Indian Reservation - Legal Impacts
In 1960’s, the federal government opened the Painted Rock Dam across the Gila River. At that time, the United States had secured a flooding easement that was agreed to by the Tohono O’odham Tribe. Notwithstanding that agreement, the Tribe complained to Congress about the flooding of their lands.
As a result of these complaints, in 1986 Congress enacted the Gila Bend Reservation Lands Replacement Act (Gila Bend Act). This act provides the Tohono O’odham Nation with funds to purchase replacement lands. Replacement land that qualifies under the Gila Bend Act could be taken into trust by the Secretary of the Interior, an act that would create a new Indian reservation.
In 2003, the Tribe purchased this proposed reservation site under an assumed name. In January 2009, the same day they informed the City of their plans, the Tribe filed an application with the Department of Interior to take the land into trust for gaming purposes. The Gila River Indian Community, on whose ancestral lands the proposed site lays, was informed at that same time. The Tohono O’odham repeatedly has asserted that the State government, the local community, other tribes, and even the federal government have no say whatsoever in the creation of this land. In essence, the Tribe demands that they be allowed to pursue their economic interest no matter what the impact is on any other interests.
The Tribe’s application is premised on three critical decisions:
- Whether the Secretary of the Interior is mandated to create a reservation as the Tribe desires
- Whether the land qualifies for trust under the Gila Bend Act’s requirements
- Whether the land qualifies for Indian gaming under federal law
The application fails on each of these three premises. Document prepared by the city explain the legalities of this proposal. These documents are publicly available.