Source: Journal Gazette
(Fort Wayne, IN) - February 15, 2002
Justices to vote on hearing Miamis'
case for recognition
Sylvia A. Smith Washington editor
Supreme Court will decide next week whether to resolve a long-standing
beef the Miami Indians have with the federal government about whether
the tribe should be officially acknowledged.
stake are thousands of dollars in services that members of officially
recognized tribes are eligible for. Also at stake is the ability
official tribes have to open gambling casinos in states where gambling
is legal, such as Indiana.
Indiana-based tribe has fought for years with the Interior Department
about its status. In 1992, the department denied the Miamis' request
to have their tribal status re-established.
Miamis say that a series of 18th- and 19th-century treaties between
them and the federal government illustrates that Congress considered
them a tribe at one time. Since Congress never reneged on that recognition,
the Indians say, the Interior Department doesn't have the power to
Miamis have long contended that a government attorney wrongly concluded
105 years ago that the Miamis were not a tribe and were ineligible
for the same treatment as other American Indian tribes.
issue was dormant for years, but in 1980 the descendants of Chief
Richardville and Chief Little Turtle, about 2,500 of whom continue
to live in a swath from Fort Wayne to Lafayette, began fighting to
be recognized as a tribe.
that recognition, the band's chief, Paul Strack, said in an earlier
interview, "we're not even able to protect the graves of our
decade ago Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., was the main congressional
champion of legislation to recognize the Miamis as a tribe. But he
withdrew that support when he realized that recognition would bring
with it the right to operate gambling businesses in Indiana.
Mark Souder, R-4th, said he is willing to take up the Miamis' cause
and introduce legislation that would overrule the Interior Department's
the (federal) government hadn't made an error already," Souder
has said, "we wouldn't even be addressing the question of whether
the Miami of Indiana are a nation. Because they're obviously a nation."
Souder said that unless the Miamis say they are willing to give up
their right to open a gambling casino, the legislation would be killed.
recognized tribes are eligible for various programs for housing,
economic development, job training, health
care and their lands are exempt from state taxes and other state
means they can open a gambling casino without any approval from the
state legislature or governor as long as the state has authorized
gambling, such as a lottery.
Locklear, the attorney who filed the Miamis' case with the Supreme
Court, said the tribe chose the lawsuit because "getting an
act of Congress passed is not easy."
said winning the court case isn't easy either; she's pessimistic
about the likelihood that the justices will vote to hear the case.
the court won't get involved, Locklear said, "we will
try the legislative route."
Miamis have never said they would open a casino in Indiana if the
tribe wins recognition. For other American Indian tribes around the
country, gambling has become a lucrative business. Of 561 federally
recognized tribes, 198 operate casinos. One estimate puts the Indian-operated
gambling revenue at $9.8 billion per year, which is more than Las
are billion-dollar operations," Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn.,
said of Indian casinos at a congressional hearing last week. "(Tribal)
recognition makes them billionaires over time."
(c) 2002 The Journal Gazette