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Construction was halted on the Kialegee tribe's Red Clay Casino in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma last month after a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in response to a lawsuit claiming the tribe doesn't have a legal right to build the gambling facility. The dispute is just one of several going on in the state and across the country that center around a federal law requiring tribes to build casinos on "Indian land." The Kialegee, a small tribe with fewer than 500 members, has no reservation or land of its own. It is trying to build its casino on land the federal government has granted to the Muscogee Creek Nation, once a confederacy of Native American communities the Kialegee belonged to. The Kialegee tribe is hoping that historical affiliation will be sufficient to allow it to proceed. "We have nothing," said Justina Yargee, the First Warrior of the Kialegee. "If we can get the casino going, we can afford to send kids to college and set up housing for the needy and provide medical services for the elderly." But some residents of the affluent, conservative city of Broken Arrow, near Tulsa, oppose the casino, which led to the lawsuit, filed by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, and the subsequent injunction by U.S. Judge Gregory Frizzell in Tulsa. The Oklahoma attorney general's office was understandably pleased with Judge Frizzell's decision. "Some tribes have in the past started building casinos before they had determined that they have land that is OK for gaming," said spokeswoman Diane Clay. "The decision is a reminder that there are legal processes that need to be followed before gaming facilities are built." Tribes in Arizona, California and Minnesota have run into similar difficulties recently, leading some critics to argue that the federal Indian gaming law unfairly restricts landless tribes, as well as those with reservations in rural areas seeking to build casinos in urban areas where there are more potential customers. "Tribes should be encouraged to buy land and establish casinos that can help them gain economic self-determination," said David Wilkins, an Indian-law specialist at the University of Minnesota Law School. Supporters of the land restriction, however, contend it helps ensure that tribes don't trample on the rights of communities that oppose casinos. "For economic reasons, I'd much rather have a casino in Boston than in rural Oklahoma," said G. William Rice, a professor at the University of Tulsa College of Law and member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. But he added, "there are legitimate reasons Boston might not like to have 20 tribes dropping casinos in their city." Broken Arrow resident Jared Cawley shares that same concern. "If the Kialegee are allowed to build the casino, it would set a bad precedent and open the door for a lot more casinos," he said. (WALL STREET JOURNAL)
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