HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveNewslettersVolume 20Issue 29President Obama Signs Gun Lake Trust Land Reaffirmation Act

On Monday, September 29, 2014, President Obama signed into law Senate Bill 1603 (S.1603), an act that reaffirms the land upon which the Gun Lake Casino sits in Wayland, Michigan as “trust land” and further ratifies and confirms the prior actions of the Secretary of the Interior in taking this land into trust for the benefit of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (“Gun Lake Tribe”). S.1603, which was sponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), was previously passed by the U.S. Senate in June, 2014 and passed the U.S. House of Representatives in September, 2014. 

“This is a historic day for the Tribe and Indian Country. This new law not only reaffirms the trust status of our land, but also permanently ends the frivolous legal challenges that our Tribe and the local community have faced for more than ten years,” stated D.K. Sprague, Chairman of the Gun Lake Tribe. “We are pleased that Congress and the President of the United States have vindicated our position.”

S.1603 resolves confusion over the status of the subject land following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in the matter of Carcieri v Salazar, which held that the Bureau of Indian Affairs can only approve decisions to take land into trust for tribes that were “under federal jurisdiction” as of 1934.  As the Gun Lake Tribe was not federally recognized until 1999, lawsuits had been filed challenging the validity of the Gun Lake Casino. S.1603 obviates any pending or future challenge to the Indian trust lands in this regard, as section 2(b) of the bill provides “[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law, an action (including an action pending in a Federal court as of the date of enactment of this Act) relating to the land described in subsection (a) shall not be filed or maintained in a Federal court and shall be promptly dismissed.”

“This legislation addresses a technical issue created by a recent court decision, and I was pleased to support the community in passing this bill to promote economic development in the region,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow, the chief sponsor of the bill.

 

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