July 6, 2000
TRIBE FILES SUIT FOR ILLINOIS LAND, EYES A CASINO
Flynn McRoberts, Tribune Staff Writer.
wasn't even a state when the pact in question was signed. But the
1805 Treaty of Grouseland has come back
to haunt it.
the document its ancestors penned with the young United States of
America, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma has filed a lawsuit
in federal court to recover 2.6 million acres of what they consider
tribal land, a swath of east central Illinois stretching from Effingham
north beyond Champaign.
negotiations that recently broke down with the state, the tribe has
made it clear what it might like to put on some of that property:
a land-based casino.
headquartered in Miami, Okla., has only 2,250 remaining members.
And the only gambling operation currently run by it is an off-track
betting parlor in Oklahoma, according to attorneys for the tribe.
tribal leaders say they are trying to reclaim land that the federal
government gave their forebears long ago in return for the Miami
giving up ancestral homelands east of Illinois.
have the solemn responsibility to protect the Miami Tribe members
and its future generations, and to ensure the financial and cultural
success of the tribe," Chief Floyd E. Leonard said in
announcing the suit.
the financial boon that gambling has been to many formerly poverty-stricken
Leonard added that "it is my hope, since the State of Illinois
allows gaming, a possible solution to our land claim could be negotiated."
the prospect of a land-based casino--not to mention that 2.6 million
acres the tribe is eyeing--has state officials balking.
why negotiations sputtered, Dave Urbanek,
Gov. George Ryan's press secretary, said: "We couldn't give
them what they wanted. They have never made it a secret to anyone
that their goal is a land-based casino in Illinois . . . (And) they
have always used this lawsuit as a balance, as a chip, no pun intended."
Ryan "does not support an expansion of gaming beyond the riverboat
gaming act." Besides, the spokesman added, "There's not
one square inch of (reservation) land in Illinois."
that is because the state ignored the treaties signed with the federal
Tom Osterholt Jr.,
an attorney for the tribe, said the lawsuit was mainly about
regaining treaty land and not about gaming. But he said the fact
that Illinois only allows riverboat gambling should not bar the tribe
from potentially building a land-based casino.
federal law says is the tribe can only do the type of gambling
that the state allows," Osterholt said,
but it doesn't dictate whether that gambling is done on water or
State of Illinois is not actually a defendant in the case; rather,
the suit names owners of one parcel of real estate from each of the
15 counties involved.
the property owners listed as defendants were "randomly" selected.
But Urbanek pointed out that several of
the defendants are current or former county officials.
2000, Chicago Tribune