The court’s decision to pass on the case, which centered around whether the tribe was legally entitled to land that they claim was once theirs, was a big victory for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe. They were awarded rights to the land, a 150-acre plot near town of La Center, in 2010 under the auspices of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. They have plans for both a reservation and a casino on the land.
Opponents of the casino contend that the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 is well and good, for tribes that had federal recognition in 1934, but that the Cowlitz only have only had such recognition since 2000.
The casino’s opponents include not only folks who don’t want casinos of any kind, but the owners of legal, non-tribal card rooms. These folks aren’t too keen on the idea of sharing the La Center casino market with the Cowlitz and are very leery of the tribe’s plans to build a 368,000 square foot casino called the Ilani Casino Resort.
Their fears may actually have been well-founded, at least two La Center card rooms have shut down since legal wrangling over the property began back in 2010. Card room owners complain that the large Ilani will skim skilled workers from smaller establishments, making staffing virtually impossible.
For the Cowlitz, however, the legal drama was much more than a land grab and a revenue stream as Cowlitz Chairman Bill Iyall stated in a Facebook post saying:
This is a triumphant moment for The Cowlitz Indian Tribe because it marks the end of a 160-year journey back to our homeland. The Cowlitz, the Forever People, are forever home.
According to a report in The Colombian, the tribe plans to move forward with construction of the casino immediately.