Cowlitz Tribe remains confident of casino bid despite litigation

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 is moving forward with plans for a $510 million casino despite litigation from opponents.

Chairman Bill Iyall said it will take about six months to secure financing for the Cowlitz Casino Resort. The Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut has helped with pre-development and planning but won't be putting in money towards construction, The Longview Daily News reported.

As for the court case, Iyall believe it's over, no matter what the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in Oregon and other opponents think. “We’ve won the battle, and the war is over," the chairman told the paper.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs placed 152 acres in trust for the tribe on March 9. The decision came after a federal judge backed the agency's legal basis for acquiring the land.

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

Opponents are now taking the fight to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. They don't believe the BIA's action will stand up to scrutiny under the the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar.

In that case, the justices said the BIA can only place land in trust for tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" as of 1934. The Cowlitz didn't gain recognition until 2000.

The BIA devised a two-part test to determine whether the Cowlitz were "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934. In December 12, Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein issued a 57-page decision that upheld the analysis

Opponents, including the city of Vancouver in Washington, believe the case could land before the Supreme Court.

Get the Story:
Cowlitz tribal casino plans move forward, but myriad hurdles abound (The Longview Daily News 3/23)

DOI Solicitor Opinion:
M-37029: The Meaning of "Under Federal Jurisdiction" for Purposes of the Indian Reorganization Act (March 12, 2014)

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Cowlitz Tribe eager to start work on long-delayed casino project (03/13)
Cowlitz Tribe celebrates as BIA finally puts gaming site in trust (3/10)

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