino near Guymon. One outspoken opponent was State Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward.

In February 2017, he said it was time to re-evaluate the framework of casino gambling in Oklahoma if the federal government is going to allow tribal gaming in areas of the state with no historical tribal connections.

“This would be a terrible precedent by the federal government to allow tribal gambling in lands where tribes have no historical ties,” Marlatt said. “This could open a floodgate of casinos and other tribal ventures on almost every corner in Oklahoma. This move is also concerning to citizens in the Panhandle because of the societal ills associated with the proliferation of gambling. If this move is allowed by the federal government, then it’s time we seriously examine if it is in the best interest of the state to grant exclusivity to tribal governments to open and operate casinos in Oklahoma.”

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