WICHITA | Attorney General Steve Six has asked the U.S. Department of Interior to reject an Oklahoma-based American Indian tribe's application to build a casino on 10.5 acres in suburban Wichita.
In a Sept. 13 letter to Larry Echo Hawk, assistant secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, Six said the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma was illegally trying to use a 1984 law that allowed it to buy land for gambling in Kansas City, Kan., to build the casino in Park City, The Wichita Eagle reported Tuesday. Kansas City and Park City are nearly 200 miles apart.
Congress passed the law after the tribe claimed it wasn't properly reimbursed for land the government took from it in Sandusky, Ohio, in 1843. It allowed the tribe to use $100,000 in settlement money to buy land that could be put into trust for a casino.
Six contends the tribe used all $100,000 to buy a building in downtown Kansas City for its casino there.
The tribe, however, says it used $25,000 of the $100,000 to buy land in Park City in 1992. It bought land in Kansas City in 1996.
The tribe claims that because it bought its Park City property with land-claim settlement money the Interior department must take the land into trust.
Billy Friend, the Wyandotte's second chief, said the tribe spent $153,000 for its Kansas City casino after the settlement money grew with investment.
The Wyandotte and the state fought in court over the Kansas City casino for more than a decade. This summer, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the tribe, saying the profit from investments made with the original $100,000 should be considered land-claim settlement money.
"Two decisions by the Secretary of the Interior concluded that was all land-claim settlement money, and even with the interest involved, we could use that," Friend said.
But Six cited Interior Department documents, administrative records and prior legal proceedings to claim the $100,000 was considered completely used when the tribe bought the Kansas City land.
"If the department accepts the Wyandotte Nation's reasoning, conceivably, it could continue to argue that each additional future purchase was made only with a 'portion' of the (1984 law's) funds, leaving a remainder that could be grown through interest and investment income, and allowing continued purchases of land the Secretary then would be required to take into trust," Six wrote.
Representatives in Six's and Parkinson's offices said the Interior Department has not replied to Six's letter.
The tribe's land-in-trust application for Park City remains pending in the department.