The continuing legal battle over a possible tribal casino resort in North Carolina took another turn this week, as a federal judge gave a green light for the suit to proceed.
Earlier this year, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians filed litigation against several parties, including the United States Department of the Interior, the US Bureau of Indian Affairs, David Bernhardt, Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, and Tara Katuk Mac Lean Sweeney, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs.
The suit alleges Sweeney instructed Eastern Region acting director Glen Melville to “immediately acquire the land into trust” at the Kings Mountain Site, in Cleveland County, North Carolina, for the Catawba Indian Nation, a tribe headquartered in South Carolina.
According to the suit, the land at issue “sits squarely within Cherokee’s treaty territory.”
The suit cites decades of protracted litigation between the Catawba and the State of South Carolina concerning Catawba land claims. Congress eventually passed the Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina Land Claims Settlement Act of 1993, in which the Catawba agreed to no gaming outside South Carolina.
After the decision to place the Kings Mountain Site in trust for the Catawba, the tribe has commenced plans to build a casino resort planned to open fall 2021.
The suit alleges South Carolina’s US Senator Lindsey Graham and other elected and appointed officials supportive of the casino developer – Wallace Cheves, for instance, who is a former member of Graham’s campaign finance committee – brought “undue political influence on DOI and other federal officials in their quest to obtain BIA approval of a casino in North Carolina.”