June 19, 2012 (Jamul)—The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 8 to 1 that a lawsuit seeking to shut down a Michigan casino can go forward.
The suit, filed by casino opponent David Patchak, argues that the federal government acted illegally in placing land in trust for the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish (Gun Lake) band of Pottawotami Indians, because the tribe was not recognized until after the Indian Reorganization Act passed in 1934.
The Supreme Court stated that the decision was not based on the merits of the case. Should Patchak’s argument prevail, however, the ramifications could impact some 50 other recently recognized tribes across the nation--including the Jamul Indians.
Jamul is the only tribe in San Diego County that was recognized after 1934, though several other California tribes are also impacted. View a list of all tribes recognized after 1934.
Although Jamul Indians say that they have occupied their village site since 1912, the tribe was not recognized until 1981, through ratification of a tribal constitution approved by the federal government. The next year, the U.S. Department of Interior secretary included Jamul on the master list of federally recognized tribes; the tribe's 6-acre reservation was taken into federal trust in two separate actions finalized in 1978 and 1982.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor cast the only dissenting vote on the Supreme Court.
The tribe has vowed to continue the fight in federal court and issued a press statement denouncing Patchak's lawsuit as having no merit.
Jamulians Against the Casino, a citizens’ group opposing the proposed project, issued a press statement hailing the ruling as “good news.”
The group is also organizing opposition to SB 162, a bill by State Senator Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) which would prohibit a state agency from opposing fee-to-trust applications for the purpose of housing, environmental protection or cultural preservation.
Opponents fear the language could allow land for a casino to be placed in trust. The bill could be heard as early as tomorrow, June 20.
ECM has contacted the Jamul tribe to request comment, and will publish the tribe's response once received.