Artist's rendering of proposed Catawba Nation casino in North Carolina. Image: Catawba Nation Project Brief

Catawba Nation homelands bill slated for first hearing on Capitol Hill

The Catawba Nation is headed to Capitol Hill to lobby for a bill that paves the way for a new casino in North Carolina.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will take testimony on S.790 on May 1. The bill authorizes the Bureau of Indian Affairs to approve the a land-into-trust application for a 32-acre site within Catawba homelands.

"That is our aboriginal area," Vice Chief Jason Harris told The Shelby Star.

The tribe filed the application more than five years ago but the BIA has yet to make a decision. Language in S.790 clarifies uncertainty surrounding the process.

The 32-acre site is located in Cleveland County, which falls within the tribe's Congressionally-defined service area in North Carolina. Harris told The Star that he grew up in Kings Mountain, which is where the casino would be located.

A letter shared on social media by the Catawba Nation asks Chief Bill Harris to confirm his attendance at a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing on May 1, 2019. Image: Catawba Nation

The service area also includes parts of South Carolina, where the tribe's headquarters are located. The tribe's gaming options there are limited by language in the Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina Land Claims Settlement Act of 1993.

No similar restriction appears to apply in North Carolina but S.790 confirms that the land can be used for gaming. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which operates two casinos in the far western part of the state, is opposing the measure as a result.

S.790 is one of three bills on the agenda at the upcoming hearing. The other two items are:

S.279, the Tribal School Federal Insurance Parity Act. The bill provides employees of tribal grant schools with the ability to participate in federal health and life insurance programs.

S.832, A bill to nullify the Supplemental Treaty Between the United States of American and Confederated Tribes and Bands of Indian of Middle Oregon, concluded on November 15, 1865. The supplemental treaty at issue is "fraudulent," according to members of Congress.

The hearing will take place at 2:30pm on May 1 in Room 628 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building. A witness list hasn't been posted online but Chief Bill Harris of the Catawba Nation plans to testify.

"Chief Harris has been in DC last week and this week to meet with Senators and their staff one on one about the bill," an April 16 post on social media read. He has currently met or is scheduled with 10 offices."

The pertinent text of S.790 follows:

(a) Gaming Facility Authorized.—The Catawba Indian Nation (formerly the Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina) is authorized to own and operate a gaming facility on the land described in section 2 of this Act, in Cleveland County, North Carolina.

(b) Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.—The facility described in subsection (a) shall operate in accordance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (25 U.S.C. 2701 et seq.), except that section 20 of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (25 U.S.C. 2719) shall not apply to the land described in section 2.

(c) Land In Trust.—The Secretary of the Interior is hereby authorized to take the land described in section 2 into trust for the purpose of conducting gaming, on behalf of the Catawba Indian Nation.

(d) Rights Preserved.—Except as otherwise expressly provided in this Act, nothing in this Act shall prevent any party from enforcing all rights, privileges, or prohibitions as contained within the Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina Land Claims Settlement Act of 1993 (Public Law 103–116).

Read More on the Story
Talks of Kings Mountain casino heat up (The Shelby Star April 19, 2019)
'A real shot in the arm': Catawba Indian Nation casino takes step forward (WSOC April 18, 2019)

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice
Legislative Hearing to receive testimony on S .279, S. 790 & S. 832 (May 1, 2019)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Catawba Nation faces more opposition to homelands bill thanks to Eastern Cherokees (April 3, 2019)
Catawba Nation predicts 'huge' economic impact with casino on homelands (March 20, 2019)
'Sad': Catawba Nation fires back after Eastern Cherokees slam homelands bill (March 18, 2019)
Catawba Nation remains in limbo years after submitting casino application (September 7, 2017)
National Indian Gaming Association honors the late Catawba Nation Chief Gilbert Blue (June 15, 2016)
Catawba Nation still waiting for action on casino in North Carolina (January 27, 2016)
BIA said to be planning hearing on Catawba Nation casino bid (11/11)
Opinion: Catawba Nation casino won't benefit local community (08/12)
Editorial: Catawba Nation casino represents jobs and revenues (08/04)
Catawba Nation still waiting for answer on casino land-into-trust (7/31)
Catawba Nation in talks to bring Hard Rock into gaming plans (7/27)
Business owners support Catawba Nation off-reservation casino (02/25)
Federal review of Catawba Nation off-reservation drags along (02/09)
Pastors continue to rally opposition to Catawba Nation casino (02/05)
Catawba Nation waits for BIA decision on off-reservation casino (01/28)
Catawba Nation casino opponents meet with BIA officials in DC (12/17)