WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma has filed a lawsuit accusing the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior of failing to take the tribe’s land in south-central Kansas into trust for a casino.
The lawsuit, filed this week in the federal appeals court in Washington, contends that the Interior Department has to grant the tribe’s application because the tribe bought the 10.5 acres in Park City, Kan., with land-claim settlement funds from a 1984 law passed by Congress, The Wichita Eagle reported in a Friday story. The tribe, which is seeking to build a casino at the site, claimed it never was properly reimbursed for land the government took from it in Sandusky, Ohio, in 1843.
The tribe’s land-in-trust application has been pending in the Interior Department since January 2009 and requires approval by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who is named in the lawsuit.
“We were left with no recourse but to take action against the department,” said Billy Friend, chief of the tribe. “We felt like we were patient.”
The Interior Department recently has begun considering land-in-trust applications for off-reservation casinos from about 33 tribes, including the Wyandotte Nation. The Wyandotte’s application is the only mandatory application on that list, Friend said.
“They have an obligation to take the land into trust and have failed in their responsibility,” he said.
He said the government has 60 days to respond to the suit.
Interior spokesman Adam Fetcher said Friday he could not comment on pending litigation.
The state of Kansas filed an objection to the tribe’s application in 2008, arguing that the Wyandotte have no historical connection to the Park City land, that voters in Sedgwick County had rejected casinos, and that the casino would be 270 miles from the tribe’s reservation in Ottawa County, Okla., and therefore wouldn’t create jobs on the reservation.