By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Staff
A federal judge has ruled that nearly 17 acres taken into trust for the Catawba Indian Nation to build a casino on land near Kings Mountain was done legally. The ruling was made in the federal case of Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) vs. U.S. Department of the Interior which was filed in March 2020 by EBCI officials.
The Catawba, a federally recognized tribe based in Rock Hill, S.C., signed on as defendant intervenor, and the Cherokee Nation signed on as a plaintiff intervenor on May 1, 2020 stating it was entitled to consultation on the land-into-trust issue with the Catawba. The EBCI argued that the land where the Kings Mountain casino is located is historically Cherokee territory and that the Interior Dept. violated the law in its rulings.
In a 55-page decision issued on Friday, April 16, U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg wrote, “Plaintiffs raise several close and complex questions of statutory and regulatory construction, and the Court certainly cannot fault them for rolling the dice here. In the end, though, they come up with snake eyes, as on each claim they either lack standing or lose on the merits.”
Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed said in a statement, “Our team is going through the ruling now and examining all options for next steps. It remains clear to us that the law was broken and we will not stop until justice is served in this case.”
Catawba Nation Chief Bill Harris said in a statement, “We hope this exhaustive review of the facts and emphatic 55-page decision means the Eastern Band will not seek a frivolous appeal and that our two tribes can now work together for the betterment of our people. This decision reaffirms the clear historical record of the Catawba’s ancestral lands and cultural ties in North Carolina and the rigorous process of review undertaken by the U.S. Department of the Interior in taking the land into trust.”
The Department of the Interior put 16.57 acres into trust in Cleveland County for the Catawba Nation in March 2020, and the Tribe broke ground on their Two Kings Casino on July 22, 2020. The Catawba tribal government announced on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 the signing of a gaming compact with the State of North Carolina that will allow the Tribe to operate various forms of Class III gaming at the planned facility including raffles, video games, gaming machines, and sports and horse race wagering.