The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Monday 361-55 in favor of the Catawba Indian Nation Lands Act bill (H.R. 8255). This follows a thorough, years-long review by the Interior Department, prior to its March 2020 action taking 17 acres of land into trust status in Cleveland County for the tribal nation.
In terms of the tribe's gambling ventures, the act clarifies that the nation is subject to the established rules and regulations of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act on their modern and ancestral lands in the State of North Carolina.
The bill affirms that the Catawba Nation’s aboriginal lands extend to six North Carolina counties and farther north in the Piedmont of North Carolina. The six counties in North Carolina are part of the Catawba’s service area, as defined by Congress in 1993.
“The House passing this bill demonstrates the ongoing support from members of Congress in righting historical wrongs against the Catawba people,” said the tribe in a statement. The Catawbas also have a compact with the State of North Carolina to share revenues from the Catawba Two Kings Casino in Kings Mountain, "a sustainable economic engine and jobs creator for residents of Cleveland County.”
The enactment of this legislation is expected to help the Catawba secure economic self-sufficiency, as originally envisioned by Congress in passing the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. The nation now looks forward to working with members of the U.S. Senate and its sponsors – Sens. Richard Burr, Thom Tillis and Lindsey Graham – for passage in the Senate.
Having secured U.S. House of Representatives support, the Catawba Nation is now closer to solidifying its first gambling venture. The Catawba Two Kings casino, in Kings Mountain, opened in a temporary facility back in July, as the tribe waits for federal approval.
The casino opened with 500 gaming machines, to widespread community support. Its first months have been described as successful, which has prompted the tribe to begin working in September on an expansion. The opening is anticipated by year’s end, while the Catawba simultaneously continue preparing the permanent casino resort project.
The tribe has been fighting to start the project for years. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, in North Carolina, have sued the Catawbas and the Department of Interior, as the tribal nation claims Kings Mountain is Cherokee land. However, in April, a ruling from the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia rejected the lawsuit.
The latest bill’s passage favorably positions the Catawbas to claim the lands. If the bill now passes the U.S. Senate, the next and final step, the legal battle between the two tribes would be brought to a final end.
“On behalf of all Catawba citizens, I want to thank the U.S. House of Representatives for passage of this bill, the Catawba Indian Nation Lands Act, which reaffirms the Interior Department’s action recognizing the Catawba Nation’s historical and ancestral ties to North Carolina,” Catawba Nation Chief Bill Harris said.