House passes reservation replacement law

By a 343-78 margin, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Clarification Act (H.R. 2938), sponsored by Congressman Trent Franks. “I hope to see the bill handled as fairly and honestly in the Senate as it was in the House,” said Diane Enos, President of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

“I am encouraged by the resounding passage of the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Clarification Act, a bill I introduced last year to prevent the planned construction of an illegal casino in Glendale by the Tohono O’odham Nation,” said Franks in a released statement.

According to bill supporters, the Tohono O’odham tribal leaders entered into a compact with the rest of Arizona’s gaming tribes in 2002. After supporting the compact and promising to abide by it, thereby limiting the other tribes’ abilities to construct competing casinos, the Tohono O’odhams surreptitiously secured a tract of land in Glendale, using a front organization to attempt to mask their identity and intentions.

Supporters claim that in using the dishonestly acquired land to build a Las Vegas-style casino, the Tohono O’odham Nation simultaneously broke both the gaming compact into which it entered with eleven other tribes, and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. That Act says that tribal gaming on lands acquired after October 1988 may only occur under a compact between the Indian tribe and the state.

“To allow a casino to be constructed on this tract of land is to set a dangerous precedent nationwide in which Indian tribes can use front companies to buy up land anywhere they choose and declare it part of their sovereign reservation,” said Franks. “Such ‘reservation shopping’ would essentially allow any tribe to expand the borders of its reservation indefinitely, much like the Tohono O’odham tribe is attempting to do by illegally building a casino in the middle of Glendale, over 100 miles from the tribe’s actual reservation.”

“We want to thank Representative Franks and the bipartisan work of the House of Representatives to approve H.R. 2938. They have recognized the importance of maintaining the gaming policy that was established by the voters in Arizona in 2002. The passage of H.R. 2938 merely clarifies that land taken into trust by the Tohono O’odham Nation in the Phoenix metro area cannot be used for gaming purposes,” said Enos. “This bipartisan legislation simply affirms the tribal promises made to voters and the state. This is consistent with the policy that was agreed to by tribal leaders, local officials throughout the state, and the State of Arizona itself. For the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, we are hopeful the U.S. Senate will act quickly and affirmatively on H.R. 2938.”