ONE FEATHER STAFF REPORT
WASHINGTON, DC – The Catawba Indian Nation, based in Rock Hill, S.C., is seeking a casino near Kings Mountain, and a Senate bill would help pave the way for them to open up for business. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a hearing on Wednesday, May 1 on S. 790, a bill aimed at clarifying language included in the 1993 Catawba Indian Land Claims Settlement Act and authorize the Department of the Interior to act upon their land-into-trust application from several years ago.
According to the written testimony provided to the Committee by Catawba Indian Nation Chief William Harris, S.790 “will bring justice to the Catawba and assure that Catawba gaming operations are subject to the same strict regulation as other tribal gaming operations.”
He added, “S. 790 does not create any concerning precedent. Rather, it restores the original intent of the Catawba Federal Settlement Act, while limiting the Tribe’s land acquisition to its congressionally established service area, which was deemed in the Act to be the equivalent of ‘on or near reservation’ for certain purposes, reflecting its historic significance to the Tribe.”
The bill itself states that the Catawba Indian Nation would be authorized to own and operate a gaming operation on land in Cleveland County, North Carolina.
Tribal leaders of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have expressed their staunch opposition to the bill with several making the trip to Washington, DC the week of the hearing to have their voices heard. Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed spoke during the regular session of Tribal Council on Thursday, May 2, “It is not us that is going to prevail. It is the rule of law that is going to prevail. We are going to continue to press on this issue because it’s the right thing to do.”
The day before, he issued a statement, “Today’s hearing on Senate Bill 790 to give North Carolina land to the Catawba Indian Nation of South Carolina for an off-reservation casino reaffirms our concerns about this bill. Congress has never authorized an off-reservation casino by legislation, for good reason. The bill circumvents the federal processes that give local stakeholders – the State Senate, the Governor, community members, and interested North and South Carolinians – a voice in whether to move forward with the casino. Rather than hear from interested parties, this bill silences those voices and replaces the process with backroom political dealing.”
He continued, “The Department of the Interior – under both Obama and Trump administrations – rejected the Catawba Nation’s claims that the Department must take North Carolina lands into trust for the South Carolina tribe. The proposed casino off of 1-85 in Cleveland County would encroach upon Cherokee aboriginal territory – territory ceded to the Cherokee by treaty, and territory recognized as Cherokee territory by the U.S. Indian Claims Commission. The Catawba have no valid aboriginal or historical claims to Cleveland County. We encourage senators to reject Senate Bill 790 – which is nothing more than a modern-day land-grab by the federal government of Cherokee aboriginal lands. We hope that the Catawba Nation will instead pursue economic development in its home state of South Carolina.”
As of press time, the Committee has not taken action on the bill.