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BIA Puts Land Into Trust for Cowlitz Tribe

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The Bureau of Indian Affairs moved 152-acres of land into trust for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe to build a casino near La Center, Wash. The tribe celebrated the good news on Monday.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that for more than a decade the tribe had sought the land, but its opponents had barred its progress in court. In December, federal judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein ruled that the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 gave the government the authority to take land into trust for a reservation. Rothstein’s decision was appealed, but, Monday, Stanley Speaks, regional director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, signed the final agreement for the establishment of the tribe’s reservation, moving the decision into action, Casino Daily News said.

“It is very much a historic moment for the Cowlitz people, who have been waiting 160 years for the return of part of their homeland,” tribe Chairman Bill Iyall told The Longview Daily News on Monday. “We are no longer a landless tribe. … The Cowlitz reservation offers new opportunities in our aboriginal land and the community which the tribe will deliver from generations to come,” Iyall told The Columbian.

RELATED: Cowlitz Tribe Reclaims Land That Was Once Theirs

The opportunities on this newly returned land include the tribe’s plan to build a 134,000-square-foot casino, and a 250-room hotel and space for shopping and dining. The first phase of the project will produce at least 3,000 construction jobs, and the venue will add at least 1,500 jobs, Iyall said.

But some say that the tribe’s celebration might not last long. Brent Boger opposed the land deal, and told Oregon Public Broadcasting that he wasn’t surprised by the BIA’s act on Monday. Boger, Vancouver’s assistant city attorney, also said that the plaintiffs’ appeal could still change things.