Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Tribe files lawsuit, wants to build casino in Beloit

The St. Croix Chippewa Indian Tribe
filed a lawsuit against the Office of Interior Affairs and the Bureau
of Indian Affairs Friday for exceeding their authority over the
changing of Indian gaming laws.

The suit says Secretary of OIA Dirk
Kempthorne and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Carl Artman have
changed the rules regarding the procedure for Indian Nations to build
off-reservation casinos.

The Chippewa Tribes, at the request of
local government, want to build a large resort and casino in the
Beloit area, according to Beloit casino project spokesman Joe Hunt.


The tribes have been going through the
procedural process for the past seven years.

"We felt that, unless we took this
act, that many of the off-reservation applications would be denied by
the Secretary of Interior based on a rules change, not because they
were good or bad," Hunt said. "They made us follow all these
rules and now they are changing the entire approval process. He can't
change the rules because it is law."

The suit states the Bad River Band of
Chippewa along with the St. Croix Tribe have spent nearly $2 million
trying to meet the criteria for approval of the project set up by the
Indian Gaming Regulation Act and the BIA.

"A law designed to help Indians
forced Indians to spend money they didn't have to spend," Hunt

According to former UW professor and
current Phoenix School of Law associate professor Steven Gonzales,
the IGRA was set up to promote gaming by Indian Nations.

"It was thought that it would
encourage less assistance from the federal government," Gonzales
said. "Ironically, it was non-Indians who were promoting this in
the late '80s."

Hunt said there are two procedures that
have to be followed in order to build an off-reservation casino. The
first step is to make sure the tribe would benefit.

"This law was enacted to give Native
Americans the opportunity to pursue gaming on and off the
reservations, and if the tribe was going to do this, it wasn't the
management but the tribes that were going to benefit," Hunt said.

The other part of the procedure is to
make sure the casino would not be detrimental to the community and
environment around the area, Hunt added.

The second step is to send the
application to the regional office of the BIA in St. Paul, Minn., for
review. It is then sent to the main office in Washington, D.C. with a

From there, the governor of the state
would decide upon it. According to Hunt, since Kempthorne has been
secretary, applications have never reached Gov. Jim Doyle.

"The regional office said, 'Yep,
you've done it.' The Washington, D.C. office said 'OK.' Then
things just stopped moving at the bureau," Hunt said. "As
recently as two weeks ago the tribes reached the conclusion that they
were not only not inclined to process the applications, but were
changing the rules to deny them."

Gonzales said an Indian Nation can sue
the federal government if they feel the OIA is not doing its job of
representing the affairs of Indians.

"Indian nations can sue the BIA and
allege that either the rule is unlawful or that they are applying the
rule in an unlawful manner, or both. Sometimes what is really going
on is one side or the other is stalling, or they have no incentive to
move it along for political reasons," Gonzales said. "There is a
duty on the BIA to follow their own rules. If they don't, there is
the possibility that the court will order them to do so."

OIA policy does not allow them to
comment on open litigation, said the department's spokesperson
Nedra Darling.

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