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Opposition to a proposed Catawba Indian Nation off reservation casino builds

20 May 2019

(PRESS RELEASE) -- A bill sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina that would authorize the Catawba Indian Nation of South Carolina to build a casino in North Carolina faces growing opposition.

Thirty-eight of the 50 members of the North Carolina Senate – including President Pro Tem Phil Berger – have signed a letter to the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee expressing opposition to the bill. In 2013, a bipartisan group of North Carolina General Assembly members opposed an attempt by the Catawba Nation to acquire the same land for an off-reservation casino.

“The legislation skirts the formal input process that gives state and local governments in North Carolina, and their constituents who live near the proposed casino site, a voice in the process. I encourage the U.S. Senate to reject this unprecedented overreach,” said N.C. Sen. Jim Davis, who represents the Western N.C. region.

Additionally, county governments in five rural Western North Carolina counties — Graham, Haywood, Swain, Jackson, and Cherokee — have adopted resolutions against the bill.

“It is concerning both North Carolina U.S. Senators have lent their names to a bill that would allow a tribe recognized by South Carolina to construct a casino in North Carolina to the detriment of their constituents,” said Ron Mau, Jackson County Commissioner.

“We appreciate the support from surrounding counties and a super-majority of the North Carolina Senate who are concerned with this federal attempt to silence the voices of North Carolina stakeholders, including the Eastern Band” said Richard Sneed, Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

If passed, the legislation (S. 790) would authorize about 16 acres of land in Cleveland County, North Carolina, to be taken into federal trust for a new Catawba Indian Nation reservation for the sole purpose of operating a casino. The proposed site would encroach upon Cherokee aboriginal territory as defined by the Cherokee Treaty of 1777 and the 1884 Royce map that was adopted by the federal Indian Claims Commission.

This bill attempts to bypass requirements in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act that require the Department of the Interior to engage in extensive consultations with local, state and tribal governments for economic, environmental, and infrastructure impact assessments. The bill also would take away the right of the governor to concur with or oppose the Department of Interior’s recommendation regarding a new casino following the consultation phase for the first time in history.

“We have been proud to partner with North Carolina for decades,” said Chief Sneed. “As it stands, this bill would create a harmful precedent – the first time Congress has expressly authorized an Indian tribe to acquire land into trust simply for owning and operating an off-reservation casino. We encourage the Catawba Indian Nation to go through the same proper process in their home state of South Carolina that we have worked through for decades as partners with our state of North Carolina.”

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