Cherokee get pushback on recent Indiana purchase

Casino chips and playing cards
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have internal strife after their deal to buy the Caesars Indiana Casino for $250 million.

The December purchase of a Caesars Indiana Casino was meant to bring long term prosperity to the North Carolina-based Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (ECBI). But a portion of the tribe are now objecting to how it went down, fearful that it may give away long term control of their resources.

14 tribal members, with two Tribal Council members and a former principal chief, are attempting to reverse the December 17 vote that allowed the purchase of the casino. They point to section 16 of the Tribe’s Charter and Governing Document, believing the deal violates two portions. The segments state the tribe:

“Shall direct the management and control of all property, either real or personal, belonging to the Tribe”

As well as:

“No person shall be entitled to the enjoyment of … any monies which may belong to the tribe, unless such person shall be an enrolled member of the Tribe, and in case any money, derived from any source whatsoever, belonging to the Eastern Band of Cherokees, shall be distributed among the members thereof, the same shall be distributed per capita among the members entitled thereto.”

Although the ECBI will entirely own the LLC set up for the new purchase, the opposition notes they won’t have a majority of the voting control for the venture. They also note the December 17 vote was a special session, but was called inappropriately as there was no emergency reason for it. The measure to buy Caesars Indiana passed by a very close vote, 49-44.

Principal Chief Richard Sneed defended the decision to make the $250 million purchase. “My track record shows that I am here to serve EBCI tribal citizens and my faith in the validity of this project sustains despite this protest,” he said in a statement. “I am happy to speak with any tribal citizen that has concerns about this project as I fully believe it is the best next step forward in the EBCI’s larger economic diversification plan to sustain tribal programs and services in years to come.”

The next Tribal Council meeting has been pushed to January 14, making it unclear if the protest will even be heard. Between the holidays and a Covid-postponement, it’s now well over the standard 10-day limit to protest a council decision.

Although the protestors feel the deal was rushed, the ECBI made no secret about their plans to go forward with a purchase. The tribe had been considering the purchase for several weeks, as growing competition from the Catawba Nation and Lumbee Tribe put pressure on the Cherokee to establish a dominant presence before competitors took their revenues away.

Little River Band switch focus from Feds to State

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians feel they’ve accomplished their job in convincing the Federal government they should have a casino in Fruitport Township. They’re now turning their attention to the Michigan statehouse to finish the deal.

“We meet all of the requirements that we needed to meet,” said Ogema (or Chief) Larry Romanelli. “Which we knew was going to happen.”

“The state and the Governor have been notified,” he added. “It’s basically in their hands and so that’s where we’re at.”

The road comes before the casino

The Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians have a dream of a mountaintop casino in Wakefield Township, Michigan. That could be years away, and they will have to build a road to the site first. The Gogebic County Road Commission has now applied for a state grant to build the road.

Everyone is celebrating the long term benefits the tribe is bringing to the region, and better roads are a big part of that. “That would be great,” said Wakefield Township Supervisor Mandy Lake. “[The current road] is in rough shape.”

Ho-Chunk gearing up for Nebraska expansion

Ho-Chunk, Inc. are gearing up for their two new casinos in Nebraska, with price tags of $200 million on each of them. The tribe have launched WarHorse Gaming LLC to manage the expansion, and are promoting the effort as a way to “Keep the Money in Nebraska,” and not allow it to flow to neighboring Iowa.

Navajo Nation still locked down

The number of Covid-19 infections in the Navajo nation have now reached 24,979 with 869 deaths. The tribe have extended their lockdowns to January 25. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez recently noted that vaccine rollout will be stepped up on January 11, and asked for the people’s patience: “We know many people want to get the vaccine, but it takes time due to the high demand across the country, the time it takes to produce and transport, and the time it takes to safely administer the vaccines in the health care facilities. It takes a lot of coordination, but our health care workers are doing their best to help as many people as possible.”