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Casino Denials Force Mohawk Tribe to Sue Interior Secretary

 

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One tribe has had enough of the capriciousness of Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and his Department. The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Kempthorne for denying their application for casino rights in Sullivan County, New York.

A tribal spokesman said the suit was based on the fact thatKempthorne’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, has no basis in the law, and constitutes an abuse of his position as Secretary.”

As reported here previously, Kempthorne and his assistants have been rejecting requests for Indian casinos around the country, refusing to examine benefits acrued through casino revenue while stating proposed locations off reservations bring no jobs to tribal members.

Also named in the suit were Kempthorne underlings James Cason, Associate Deputy Secretary, and Carl Artman, Associate Secretary for Indian Affairs. Both men have had their names attached to the form letters of rejection being issued around the nation (just fill in the tribe name and location).

The tribe has accused Kempthorne of rewriting the guidelines for judging casino applications without following proper and established procedures. Furthermore, Empire Resorts CEO Dave Hanlon, partner of the Mohawks in gaming, stated, “…with these new rules, the Secretary has unilaterally and without foundation in law overturned the Department of the Interior?s own determination, issued on April 6, 2000, that the proposed project would relieve the high unemployment problem on the reservation by inducing many unemployed tribal members to travel to Monticello: “Tribal members leaving for jobs at the proposed casino could reduce reservation unemployment by a substantial percentage.” This fact was found by the Department of the Interior to be positive for the economic development of the Tribe and its members.”

The Mohawks contend traveling distances for employment has been a tribal tradition, noting that tribal members filled out the ranks of ironworkers who built the skyscrapers of New York City.

The St.Regis Mohawks are considering further action, including a joint suit pursued by Indian Country which would involve all the other tribes the Department has turned down, and appeals to the Congressional oversight committees responsible for guarding Indian rights.

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