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Tribes claim land; want casinos

Jan 20, 2004 6:29 AM

Those who are old enough to remember the "cowboy and Indian" movies of their youth will recall how the white settlers pushed the Native Americans westward until finally forcing them to live on designated reservations.

Time has passed since then but current tribal leaders are now focusing on their heritage and are demanding that the courts recognize their claims to land "forcefully" taken from decades ago.

The attraction today is the possibility of opening a casino, since Indian gaming establishments have been so successful in the last decade. How about a land swap and a casino compact for their claims to millions of acres in areas that at times encompass major cities?

Most recent land-swap offer was made in Pennsylvania where an Oklahoma-based Indian tribe has claimed 315 acres of land in the northeastern part of that sate. The Delaware Nation of Anadarko, Okla., has laid claim to a parcel of land now occupied by a Crayola crayon factory and many private homes.

In New York, the Onandaga Nation filed a federal suit regarding its claim to thousands of acres, a claim that they would drop if granted a casino license. Gov. George Pataki has been reluctant to accept the offer.

And in Colorado, the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma say they own 27 million acres of land that covers the entire northeast section of the state. The more than 42,000 square miles of land involves Pikes Peak, a secret military post key to the nation’s security and the state’s densely populated Front Range, including metropolitan Denver, home to more than two million people.

Once again, the tribes will give it all up for a casino license and the opportunity to purchase about 500 acres of land to establish a reservation and build the gaming property.