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NIGC, Meskwaki enter into mediation

MESKWAKI SETTLEMENT, Iowa - The two groups vying for control of the Sac and Fox of the Mississippi in Iowa (Meskwaki) tribal government are meeting with officials from the National Indian Gaming Commission for court-ordered mediation in an attempt to resolve the dispute that has led to closure of the tribe's casino.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John Jarvey, the federal judge appointed to mediate between parties, has issued a gag order in the case, barring tribal leaders and attorneys from both sides in the dispute from sharing information about the talks.

Jarvey was appointed on May 29 by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis to mediate a settlement between an ousted tribal council led by Alex Walker Jr., a recently-elected tribal council chaired by Homer Bear Jr., and federal gaming officials. Appeals court judges directed Jarvey to discuss all possible resolutions, including the possibility of appointing a third party to manage the casino until tribal leadership issues are resolved.

The court denied an injunction that could have reopened the Meskwaki Casino outside a mediated agreement, but retained jurisdiction over the case, and could hear verbal arguments in July.

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U.S. marshals closed the Meskwaki casino on May 23, enforcing an order from the National Indian Gaming Commission. The move put more than 1,000 people out of work, and has cost the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa an estimated $3 million a week in revenue.