Cowlitz Tribe accuses county of threatening casino site workers

Construction is progressing quickly on the Cowlitz Tribe's casino in Washington. Still image from Live Construction Feed / Cowlitz Casino Project

The Cowlitz Tribe and officials in Clark County, Washington, continue to spar over construction of a long-awaited casino.

Chairman Bill Iyall said the county threatened to arrest construction workers at the site of the fast-rising Cowlitz Casino Project. An email cited by local media indeed warns of arrests in connection with the installation of a stormwater pipe through a road claimed by the county.

"Please do not put the county in a position of arresting people," a deputy prosecutor responded after being informed of the work, according to news reports.

The county previously issued a "stop work" order to the tribe after construction started in January. A council member was seen tearing up the paper in a photo posted on the tribe's Facebook page that has since been removed.

Cowlitz Tribe council member Dave Barnett tore up a "stop work" order issued by Clark County, Washington. The photo was posted on the tribe's official Facebook page but has since been deleted.

The county is litigating in federal court in hopes of stopping the casino. The case is largely based on Carcieri v. Salazar, a February 2009 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that threw a wrench into the land-into-trust process.

In that decision, the justices held that the Bureau of Indian Affairs can only acquire land for tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934. The Cowlitz didn't gain federal recognition until 2000 so opponents don't think the tribe meets that critical test.

The BIA concluded otherwise and a federal judge agreed but the county and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in neighboring Oregon have taken the case to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments were heard in a packed courtroom on March 18.

The Cowlitz Tribe plans to open the casino in the spring of 2017.

Get the Story:
Cowlitz Tribe pushes back against Clark County's efforts to stop casino construction (The Longview Daily News 4/8)
Cowlitz Tribe bristles at threats by Clark County (The Columbian 4/8)

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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