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Indian Reservation - Social Impacts

This page and the following web pages are from the city’s archives – click here for the most up to date information on this topic.

The creation of a sovereign nation within the city limits of Glendale poses many social issues.

Ancestral Claims - The land in question has no historic relationship to the Tohono O’odham Nation. In fact the proposed reservation is located in an ancestral area of the Akimel O’odham, people who are part of the Gila River Indian Community.  While these two tribes, along with members of the Ak Chin Indian Community and the Salt River Indian Community are historically linked, their aboriginal territories have long been established.  The Tohono O’odham’s only interest in the Glendale land is for Indian gaming.  The Gila River Indian Community has strongly objected to the Tohono O’odham’s proposal on several grounds; include the fact that this proposal to create a reservation is not consistent with long standing understanding of the Arizona aboriginal lands.

Location - The proposal places a very large gaming facility within a ¼ mile of established neighborhoods, churches and parks.  In fact, about 12,000 homes are located within two miles of the proposed casino site.  Of the approximately 34,000 residents in these homes, 33% are younger than 20 years old.  Additionally, this gaming facility, and the other associated development, is directly across the street from Kellis High School, which was built and opened while the Tribe held the land in secret with plans to develop a casino. 

Planning and Zoning – Zoning laws assure that existing government facilities and private property are not unduly affected by new development.  This aspect of zoning is critical to securing the necessary public and private investment for a vibrant community.  State and local governments, however, have no oversight of reservation land.  Zoning laws that apply to all other business, and which fairly guide development over the long-term, are not applicable.  Procedures that allow for public comment and proper consideration of public interests do not apply.   For example, the proposed reservation site is within the restricted airspace of the Glendale Airport.  All other development within that airspace is carefully regulated to assure that the Airport and its future growth is not impacted.  However, once a reservation is created, there is no assurance that development on that land will not create issues for existing and future airport operations.

Public Safety – Public safety on reservation lands has been a very serious issue for some time.  The combination of federal, state, and tribal laws, inconsistent court decisions, and lack of resources at all levels has created a situation of grave concern for many.  State laws cannot be enforced on the proposed reservation site.  The reservation land will be subject to either tribal or federal law enforcement, but neither of these agencies has sufficient resources to assure the consistent on-going safety of the public.  Private companies that are not subject to the same level of training and regulation may be used to supplement these resources, but this alternative also raises concerns.  Moreover, in the past, agreements with the Tribe for fire protection are unenforceable and leave the City exposed to substantial liability and places its emergency personnel at potential risk.

Impact on local businesses – Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in the area of the Tribe’s proposed gaming facility.  During the last seven years, the area has been the focus of very substantial development without any expectation that an Indian reservation and gaming facility would be built nearby.  All of the private and public investment was made in compliance with existing laws and with the expectation that future investment would as well.  No one could have anticipated competition from a development with insurmountable advantages—such as exemption from development regulations and the payment of taxes.  No one expect to compete with a business model that is completely centered around attracting patrons for as long as possible with the primary purpose of placing their discretionary funds, which would otherwise be spent at businesses in the area, at significant risk.

Public Policy Issues—The proposed creation of a reservation within the exterior boundaries of a city creates many public policies issues that must be addressed before the federal government makes any decision in this matter.  The City has and will continue to urge the Department of the Interior and the United State Congress to hear, consider, and decide on the Tribe’s pending application to create a reservation based on these policy issues.  If these matters and the affect they will have on Indian affairs in the future are carefully considered, the Tribe’s application must the denied by the federal government.  Below is a summary of the most significant policy issues:

Federal Government’s Right to Impact State and Local Governments

  • Removal of land from sovereign state jurisdiction without the Constitutionally-required state’s consent
  • Imposition of significant detrimental effects on state and local government

Jurisdiction Issues    

  • Imposition of a sovereign nation amidst existing governmental jurisdictions
    bullet point image Questionable enforceability of necessary intergovernmental contracts
    bullet point image Increase risk of tort liability
  • Preemption of state and local taxing authority
  • Unsettled and confused law enforcement and emergency response on tribal lands
  • Loss of ability to protect city’s federally-funded, general reliever airport and potential impact on Luke Air Force Base operations
  • Loss of ability to coordinate surrounding development  in a consistent and beneficial manner
  • Removal of community input on types of uses placed on property
  • No ability to recover infrastructure-related costs

Balance of State and Community Interests and Indian Gaming

  • Negative effect on surrounding businesses that have invested millions of dollars without any anticipation of the development of adjacent Indian reservation with gaming facility
  •  Alteration of nature of community developed through millions of dollars of public and private investment in nearby venues that provide family-oriented sports entertainment
  • Evisceration of balance achieved for Indian gaming through years of negotiations
    bullet point image Contrary to commitment that all gaming will be on existing reservations only
    bullet point image Reversal of position taken by Tohono O'odham Tribe in formulating that balance
  • Establishment of a foundation for development of other types of gaming facilities and much larger Indian gaming facility than ever envisioned
    bullet point image Proposal provides basis for allowing gaming at horse and dog racetracks and other facilities
    bullet point image Triggering of gaming compacts’ “poison pill”
           bullet point image Eliminates all limitations on Indian gaming
           bullet point image Renders worthless assets of non-gaming tribes’ gaming allotments and eliminates
              benefits these tribes derived from selling these assets to gaming tribes
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