The federal Department of the Interior has decided to beat Arizona to the punch and obviate a state law by accelerating taking land the Tohono O’odham tribe owns next to Glendale into federal trust. This decision will become effective May 16.
Once the land is put into trust the tribe will be able to build a casino there. Stopping that from happening was the purpose of a state law passed recently that would have allowed the city of Glendale to annex the property into city limits. However, that law won’t take effect for at least another 90 days, and would have no effect on reservation land.
The quick action was seen as necessary after Glendale would not agree to delay annexatioin until the appeals process was exhausted. The city and Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne are appealing the federal government’s earlier decision to take the land into trust.
That appeal was taken to a federal judge last month, who heard arguments by city officials, the Gila River Indian Community, the state and, on the other side, U.S. Attorney Kristofar Swanson, who said that opponents just want to delay things until the state law can take effect.
The May 16 deadline for putting the land into trust should give the plaintiffs plenty of time to make their case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, said Swanson.
The tribe bought the land in 2003 with money received from the federal government in compensation for reservation lands inundated by a federal dam project near Gila Bend.