fter the US Interior Department signed off on the agreement last month, the Catawba tribe faced a lawsuit by the North Carolina-based Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, which runs two casinos in the southwestern corner of the state.
The Cherokee Indians argued that the land for the Catawba casino was historically theirs and that both the Catawba tribe and the Interior Department had violated federal law. Nevertheless, the Eastern Band lost the roll of the dice.
U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg said: “In the end, though, they come up with snake eyes, as on each claim they either lack standing or lose on the merits.”
It was the Eastern Band that previously called the Catawba efforts “a modern-day land grab” saying that under the legal process the government is supposed to follow in order to acquire trust land for the Catawba tribe, said land must be in South Carolina. However, the Catawba tribe argued that they had a right to the land for the casino, based on a 1993 agreement that gave them federal recognition.
The Catawba Indian Nation Chief Bill Harris praised the ruling, saying that he hoped the Cherokee Indians would not file a frivolous appeal and that both tribes would be able to work together for the betterment of their people. He also added: “This decision reaffirms the clear historical record of the Catawba’s ancestral lands and cultural ties in North Carolina and the rigorous process of review undertaken by the U.S. Department of the Interior in taking the land into trust”.
Yet Richard Sneed, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, said: “ The tribe is examining all options for next steps. It remains clear to us that the law was broken and we will not stop until justice is served in this case.”
The lawsuit which was filed last summer was the latest dispute in a years-long casino turf war between the two tribes. The land for the proposed casino is 35 miles northwest of the Catawba reservation in upstate South Carolina.
As reported in March by Yogonet, the Catawba's pre-launch casino is set to open this summer.