Associations do not oppose tribal recognition

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 18, 2005

Editor, the News-Herald:

On July 7, you published two letters under the heading, &uot;Area Indians speak on recognition.&uot; Those letters chastised our organizations for opposing the possibility of Indian gaming coming into Virginia under the terms of the pending federal recognition bill, S. 480.

Let it be clear that we do not opposed federal recognition of the Virginia tribes, but rather just the possibility of Indian high-stakes bingo and related games and casinos coming into Virginia if S. 480 were to be passed in its present form. But, for whatever reason, the sponsors and supporters of S. 480 refuse to write in adequate safeguards against such gaming.

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In fact, S. 480 does not contain adequate safeguards against Indian gaming. It is true that the bill does prohibit gaming on newly-acquired lands, outside of historic reservation lands without the consent of the governor.

But the bill does not prohibit gaming on the historic reservation lands of the tribes, i.e. lands located within or contiguous to the boundaries of a reservation of the Indian tribe on Oct. 17, 1988, or if the Indian tribe had no reservation on Oct. 17, 1988, then lands that are within the tribe’s &uot;last recognized reservation&uot; within the state. That is the precise language of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act that governs Indian gaming. This is not just our view of the legal status – it is supported by U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf and by the Library of Congress Congressional Research Service.

We concede that we not know whether or not any of the Virginia tribes would be able to show reservation lands qualifying for gaming. What is known is that the designation and final decision on the eligibility of any of the Virginia Indian lands as qualifying reservation lands would be solely in the hands of the United States Department of Interior, subject only to review by the Federal courts. The citizens and government of the State of Virginia would have no control over the ultimate decision.

This is why it is not possible for the sponsors and supporters of S. 480 to guarantee that no Indian gaming can ever take place in Virginia without state consent.

We expect that overwhelming majority of the citizens of Virginia share our concerns. We have little doubt that the Virginia tribes would receive expeditious consideration of their request for Federal recognition if only S. 480 were amended to include safeguards against Indian gaming. And we thing that is within the power of the tribal leaders to accomplish.

Wesley Crowder

Government Relations Chairman

Virginia Moose Association


Robert M. Goolrick

Government Relations Chairman

Virginia Elks Association.