On Monday, Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar submitted information for the Congressional Record to the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Doc Hastings, regarding the court case, State of Ariz. et al. v. Tohono O’odham Nation. Court litigation was filed against the Nation after it announced its intention to acquire lands in trust for an off-reservation casino on a parcel of land in Glendale, Arizona.
In return for exclusivity in Arizona, the state tribes agreed to a cap on the number of casinos in the state and in the Phoenix metro area, to restrict the number of machines in the state and to share machine revenue with rural non-gaming tribes so all could benefit.
Every urban tribe, except for the Tohono O’odham, agreed to this limitation. The Tohono O’odham rejected the limitation saying that they needed a new casino in Tucson or on the rural part of the tribe’s reservation. The state and other tribes finally agreed to the restrictions on gaming being pushed by Arizona’s Governor and others, but also yielded to Tohono O’odham stated need.
After the agreement was reached, the tribes and state promoted their model compact by saturating the airwaves with press releases, voter handouts, billboards, and in television and radio interviews. According to Gosar, the Tohono O’odham alone spent $1.8 million dollars urging Arizona voters to rely on the limitation which included no additional casinos in the Phoenix area.
However, in 2001, while negotiations were ongoing and unbeknownst to everyone, T.O. had begun efforts to find land in the Phoenix area to open their fourth casino in violation of the 17-tribe coalition compact.
“I submitted important documentation to the House Resources Committee in order to supplement the record on H.R. 1410, the Keep the Promise Act. My letter explains the details of evidence that documents how the Tohono O’odham acted immorally and covertly against its fellow tribes, the State of Arizona and the general public,” said Gosar in a statement released Monday.
“The court case against the Tohono O’odham and their dishonest actions to secretly build a casino in Phoenix was dismissed on the doctrine of sovereign immunity. In other words, the court ruled that the tribe cannot be sued in court because … It can’t be sued in court. The merits of the case were never addressed, and that is why Congress’ oversight in these matters is so important,” continued Gosar.
Gosar cosponsored H.R 1410, The Keep the Promise Act, in order to remedy the situation. He claims that the Act is narrowly crafted to address those claims that are shielded by the Tohono O’odham’s assertion of sovereign immunity. Gosar believes that previous Court rulings “demonstrate that Congress is the only institution that can hold Tohono O’odham accountable for its fraud, misrepresentation and broken promises.”
“I believe it is important for the truth to be known. This incident and breach of trust has proven that the Tohono O’odham can’t be trusted in the future relative to business dealings, tribal matters and commercial relations.” Gosar is urging Congress to resolve this issue and reaffirm its authority by providing proper oversight of commerce amongst tribes such as the Tohono O’odham.