Saturday, July 12, 2008

...And don't let the door Salamancya on the way out.

In New York, a victory, and why it's an important story for us.

The Beginning:

1988 - The Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) is passed requiring that non-reservation land acquired by Tribes after 1988 cannot be used for 'gaming' unless it meets at least one of several exceptions - one of which is that the property had been taken into trust as part of a land-claim settlement.

1990 - Congress passes The Seneca Nation Settlement Act. This act allowed non-Indians living on Indian land in Salamanca to remain there, while compensating the Tribe $35 million dollars for it's having been underpaid for the Indian land leased for decades to non-Indians.

2001 - NY Governor Pataki approved the building of three Seneca Nation casinos - one in Salamaca, and the other two in Niagara Falls and Bufflo. They were able to build the first casino without issue since it was on reservation land. In order to build casinos in the other two cities, however, the Tribe needed to purchase off-reservation land - which they did, subsequently requiring them to satisfy one of the exceptions to IGRA in order to provide 'gaming' on the land.

However, because the Niagara project wasn't challenged, it won Federal approval and the Seneca's built a casino on the site of the former Niagara Falls Convention Center.

The Challenge:

In Buffalo, things were different. A citizens coalition filed a law suit against Philip Hogen, in his official capacity as chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission, the Department of the Interior and the National Indian Gaming Commission itself.

The Citizens for a Better Buffalo coalition was comprised of various individuals and groups including a Pastor, an Assemblyman, a County legislator, the Network of Religious Communities, the Preservation Coalition of Erie County, the Campaign for Buffalo-History, Architecture and Culture, The National Coalition Against Gambling Expansion, The Coalition Against Gambling in New York, and the Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County. Erie County itself had originally been a part of the coalition, but left following a change in the County Executive's office.

Still, the Seneca's went ahead and built a 'temporary casino' on the Buffalo site while making plans for a permanent one, claiming that the land in Buffalo didn't need to meet any exceptions for off-reservation 'gaming' because it had been purchased with money from the 1990 land settlement - not only making it 'Indian Country' - but also making it eligible for 'gaming' under one of the IGRA exceptions.

This week, US District Court Judge William M. Skretny, issued a 122-page decision in the case of CACGEC vs. Hagen.

The Verdict:

What's in a name? Well, apparently, a lot. It appears that the Senca's got the blessing to go ahead with a casino on the Buffalo site all because of a typo.

You see, the title of the Act, according the United States Code is “Seneca Nation (New York) Land Claims Settlement.”

But Judge Skretny pointed out to the Defendants that this title is provided by someone in the printing office. And that the actual title of the Act was provided by Congress and could be found in the Act itself.

Long title: "To provide for the renegotation of certain leases of the Seneca Nation, and for other purposes.”

Short title: "Seneca Nation Settlement Act of 1990."

As you can see, there is no mention of "land claim" anywhere in these titles.

Or even "land".

Or "claim".


Which backed up what our friends the plaintiffs, those meddling kids, had argued. That there was no land claimed in Salamanca - the Seneca's had owned the same land before, and the same land after the Settlement act. And that the Act was simply a settlement of underpayment of leases for land they already owned - sort of like finally getting a big fat hunk of back rent - not compensation for land unfairly taken from them.

And... since the settlement act wasn't about a land claim, then it didn't meet the exception under IGRA to allow 'gaming' there.
The Seneca's are operating an illegal casino in Buffalo.

The Aftermath:

The Seneca's are in denial. They continue to allow illegal gambling on the premises of their Buffalo site and haven't yet rolled up blueprints on their new casino. Naturally, there will be an Appeal.

Still, according to the plaintiff's attorney, Richard Lippes "the Senecas have always said consistently they would follow the law...and we'll take them at their word that they're not going to act illegally." Judge Skretny did not issue an injunction to shut down the temporary casino, but the citizen's coalition has indicated that they may, if necessary, seek an order to shut it down.

The Lesson:

It makes me wonder if, back in the late 1990's, some guy in a suit stood in front of a group of some worried-looking folks from Erie County and told them point-blank that a Buffalo Indian casino 'was a done deal'.

I wonder how many times those people have heard the word 'inevitable' since then. And I can only imagine how many sneaky legal and political maneuvers, misinformation campaigns and inaccurate or misleading news reports they've survived along the way.

The threats, the intimidation, the ever never-ending crisis-du-jour and attempts at demoralization.

In the end, it amounted to nothing.

Because, as you can see, after all those battles, the folks from Erie County have, essentially, won the war.

Perseverance, truth, creativity, strength, intelligence, values, and effort took the day. And it will here, too.

Like my friend Carverchick says, "Be the change you want to see in the world".


It's not a done deal, unless you let it be.


carverchick said...

The Seneca case is an interesting one and one we can certainly learn from. When I first heard about the proposed Casino in Middleboro, I thought "no way is that town going to allow a casino"...but at the time, I didn't realize the depth of the sneaky closed door politics of the Middleboro government. I spent last summer worried about what the future held for our community...and was outraged that "it was coming, there is nothing we can do about it...". Well, I certainly don't believe that now, thanks to a small group of people who stood up and said NO! This small group of people turned into a large group of people who made me realize that we can make a difference....and we don't have to let this get done to us...that we DO have a say and that the future of our community rests in our own hands. The strenght, perseverance and determined refusal of the anti casino group continues to awe and inspire me. We have done our research, we know our rights and we stand up for them.

We can and we will stop this casino from being built in Middleboro. The Mashpee Tribe has no right to that land - we know it, they know it and the Federal government knows it too. We cannot and will not allow sneaky closed door politics and manipulations to rule our fate and allow the LIT application from being approve...not from local government, not from our State government, not from the Federal government and certainly not from the Mashpee tribal government.

We are wide awake....we are not sleeping...we can and will be the change we want to see in the world, starting right here at home.


Thank you Gladys for pointing out the lessons we can learn from others who fought the same battle...and have won. May we as a community and a State have the strength to stand up for our own communities, our homes, and tell the BIA and the DOI "Nuh-uh, no way....not on our watch!"

Anonymous said...

Simply put Mary , there is a "playbook" they all use ,because developers and tribes use the same lingo and the same threats everywhere. Now is the time for change. Actually yesterday was,let us reflect on Ledyard and all the threats Skip Hayward and Tom Tureen used, it probably makes all the targeted Ledyard residents sick, when looking back they didn't have to give in, they just needed a little truth, the facts if you will.

Anonymous said...

The latest 'casino is inevitable' story last week was laughable. Someone met with the state to discuss the traffic and road improvement issues, but they were careful to indicate the meeting didn't include any tribal members, not that their current leader seems to understand the issues anyway. Yeah, the 'bingo hall is inevitable' if the investors want to fork over multimillions to a state that's going to have ongoing fiscal problems and will invest in unnecessary road improvements sometime when hell freezes over. Just keep those stories of inevitability coming, Scotty! With escalating costs, those articles almost make it sound like your 18 months fairy tale is real even when the tribe doesn't own the land and it's not in trust. With global warming, when is it that hell will freeze over now? Each time you dispel the myth, Gladys, we listen. Glad you're there for us to continue to make others understand what hocus this is.

sarah said...

Each court decision adds a nail to the coffin of IGRA that the proponents don't want to hear. This was a mistake for a small, dysfunctional tribe that can't get their personal lives in order and can't bear the scrutiny before the wealthy casino investors appeared. Another stabbing? A restraining order? Steriod use? And that's after the convicted rapist who committed Contempt of Congress. In hindsight, Jack Healey and Wayne Perkins and the rest of the band of thieves sold the town a bill of goods for their own personal reasons based little on facts with no protection for the town, with few questions asked. Anyone who has seriously investigated the impacts of Indian casinos on other towns knows this was a mistake. Mboro should be glad it will never happen. The courts will prevent what elected officials should have.

Smoking Owl said...

I wonder how many of our fellow Middleboro residents who voted for the aggreement are now reconsidering their point of view after learning more of the facts.

I heard an interesting story last week. Some family members of mine spent some time down the Cape over the 4th of July weekend. At a cookout, they had the pleasure of meeting a gentleman who is a member of the Wampanoag Tribe. Naturally the topic of the casino came up. This Tribal member told my family members the land in Middleboro has already been taken into trust and the casino is a done deal.

When I heard this startling news, I laughed and told my family members "he's lying to you". They said, "he's in the tribe and he should know what's going on".
I agreed with them. He IS in the tribe and SHOULD know what's going on. He SHOULD know his Tribal leaders are lying to him if they're telling their members the land has already been taken into trust.

We've all been lied to so a few greedy people can line their pockets. Everybody needs to wake up, see through the lies, and say enough is enough. Let's keep fighting to take back our town. Hopefully the Wampanoag tribal members will get the message also and realize they've been lied to by their own leaders. Leaders who sold out to multi-millionaires to subject the Wampanoag tribe to being used as pawns in the high stakes game of casino development. We all know the odds favor the house, who in this case are the casino developers. Unfortunately, the Wampanoag people are the poor suckers who are going to leave the table without the riches they anticipated, like most casino gamblers.

Bellicose Bumpkin said...

I should think tribal members would be concerned one some of their own (Amelia & Co) were ejected from the tribe for asking to see the agreements the tribe had signed with the investors.

carverchick said...

So now it's the Tribe telling people that the land has already been placed into trust?! Gee Gladys, we had better call that lawyer -- no EIS, no notice in the Federal Register, no notification to interested parties that a decision has been made - no comment period for that decision. Wow...federal regulations being violated left and right....

Either this person lied himself or was lied to by someone else and belieived it.

Gladys Kravitz said...

Smoking Owl, it's funny you wrote this...

Just recently a fellow Bridgewater anti told my husband that a Mashpee Wampanoag tribe member who works locally was telling him EXACTLY the same thing. Word for word. Maybe he's the same guy??

Or maybe they should be reading our blogs down in Mashpee. Which, as we all know, is 39 miles away, not 20 miles, and not 25 miles, from Precinct Street in Middleboro.

Smoking Owl said...

I have a feeling the Tribe is measuring the mileage from Mashpee to the southern Middleboro town line, not the actual site of the land they purchased.

If they lose out on their big plans for a casino because they bought land too far away, all I can say is, too bad, so sad.

Maybe they can buy land in South Africa and build a casino there! Isn't that where the major financial backer is from anyway?

carverchick said...

Smoking Owl,

please tell your family member that a recent inquiry to the BIA has confirmed that they have retained an Environmental Engineering firm who will be moving forward with the preparation of the EIS very soon. At this time, the application is moving through the process in a manner consistent with the requirements of the Federal Code. A draft EIS can be expected this winter.

The Middleboro land has not been placed in trust, and after August 25th, it will not meet any requirements for an initial reservation as outlined in section 20 of IGRA. IMO - it will never even make it to the draft EIS phase but in the event that it does, we are prepared to take advantage of the 30 day comment period.

yes, too bad so sad. What is even sadder is that Tribal members are either lying to us or being lied to themselves.

Ryan Adams said...

We can, and we will, win. That's the story here.

Also, these comments are fascinating. We need to post an interview of some of these people and what they were told.