Cowlitz Tribe celebrates as BIA finally puts gaming site in trust

Cowlitz Tribe Chairman Bill Iyall, seated on right, signs land-into-trust documents with Bureau of Indian Affairs Regional Director Stan Speaks on March 9, 2015. Photo from Cowlitz Tribe

The Cowlitz Tribe of Washington finally has a place to call home amid a long fight with casino opponents.

The tribe celebrated on Monday as the Bureau of Indian Affairs placed a 152-acre site in Clark County into trust. The decision came after a federal judge backed the agency's legal basis for acquiring the land.

“After 160 years of longing for a reservation within our aboriginal lands, I welcome all Cowlitz people to come home. We are no longer a landless tribe," Chairman Bill Iyall said in a press release. "The injustices done to the Cowlitz people and the lack of federal services afforded other federally recognized tribes will be ending soon. The Cowlitz Reservation offers new opportunities in our aboriginal land and the community which the tribe will deliver for generations to come.”

Artist's rendering of the proposed Cowlitz Casino Resort in Washington
Artist's rendering of the proposed Cowlitz Casino Resort. Image from Cowlitz Indian Tribe Environmental Impact Statement

The tribe will use a portion of its reservation for the Cowlitz Casino Resort. For that reason, opponents -- including the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in Oregon -- have been trying to stop the BIA from placing the land into trust by bringing up the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar.

The ruling restricts the land-into-trust process to tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" as of 1934. The Cowlitz didn't gain federal recognition until 2000 but the Bureau of Indian Affairs conducted a two-part test to determine whether the tribe qualified.

On December 12, Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein issued a 57-page decision that upheld the BIA's analysis. The Grand Ronde Tribes and other opponents, however, are taking the case to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals so the dispute hasn't ended just yet.

Get the Story:
The Cowlitz Tribe Obtains Reservation Land in Clark County (CasinoNewsDaily 3/10)
Feds grant reservation to Cowlitz Indian Tribe (The Longview Daily News 3/10)
Cowlitz Tribe gets reservation near La Center (The Columbian 3/10)
Cowlitz Tribe Reservation established (The Battle Ground Reflector 3/10)
Government Signs Land Into Trust For Cowlitz (Oregon Public Broadcasting 3/9)

An Opinion:
Matt Rossman and Bruce Studer: Washington mega-casino will hurt Oregon schools (The Oregonian 3/10)

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Cowlitz Tribe still waiting for BIA to place gaming site in trust (3/4)
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Opponents take Cowlitz Tribe gaming land dispute to DC Circuit (2/4)

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