U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, both from Arizona, are leading the charge in the Senate to pass a law recently adopted by the House that would prevent the Tohono O’odham tribe from building a casino adjacent to the city of Glendale, Arizona.
The practice of buying land far from a tribe’s original reservation and putting the land into trust for a casino is known by the pejorative “reservation shopping.”
The bill the House passed and McCain and Flake are pushing is the so-called Keep the Promise Act.
Besides trying to stop the Glendale casino, McCain has also authored a bill that would stop any tribe from putting land into trust very far from its original homeland. McCain and California Senator Dianne Feinstein are both critics of the practice.
After getting BIA approval of the land-into-trust, the Tohono O’odham Nation broke ground on the casino two months ago.
Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. criticized the bill. “If enacted, this legislation will effect a profound injustice upon the Tohono O’odham Nation, one that will besmirch the United States’ honor and set a terrible precedent for its relationship with Indian Country,” he said.
He cited the 1986 Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act that gave the tribe money to replace the 10,000 acres it lost due the inundation caused by a federal dam project.
Meanwhile, another potential roadblock to the Tohono O’odham Nation’s Glendale casino has been removed, as City Clerk Pam Hanna rejected two referendums filed by opposition groups. Hanna said the subject matter of the referendums is administrative, not legislative, and therefore, they cannot be placed on the November ballot.
The tribe does not need the city’s approval to build the casino on 54 acres of reservation land at Loop 101 and Northern Avenue.
The city-tribe agreement will give Glendale $26 million over 20 years in exchange for the city’s support of the project. The referendum would have nullified that agreement.