Tohono O'odham Nation Breaks Ground at Site of West Valley Resort and Casino

Categories: Wild, Wild West

Glendale-Council-Norma-Ned.jpg
TON Chairman Ned Norris hugs Councilwoman Norma Alvarez, a casino supporter from Day 1.

Officials from West Valley cities, including Peoria, Tolleson, Glendale, gathered with leaders from the Tohono O'odham inside a white air conditioned tent in the middle of a dusty, vacant field this morning.

They were there to break ground on the West Valley Resort and Casino -- a momentous ceremony taking place more than five years after the project was announced.

See also:
-Wanna Bet? The Tohono O'odham Want to Build a Casino in the West Valley
-Tohono O'odham Nation Racks Up Another Legal Victory in Federal Court
-Glendale City Council Begins Formal Casino Negotiations With Tohono O'odham Nation

"Today is a day that's been a long time coming," Nation Chairman Ned Norris told the more than 100 people who attended the event. "This is the work of generations of the Nation's leaders; the result of a long struggle to turn a great wrong into a new opportunity for our people and for all of Arizona."

Norris recounted that the land they purchased in the West Valley was recompense for thousands of acres of the Nation's land near Gila Bend, in the San Lucy District, were destroyed by flooding when the federal government built a dam to protect area farmers.

As soon as it was publicly proposed, then-Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs and most of the council members at the time, met the project with fierce opposition. They shuddered at the thought that the Nation would build a resort-style casino any where near Westgate, the city's prized sports and entertainment district.

Convinced the Nation's project would drain business away from Westgate, the city fought the project to the tune of more than $3 million in legal fees, and were ordered to pay nearly $90,000 in the Nation's court fees.

"The Nation has always committed to being a good neighbor. That's just who we are," Norris said. "That's a commitment to friendship and compassion that we always extend to our sister tribes in the East Valley."

The Gila River Indian Community, and other east-side Indian tribes, have led the most vehement opposition to the TON's casino. Millions have been spent by them in lobbying federal lawmakers to block the West Valley project, namely because the GRIC has the sole West Valley casino.

"We know the leaders have used misinformation to try and demonize the Nation in order to protect their own marketshare, creating much ill-will," Norris says. "But the four sister tribes, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the Gila River Indian Community, the Ak-Chin Maricopa Indian Community, we're all part of the same family. We are all decedents of the Hohokam .. and that includes this area."

He continued: "So don't tell me there is no tie, don't tell me there is no relationship. Don't tell me we have no business here because this is the ancestral land of our people. We are family. We will always be related ... even long after the West Valley Resort is built."

Peoria Mayor Bob Barrett, who spoke at the event, reminded the crowd that his city has always been supportive of the project and the 6,000 construction jobs, 3,000 permanent jobs, and other economic development it would bring to the West Valley.

He said that support for the project was a "no brainer," and addressed several of the opponents talking points, namely that the Nation was breaking a promise by moving forward with the casino.

"[Opponents] say that there were promises made that were would be no more casinos in the Phoenix area." he said. "But, consider all the lawyers, consider all the lobbyists, consider all the legislators who were involved with [Arizona's gaming compact], and I'm supposed to believe that they just forgot to put that in? Really?"

A federal court judge already rendered that argument untrue, confirming that no promises were included in the voter-approved gaming agreements between Indian tribes and the State of Arizona.

Tolleson Mayor Adolfo Gamez, also a speaker, said he is proud that "Tolleson was the first city to stand with the Tohono O'odham, supporting them and never wavering from that position."

Gamez said the "West Valley Resort is the perfect addition to our community."

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49 comments
Tom Kennedy
Tom Kennedy

Sounds nice. Meaningless. Other than the 1.4M a year, the tribe has NO obligations to anyone. Being that this tribe has been proven liars, their word is worthless. That 1.4M will not cover the loss Glendale will absorb from lost tax revenue, lost jobs and closed businesses. There is NO valid point for a casino other than it will be a fun place to spend money.

Lisa Kaiser
Lisa Kaiser

Tribes that earn gaming revenue pay a portion of that gaming revenue to the t State of Arizona. They also give grants to cities and non-profits through a program called 12% gaming revenue grants (part of the AZ Gaming Compact we all voted on in 2002). A number of cities receive these grants (which are often used to support fire departments).

Lisa Kaiser
Lisa Kaiser

Glendale will survive: it has the stadiums, all the businesses around the stadiums, etc etc.

Lisa Kaiser
Lisa Kaiser

Isai, again, its about the fact that tribal governments are sovereign nations. The TO Nation is a sovereign nation in the same way that the USA is a sovereign nation, in the same way that Canada, England, Italy Japan, etc are sovereign nations.

Lisa Kaiser
Lisa Kaiser

In the USA, Native American tribes are sovereign nations. So tribal governments are legally entitled to make their own rules. And as sovereign nations, tribal governments negotiate with other governments. In the case of gaming in AZ, the Gaming Compact is between the tribal governments & the State of Arizona. Its not about race/ethnicity. Its about tribal governments being sovereign nations. Having worked for 2 tribal governments in AZ, I know that many non-Native people work for tribal governments. Native preference does not mean that tribes do not hire non-Native employees.

Lisa Kaiser
Lisa Kaiser

The land was not "purchased". The federal government took land from the Tohono O'odham in southern Arizona and in return gave the TO Nation land near Glendale. so yes, the land belongs to the TO Nation.

Robin Scott Andress
Robin Scott Andress

Where people who don't understand the principles of the casino go to be scalped.

Nick Grycel
Nick Grycel

Hell yeah Jeremy Killham! This is going to bring SO MANY jobs! I am a Union Sheet Metal Worker and our entire Union Family was praying and taking action to get this in motion.

Cheryl Perez
Cheryl Perez

ITS BEEN VOTED BY THE ARIZONA VOTERS SO I guess we have no say so!

Comedian Miguel Diarte
Comedian Miguel Diarte

This is going to do a lot for the tohono o'odham tribe and it's people..I'm glad m'cain and flake couldn't stop it..casino next to the stadium..I say hell yea

Tom Kennedy
Tom Kennedy

Just what casino have you ever seen built to attract anyone to places outside the casino, not on a reservation? it will take away business and tax revenue froim Glemdale merchants. A lot of money

Tom Kennedy
Tom Kennedy

This whole thing is a lie. The jobs number the Peoria mayor cited has already been downsized by well over 50%. The 6000 consruction jobs he spoke of is really closer to 1250. Total lie. A casino will be fun for the west side. A new entertainment venue. But how many jobs will be lost because of it? This casino pays NO taxes to any city. It will take away cistomers from other west valley businesses and restaurants. What about the other west valley hotels that will lose business? Many people going to an event at Westgate will go to the casino instead of staying at Westgate. This casino will be fun, but economically, it will hurt the surrounding area and Glendale.

Angie Rivera
Angie Rivera

Blame the lawmaker who created the rules, not the Native Americans following that law.

Isai Abrum Escobar
Isai Abrum Escobar

Many of us have ancestors who have suffered, including African Americans. But that should not constitute a right to discriminate. It was after all ancestors, not currently living people. But don't misunderstand me. I am sympathetic to the plight of Native Americans. The Government wronged them deeply.

Angie Rivera
Angie Rivera

Isai Abrum Escobar Don't you see discrimination in the fact that centuries ago, a lot of tribes were removed from THEIR LAND back in the South East Coast and had to relocate in Oklahoma? Or that lots of families died during their relocation to Oklahoma? Native Americans have suffered for centuries on the hands of the white man. And you can also open a casino, but the process will be longer and more expensive for you because a lawmaker (most likely a white one) was the one who facilitated the process for Native Americans as a means to "compensate" them for all the suffering.

Reggievv
Reggievv

Yup, the tribe is so friendly to their neighbors. So they secretly bought land in a location that has nothing to do with a tribe based in Sells, and blew up a negotiated State agreement on tribal gaming, with the Putinesque statement, "it's all legal, it wasn't prohibited". And to the Tohono tribal leader who is so frustrated with the rest of the State over lack of support for tribal student achievements, I am sure this casino will solve all your problems.

Holli Brown
Holli Brown

Isai - the Catholic Church is also allowed to discriminate. Catholics discriminate against women and homosexuals. It is legal.

Isai Abrum Escobar
Isai Abrum Escobar

You don't see discrimination in the fact that they can get a permit to open a casino basically anywhere based solely on race/ethnicity? Or that they actively discriminate against non native workers, they openly state in open policy that they prefer native employees. That its their open policy to hire/ fire employees based on race. How does any employers get away with that in modern America?

Tramell Salkey
Tramell Salkey

Gotta love the city of Glendale's take of only 26 million over 20 years. Seems the natives finally screwed over the white man. DUI's on the rise in that area now.

David Vance
David Vance

They purchased the land through an agreement because their land was flooded by a dam that was built...so yes..it is their land!

Matt Barton
Matt Barton

very exciting. they better have a poker room!

Benjamin Meyer
Benjamin Meyer

I live right next door to Wildhorse Pass Casino and it's fine it's a very nice facility.. I see no problem with a casino on the west side…

Alejandro Estrada
Alejandro Estrada

More jobs! More tourist! More wasting and winning Money! More life!

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

Is this really The End or can we expect Trent Franks to continue trying to put speed bumps in the way of progress? Hopefully he recognizes that he failed to do the other tribes' bidding. That said, he needs to get back to his attempts to regulate sexual relations among consenting adults in the District of Columbia.

ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

@Reggievv ALL their neighbors have welcomed Tohono O'odham with open arms - WHAT is your problem! 

You probably suck Putin's esque anyway - what a Dweeb!

salmo60
salmo60

Indian Nations are just that, separate Nations inside the US. They have employment practices that favor tribe member. That should not be a problem to no one. 

The Indian Gaming Act of 1988 allows Nations to open casinos. I, for one, can not understand why McCain of his puppet Flake  are so opposed to this casino. I wonder how much McCain and Flake collected in bribes/campaign contributions to fight the TO Nation?


manster
manster

@eric.nelson745  Are They really not going to throw up a tent? That is a lot of money that will be lost.

Reggievv
Reggievv

Sorry there are thousands of Glendale, Peoria, Phoenix, and Gila River residents who aren't cheering this casino, snuck in under the rug.

ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

@Reggievv The only reason Gila River tribal government (not the members of the Tribe - 98% of them don't give a shite) is against the West Valley Casino is because they have a contractual relationship with the management company of their Casinos to hold them harmless should there be any losses at the Casinos they manage.  I think it's Harrahs - bunch of friggin mobsters from Las Vegas! 

Best thing for Gila River is to breach their management contract with Harrrahs (or whatever) and go it on their own - they've got a bunch of brilliant young people that could manage their casinos and resorts on their own!

Gila River gave up solidarity with their Native Peoples in return for the greenbacks from the White invaders.  It will be a very long time before the Native Americans in this region trust each other again. 

There was no agreement not to have any more casinos in the Phoenix area - there was a wish on the part of the Tribes who got their compacts first but it was NOT part of the law which was passed, nor was it on any ballot or campaign materials. That is a lie.



ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

@Reggievv You must be a socialist who hates private enterprise.  You know what Reggievv, this is what it feels like when the Native Americans were CHEATED and had their land STOLEN - get over it.  You lost.  They won.  I'll see you at the Pool when my band gets paid to play there soon.

royalphoenix
royalphoenix

@Reggievv  this Peoria resident is happy it is going to be built. Glendale is broke, and franks doesn't care about anything except the price of oil as his record in congress proves. Good for the TO. peace

Reggievv
Reggievv

Word for word as TOs legal brief. I guess the Sioux in South Dakota can buy land anywhere in the Valley too, and put up a casino. No law against it. It's great for capitalism and solves all social problems, just like it did in Atlantic City.

ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

@Reggievv I worked in law firms who have dealings with the Gila River Indian Community and saw their management contracts with the Vegas boys - the conditions are onerous to say the least.  Protecting the financial interests of the Vegas Boys makes the management company's involvement no gamble at all - in fact they're guaranteed a handsome profit, whether Gila River makes money or not. 

Hopefully, TO will run their own Casino this time and cut out the crooks.  They have enough managerial experience and depth of capital to handle it now.  Screw Vegas!


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