CN joins EBCI’s fight over trust land for casino
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation says it’s been granted permission to intervene in a court case between the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina and the federal government over land that was placed in trust for a South Carolina tribe’s casino.
The EBCI filed sued against the U.S. Department of Interior in March after the federal agency approved an application from the Catawba Indian Nation of South Carolina to place approximately 17 acres of land near Charlotte, North Carolina, into trust for gaming. According to the EBCI, the DOI’s decision was “illegal and corrupt.”
“The federal government has no right or authority to create a new reservation for the Catawba Nation across state lines, into Cherokee historical territory, just to build a casino,” EBCI Principal Chief Richard Sneed said.
According to the CN, which has a shared history with the EBCI, the U.S. government is required to consult with the CN on federal agency actions that “potentially impact cultural grounds within the Cherokee Nation’s historic treaty territory.”
“The Cherokee Nation was never notified of the proposed trust acquisition and has intervened to assert consultation rights under federal law,” a news release from the CN states.
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said records from the CN Tribal Historic Preservation Office indicate that cultural resources could be located in the area in question.
“The Cherokee Nation intervention complaint filed with the court seeks to prevent the Department of Interior from approving the trust acquisition until it properly consults with the Cherokee Nation as an interested party,” he said, “and conducts a cultural resource survey to ensure that historic resources are not located on the property.”
Hoskin added that he’s “proud to join the Eastern Band in this common objective to ensure the federal government complies with the spirit and letter of the law.”
“As principal chief, I’m committed to protecting the integrity of our cultural resources and I expect the federal government to respect our history and treaty territories,” he said.
According to court documents, the Catawba tribe, “seeking to improve its economic prospects,” asked the government to take the land into trust in September 2018. The tribe’s plan is to build a casino in the community of Kings Mountain in Cleveland County, North Carolina, and it expects to bring 5,000 construction and 4,000 permanent jobs to the area.
“This is a monumental economic opportunity, not only for the community of Kings Mountain, but for every citizen of the Catawba Indian Nation,” a Catawba news release states.
Catawba Chief Bill Harris called the EBCI’s lawsuit “unfortunate.”
“The Catawba Nation has reached out many times to the leadership of EBCI to try to work together,” he said. “In the past, Chief Sneed has asserted that he isn’t against federally recognized tribes going into the gaming industry, but he wants all tribes to follow the DOI established regulations. In Catawba’s decision letter from the Department of Interior, it clearly outlines that Catawba followed the process from beginning to end, and the decision also demonstrates our cultural and historical ties to this area.”
According to the EBCI, the DOI’s decision “creates a dangerous precedent” for all federally recognized tribes.
“The Bureau of Indian Affairs has acknowledged that there is a possibility that archaeological artifacts and resources could be discovered during construction on the site, which is located squarely within Cherokee historical territory,” an EBCI news release states. “Still, to date, the BIA has not consulted with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians on cultural protection measures. Development of a casino on historic Cherokee land without consulting with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians on the proposal violates federal law, specifically the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Protection Act.”