Cowlitz Tribe included waiver of immunity in old casino agreement

Members of the Cowlitz Tribe of Washington gathered on February 14, 2016, to celebrate construction of a long-awaited gaming facility. Photo from Facebook

The Cowlitz Tribe included a limited waiver of sovereign immunity in a casino agreement that was struck down in Washington state.

The memorandum of understanding would have required the tribe to comply with certain laws in Clark County and it would have allowed the tribe to be sued for alleged violations. But the provision can't be enforced because the agreement was invalidated in 2007.

The county, however, claims the tribe must still abide by local laws and has issued a “stop work” order in connection with the construction of a $13.4 million wastewater treatment system at the Cowlitz Casino Project. The tribe has no intention of complying with the demand.

“What they’re trying to do is say the tribe must get a permit from the county, and there couldn’t be anything further from the truth,” Chairman Bill Iyall told The Columbian. “There is no county ordinance that applies to this. … They cannot issue permits on the reservation.”

County Council Chair Marc Boldt told the paper that the county likely cannot force the tribe to comply with the order due to a lack of jurisdiction. The work is occurring on the tribe's 152-acre reservation, which was placed in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs a year ago this month.

Get the Story:
Clark County to tribe: Halt work tied to casino wastewater system (The Columbian 3/1)

Federal Register Notices:
Proclaiming Certain Lands as Reservation for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe (November 13, 2015)
Land Acquisitions; Cowlitz Indian Tribe (May 8, 2013)

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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