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Tohono O'odham sues for Glendale casino approval

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March 25, 2010

PHOENIX - The Tohono O'odham Nation filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court in Washington, D.C., against the U.S. Interior Department for failing to act on the tribe's application to expand its reservation. The tribe is asking the court to force the department to transfer land into federal trust as tribal sovereign land. It includes 134 acres that it owns near Glendale on which the tribe wants to build a $500 million casino resort. Federal law allows tribal casinos only on reservation land with a few exceptions.

A separate federal law authorizes the tribe to add nearly 10,000 acres to its reservation to replace land flooded in the late 1970s after a dam was built nearby. Glendale and the tribe disagree whether the second law, known as the Lands Replacement Act, includes the 134 acres proposed for the casino site.

The Tohono O'odham Nation applied to the Interior Department more than a year ago to have 134 acres taken into trust. The department's approval is necessary for the tribe to build their casino there.

In a recent state court case, Glendale won the decision that that a third of the property was legally annexed by the city and prohibiting that portion of land from being taken into trust under the Lands Replacement Act.

The Tohono O'odham Nation insists the land was outside the boundaries of a city and meets the requirements in the Lands Replacement Act. The tribe is suing to force the Interior Department to act immediately and take a separate portion of the land into trust.

A statement issued by tribal chairman Ned Norris Jr. said "We have tried very hard to work with, not against, the Department, but at some point it became clear that the Department has simply stopped processing the Nation's application".

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