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Gun Lake blasts false reporting on anti-Indian group document

BRADLEY, Mich. - The Gun Lake Tribe has blasted a Michigan newspaper for publishing a story that falsely claimed a town government board had passed a resolution opposing a gaming compact between the tribe and state.

As it turned out, the resolution was written by the head of an anti-Indian casino group that sued the Interior Department in 2005 to block its decision to take into trust the tribe's 146-acre property in Bradley, where it plans to build a casino and entertainment facility.

The incident is the latest clash between Gun Lake and Michigan Gambling Opposition (MichGO), one of the dozens of anti-Indian organizations to have sprung up in the past several years.

Gun Lake - the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians - issued a statement Feb. 8 criticizing the Grand Rapids Press for inaccurate reporting the same day that the Byron Township Board in southern Kent County - a county away from the tribe's Bradley land - had ''approved a resolution opposing a state gaming compact with the tribe.'' The story attributed the statement to Byron Township Supervisor Audrey Nevins, but according to the tribe, Nevins said, ''No action was taken. A Grand Rapids Press reporter was at the meeting and would have known that the resolution was not passed.''

Todd Boorsma, the head of MichGO, said that his group drafted the resolution and faxed it to the Byron Township Board in early January.

''We put the resolution together about the negative effects of gaming to the area based on other casinos that have gone through, then we submitted it to the township board, but it didn't pass. We never brought it to the meeting and the reason we didn't go to the meeting is because we wanted more time to present this to the board members. It was too short of a time. It was never even brought up at the meeting,'' Boorsma said.

Boorsma said he did not send the resolution to any newspapers, but the Grand Rapids Press reporter got a copy of it and wrote the story without calling him.

''You know how these reporters are. They like to have documents,'' Boorsma said.

Asked why MichGO would write a resolution for a local government board, Boorsma offered a tit-for-tat explanation.

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''The tribe has been doing the same thing. They've been doing it at all the townships. They've been going in and trying to get them to pass resolutions of support for the tribe, so we went in to the Byron Township and asked them to pass this resolution,'' Boorsma said.

Gun Lake tribal spokesman James Nye said the tribe has not written any resolutions for local governments, but noted that several local governments have come forward to support the tribe.

''There's been several units of government in the local area that have passed resolutions of support for the casino project and we have a number of local units that have signed on to the amicus brief in support the tribe's position on the MichGO lawsuit,'' Nye said.

Supporters of the tribe include the Wayland City Council, Allegan City Council and the Wayland Township Board as well as a number of business and chambers of commerce forming the Western Michigan Economic Alliance. The tribe is also championed by local residents, who formed a group called Friends of Gun Lake Indians and set up a Web site - www.fogli.org - to voice their support.

MichGO claims that casino gaming is ''a threat to the American Dream.''

''Our mission is to prevent the social decay proven to be associated with casino gambling. These include: increases in substance abuse, addiction, domestic violence, bankruptcy, crime and government corruption. America was founded on God, Family and a strong work ethic,'' according to the group's Web site.

But Jason Palmer, Gun Lake's director of development, questioned the work ethic that allowed Boorsma to fax the resolution to the township board from his job at Millbrook Tack and Trailer.

''It's shocking that Todd Boorsma has a job that allows him to oppose our sovereign rights to conduct tribal government gaming to fund essential tribal services all on the company dime,'' Palmer said.

Interior was originally set to take the land into trust Jan. 5, clearing the way for Gun Lake to begin construction. But in November 2006, the Justice Department said in a court filing that the government will delay the land-into-trust action until March 5 at the earliest.

Nye said the new deadline will ''provide the judge with more time to consider making a ruling on the merits of the case, so we see this as significant progress toward the tribe obtaining trust land for the construction of its casino.''