A bill that would have solved a problem created two years ago by the Salazar v. Carcieri case in the Supreme Court passed the U.S. House last month, but failed to get any traction in the Senate, and the lame-duck session of Congress expired before it could be considered. The bill, which would have reversed a decision stating that any tribe recognized after 1934 may not take land into trust, was tacked on to a continuing resolution that funds government activities.
The decision refers specifically to the Narragansett Indians in Rhode Island, who applied for federal trust status for a parcel of land the tribe owns in Charlestown. The tribe planned to use the land for a casino.
Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma, denied that it was aimed at Indian gaming.
“There are a few who are crying wolf, trying to drag down this simple and critical clarification in federal law by falsely claiming that it will lead to the ‘expansion of Indian casinos,’” Cole and NCAI President Jefferson Keel wrote in The Hill online blog. “The Carcieri-fix legislation has no effect on Indian gaming, unless you believe that destroying Indian tribes is a legitimate way to limit Indian gaming. By this logic, you could close down our higher educational system to stop nuclear power. The Indian Reorganization Act is a fundamental building block for tribal self-government, and Congress should clarify the statute to the understanding that has prevailed for so many decades and that so many tribes have relied upon.”
Also in the Senate, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California introduced a bill that would drastically limit the ability of tribes to put land off their reservations into federal trust for a casino. It would, if passed, be the first successful amendment to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act since its passage in 1988.
Besides being introduced by a powerful Democrat and California’s senior senator in a lame-duck session where her party still has a 60-seat majority, Feinstein’s bill also had the support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who is never shy about protecting that state’s gaming interests against Indian gaming.
Feinstein’s bill aims to stop urban casinos in California, such as the proposed casino for Point Molate in Richmond, on San Francisco Bay, but it is supported nationwide by opponents of “reservation shopping.”