MIAMI, Okla. - The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma has filed a to reclaim 2.6 acres in Illinois it claims it never gave up in an 1805 treaty.
The suit, naming 15 individual landowners, was filed June 2 in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, Ill.
Dave Urbaneck, spokesman for Illinois Gov. George Ryan, explained that the lawsuit is against individuals rather than the state because Illinois was not a state at the time of the 1805 treaty.
"The basis of their lawsuit is an 1805 treaty that was ratified before the state of Illinois was in existence," Urbaneck said. "We have looked at this lawsuit, but we don't believe it has merit."
A news release the tribe sent to the Bloomington Pantagraph stated that the suit is the result of the refusal of state officials to negotiate a just resolution to the tribe's claim.
In its suit, the tribe claims it gave up almost all of its Midwest land for $600 in a treaty in 1805, but did not give up land along the Wabash River. That land encompasses parts of more than 15 counties with an estimated value of $30 billion.
The Miami hope to operate a casino in Illinois, but state officials say Illinois is under no obligation to give the tribe land for a casino. The state of Illinois does not want to expand gambling beyond the riverboat casinos now in operation.
"All 10 of the licenses that are created in the state's riverboat gaming act have been awarded. At the time those licenses were being awarded, we heard nothing from the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma or any other tribe concerning their desire for a riverboat casino," Urbaneck said.
Miami Chief Floyd Leonard said it is his hope, "since the state of Illinois allows gaming, a possible solution to our land claim could be negotiated."