Appellate Court Opinion Favors Creating West Valley Reservation for Tohono O'odham Nation

See also: Gila River Indian Community Attacks Sister Tribe With Federal Lawsuit
See also: Glendale Officials Ordered to Pay Tohono O'odham Nation's Legal Fees
See also: Wanna Bet? The Tohono O'odham Want to Build a West Valley Casino

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for West Valley Resort.jpg
Artist rendering of the West Valley Resort, a casino the Tohono O'odham Nation intends to build near 95th and Northern avenues.
Glendale officials should start baking cookies to walk over to their soon-to-be new neighbors -- the Tohono O'odham Nation.

In a 55-page decision published today, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower district court ruling that feds were right to take land owned by the Tohono O'odham into trust, which essentially means it becomes part of the Nation's reservation lands.

The Nation announced years ago that it plans to build the West Valley Resort, a resort-style casino on that land near 95th and Northern avenues.

That announcement sparked the ire of Glendale city officials, who fear that competition from a casino will steal business from the city's Westgate City Center, a sports and entertainment complex in which the city injected millions of tax dollars.

Today's appellate court ruling is the latest in a string of victories for the Nation, which has been assailed for wanting to create a reservation and build a casino on a 54-acre swath of land sitting in unincorporated Maricopa County, yet completely surrounded by the City of Glendale.

Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs and her fellow city officials have been rabid opponents, tripping over themselves to thwart the Nation's plans. Scruggs and other opponents have enlisted help from elected officials across the state, including Governor Jan Brewer, and even from the Gila River Indian Community.

Glendale officials are planning to issue a statement on the Court of Appeals opinion.

It wouldn't be surprising if they intended to appeal that decision as well.

We'll comb through the appellate court ruling for other interesting tidbits, but here's the gist of it:

The panel of judges set aside the rancor and looked "only to the status of the land as trust land and [not] the particulars of Indian gaming, which are the subject of separate proceedings and pending legislation."

In doing so, it affirmed the decision by the district court which "granted summary judgment for the government after concluding that the Secretary of the Interior reasonably applied the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act ("Gila Bend Act"), and that the Act did not violate the Indian Commerce Clause or the Tenth Amendment."

"To say this plan has been controversial is an understatement. But the strong feelings and emotional drama of the casino fight do not dictate the outcome here," the appellate judge writes.

Ned Norris, Jr., Chairman of the Tohono O'odham Nation, said in a press release, that today was a "great day for the Nation and the West Valley. Just as courts and federal agencies have done eight straight times before, the Ninth Circuit weighed the arguments and then ruled in the Nation's favor. The Court reaffirmed today that when the federal government makes a commitment to native peoples, it will stand by those commitments."

He also took a shot at the "special interests" behind the campaign to thwart the Nation's plan, telling them it was time for them to "step aside and allow job growth and economic opportunity to come to the West Valley, where this project has widespread public support."

The Gila River Indian Community owns the casinos closest to the Valley -- in fact, it bills its casino in Laveen as "minutes away. The West Valley's Vee Quiva Casino." Meanwhile, the Tohono O'odham Nation's Desert Diamond casinos are primarily in remote parts of southern Arizona.

That means if -- or, perhaps, when -- the TO builds its casino in the West Valley, it will create unwelcome competition for the Gila Rivers' gambling operations.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

All peope have to do is stop gambling. It will go away on its own.


Jan Brewer hates the rule of law when it keeps ruling against her


I'm rooting for the Papagos. I wouldn't want to be a  property owner in Glendale right now.


you libtards need to start giving your money to these honorable native americans to make up for your ancestor's transgressions. you hypocrites spend all your time defending and providing material support to illegal mexicans instead of your first victims, the native born americans.


Very good for the Tohono O'odham Nation ! Shame on Glendale !


 ... because the city is going broke trying to prop up the Phoenix Coyotes franchise.


 @chieftumblingdice Actually, it is the Native American in hispanics that the Great White Chief is worried about, not the spanish they speak.  The "culture" of America was (before the great invasion of their country) this Continent's greatest treasure.  It, their culture, insured the survival of the Native American people through the WORST calamity to befall any people in the history of the world - the landing of the Italian Columbus in the islands of the Bahamas sailing under the Spanish flag.  The Colonization which followed wiped out many of the traditions, rituals, customs and knowledge of local environmental conditions which had evolved over eons on this continent.  A "natural selection" of how to survive with the plants and animals on this continent developed over time.  It wasn't a result of the scientific process but it was just as effective in allowing knowledge about the natural world to come to the people through generational learning by song, dance, ritual and prayers.  Remember the Papago Reservation was not created as a result of a battle or surrender, but negotiations between one nation and another nation - soverign nations.  Therefore, according to US Constitution's Treaty law, the Papago or Tohono O'odham are citizens of a separate nation in addition to being citizens of the United States or Mexico (their national border is within both Mexico and the United States).  Please remember this next time you see a Mesquite tree full of seed pods and wonder what they are - they are the food of the Tohono O'odham and Apache.


Now Trending

Phoenix Concert Tickets

From the Vault