The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (“Tribe”) filed a lawsuit on August 30, 2018 against the Department of the Interior related to the Tribe’s application to take “land-in-trust” in Lansing upon which the Tribe planned a casino. In its lawsuit, the Tribe claims that the Department of Interior delayed its decision for three years and then erroneously determined that the proposed parcels would not “consolidate or enhance tribal lands or advance the tribe’s welfare”. 

The Tribe started its effort to open a casino in Lansing Michigan in 2012.  Shortly thereafter, the State of Michigan sued the Tribe, seeking to prevent the Tribe’s submission of its trust application.  While the federal district court initially entered a preliminary injunction preventing the Tribe from moving forward with the application, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and dissolved the preliminary injunction, remanding the case to the district court.  In 2015, the district court issued an opinion ruling against the State and dismissing the case, which can be found here.

In its application, the Tribe argued that the land acquisitions would be an “enhancement” of tribal lands because they would allow the Tribe to generate additional revenue as well as employment opportunities for its tribal members, of which it claimed 14,000 members live in Michigan’s lower peninsula. 

In the new lawsuit, the complaint alleges that the Department of Interior exceeded its statutory authority in denying the land-in-trust application because Congress did not delegate to the Department to make the legal determination of whether a purchase is an “enhancement of tribal lands”.  Alternatively, the Tribe argues that the Department’s determination was clearly erroneous, arbitrary and capricious. The lawsuit is seeking a writ of mandamus ordering the Department of Interior to approve the application.  The complaint in its entirety can be found here.


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