Battle over Kansas casino continues
Facebook Twitter Email
FEBRUARY 28, 2000

The Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma's hotly contested bid to open a casino in Kansas remained in legal limbo with a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling issued on Monday.

But the tribe might eventually prevail thanks to the support of Representative Dennis Moore (R-Kan), who earlier this month introduced a bill to advance the tribe's economic development interests. Still, yesterday's ruling represents the continuation of a battle the tribe has fought for over 100 years.

Like a number of other tribes, the tribe once held lands in Kansas and Ohio as the result of treaties signed in the 1800s. The tribe eventually ceded those lands, moved to Oklahoma, and was the subject of termination legislation in the 1950s.

Tribal members challenged termination, however, and Congress reaffirmed their status as a federally recognized tribe in 1978. In addition, the tribe received a nearly $3 million judgment award for lands it ceded in Ohio.

Of that amount, a 1994 law said $100,000 should be used to purchase lands which the Department of Interior would then take into trust for the tribe. In 1996, former Secretary Bruce Babbitt agreed to do just that and took a 1/2-acre parcel of land in downtown Kansas City, Kansas -- 200 miles away from the tribe's Oklahoma reservation -- into trust for gaming purposes.

In response, the Sac and Fox Nation of Kansas, the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, the Prairie Band Potawatomi, and Governor Bill Graves sued the Interior. Among other claims, they argued Babbitt failed to conduct an environmental analysis on the site and address the impact of the decision on an historic Wyandotte tribal cemetery located next to the proposed casino.

The court yesterday rejected this argument, saying the 1994 law mandated the Interior to take the land into trust. Therefore, Babbitt could ignore the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. Known as the Huron Cemetery, the site is on the National Register of Historic Places.

However, the court sided with the tribes and the state over the meaning of "reservation" under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). The Interior considered the cemetery a "reservation" but the court said such a determination was incorrect and as a result, the tribe might not be able to be use the adjoining land for gaming purposes even if it is taken into trust

Additionally, the court questioned if the tribe purchased the land with funds other than the $100,000 amount as Congress intended. A lower court must now consider this issue and a negative ruling could end the trust issue altogether.

The tribe is seeking to develop a casino at other locations in the area, a move supported by a number of local governments and Congressman Moore. His bill would take other parcels of land in the state into trust for the tribe.

The state currently has an injunction preventing the tribe from continuing work on the Kansas City site. The tribes who sued the Interior all have gaming facilities in the state as does the Kickapoo Tribe, whose earlier challenge to the Wyandotte proposal was thrown out of court.

Get the Decision:
SAC AND FOX NATION OF MISSOURI v. NORTON, No 00-3063 (10th Cir. February 27, 2001)

Get Moore's Bill:
Wyandotte Tribe Settlement Act (H.R.291)

Relevant Links:
The Wyandotte Nation of Oklahama -
The Sac and Fox Nation -
The Prairie Band Potawatomi -
Rep. Dennis Moore -

Related Stories:
Wyandotte Nation sues over gaming (Money Matters 09/22)
Tribes oppose casino (Money Matters 09/15)