The Cherokee Nation today filed a petition in federal court in Muskogee seeking an injunction and temporary restraining order to prevent the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Kevin Washburn, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs from placing land within the Cherokee Nation jurisdiction into trust for the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Corporation.
The UKB has been operating an illegal gaming facility on 2.03 acres located in Tahlequah, the capital city of the Cherokee Nation, for more than 18 years.
“The attempt by the BIA to place land into trust for another tribe or band of Indians in our jurisdiction is contrary to law, and we intend to prove that in court,” said Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree. “The Cherokee Nation will do everything in its power to preserve the integrity of our sovereignty.”
The state of Oklahoma sued the UKB to cease gaming operations in 2004. The case was moved to United States District Court a year later. The UKB was able to continue gaming with a federal temporary injunction while the land into trust issue was resolved. The UKB reached an agreement with the state of Oklahoma to either cease gaming or have the land taken into trust by July 31, 2013.
The BIA recently notified the Cherokee Nation it would proceed with the UKB’s trust application, rushing to meet this deadline, without careful consideration. The notification is what prompted Tuesday’s filing.
“Only the Cherokee Nation can exercise authority in our historical jurisdiction,” Hembree said.