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Wyandotte Nation sues Interior in Park City land case

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, July 28, 2011, at 1:02 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, July 28, 2011, at 4:47 p.m.

WICHITA — The Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma has sued the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior for failing to take the tribe's land in Park City into trust for a casino.

The tribe filed the suit in the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals on Tuesday.

Its land-in-trust application has been pending in the department since January 2009. It requires approval by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who is named in the suit.

"We were left with no recourse but to take action against the department," said Billy Friend, chief of the tribe. "We felt like we were patient."

The suit argues that the department has no choice but to grant its application because the tribe purchased its Park City land with land-claim settlement funds from a 1984 law passed by Congress. The Wyandotte had claimed it never was properly reimbursed for land the government took from it in Sandusky, Ohio, in 1843.

The Interior Department recently has begun considering land-in-trust applications for off-reservation casinos from about 33 tribes, including the Wyandotte Nation. The Wyandotte's application is the only mandatory application on that list, Friend said.

"They have an obligation to take the land into trust and have failed in their responsibility," he said.

The government has 60 days to respond to the suit, Friend said.

A spokesperson for the Interior Department did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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