In the American state of Alaska and a federal judge has reportedly ruled against an effort by the Native Village of Eklutna to bring a small casino to tribal lands located around 20 miles north of downtown Anchorage.
According to a Thursday report from the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska has only one formal tribal reservation, the Metlakatla Indian Community on sparsely populated Annette Island, with the remainder of its indigenous lands being held in federal trust but governed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. The source detailed that this piece of legislation gave formal ownership of some 16,000 smaller family allotments such as the Native Village of Eklutna to corporations tasked with responsibly representing aboriginal shareholders.
The newspaper reported that this state of affairs led the United States Department of the Interior to rule in 2018 that the Native Village of Eklutna did not qualify as ‘Indian lands’ under the precepts of 1988’s Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and was therefore prohibited from opening a Class III casino offering slots as well as games such as blackjack, roulette and keno. Upset with this verdict and the 300-strong tribe purportedly filed a lawsuit with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia the very next year that it hoped would result in permission to bring Las Vegas-style gambling to an eight-acre site near the small community of Chugiak.
However, Judge Dabney Friedrich reportedly ruled earlier this week that the United States Department of the Interior had come to a ‘rational’ decision in 2018 by determining that the Native Village of Eklutna did not have jurisdiction over the plot for the envisioned casino even though the land is owned by members of the tribe. This federal judge was appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2017 with her 24-page decision furthermore purportedly coming as something of a blessing for the government of Alaska, which joined the case as a defendant early last year as part of a long-running effort to continue the status quo spawned by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
Reportedly read a section of Judge Friedrich’s ruling…
“Though the tribe may not agree with the United States Department of the Interior’s application of law to the facts at hand, the record shows that the United States Department of the Interior made a reasoned judgment that the court will not second-guess.”
Despite admitting that it was too early to provide a detailed comment on the newly-issued decision, the President for the Native Village of Eklutna, Aaron Leggett, reportedly told the Anchorage Daily News that his tribe is disappointed and now intends to ‘review its options’ including potentially opening the planned facility with less lucrative Class II bingo and pull-tab entertainments.