New Law Saves Tribal Casino from Litigation

Last week President Obama signed the Gun Lake Trust Land Reaffirmation Act (“the Act”).  Sponsored by two Democratic Senators of Michigan, the act reauthorizes the trust status of certain land that has been placed into trust for the benefit of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatami Indians.  The trust land is located in Bradley, Michigan and is a home for the Gun Lake Casino, a gaming house that has been operated by the Gun Lake Tribe since 2011.

The enactment of the Act puts an end to a case that went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The lawsuit was brought by David Patchak who argued that the Bureau of Indian Affairs is barred from placing the land at issue into trust based on a Supreme Court case Carcieri v. Salazar.  The Carcieri case held that the land-into-trust process is only available to tribes that were “under federal jurisdiction” as of 1934.  However, the Gun Lake Tribe only gained federal recognition in 1999.  While the case reached the Supreme Court, it only addressed whether Patchak could continue his lawsuit.

Senator Debbie Stabenow, one of the sponsors, commented that “[t]his legislation addresses a technical issue created by a recent court decision, and I was pleased to support the community in passing this bill to promote economic development in the region.”


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