Skip to main content

Wyandotte Nation Refused Injunction against Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals turned down an appeal
by the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma that could have allowed the tribe to
re-open a downtown Kansas City casino.

The Wyandotte Nation appealed the denial in U.S. District Court of motion
for a temporary restraining order. The court dismissed the appeal and
denied the motion for an injunction against the state. The court ruled it
did not have jurisdiction to review the temporary restraining order (TRO)

"The day in court will come, and we believe we will prevail, it is just
going to come a little later than all of us would have liked," said Chief
Bearskin of the Wyandotte Nation.

"We have faith that when this entire long, drawn out legal process is
finally completed, the Wyandotte Nation will prevail, and the spirits of
those who have gone before us will be please that justice was finally

The case will return to District Court and will likely be heard within a
month by U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson, who heard the first case.

The door was left open for the Wyandotte Nation. The court stated:
"Further, we cannot say that 'further interlocutory relief is unavailable'
here, nor is it clear that the hearing held by the district court within
two days of the case being transferred was a full adversary hearing."

Conley Schulte, attorney for the Wyandotte Tribe said Judge Robinson could
reach the same conclusion, but this time he added, the hearing would be a
more deliberative procedure, not a quick ruling from the bench like the
last ruling.

"We are undaunted. This is not a defeat. We would like to have had a
decision, it would have been faster, but we are no worse off.

"We anticipate a favorable ruling at the end of this, it will just take a
few more weeks or a month longer," Schulte said.

The state on the other hand is pleased with the Circuit Court's decision.
"We won in the district before. This is the third court that rejected the
tribe's motion for injunctive relief," said Whitney Watson, spokesperson
for the Kansas Attorney General's office.

"In addition, the NIGC in a ruling in March said that the land was not
Indian land for the purposes of gaming. We felt that at the time and
apparently two separate courts agree with our contentions," Watson said.

Schulte said a staff attorney wrote a memo saying the land didn't qualify
for gaming, it was simply a memo, written by an attorney, not the position
of the NIGC, but the Attorney General of Kansas seized upon that to assert
jurisdiction without grounds."

He argues that the land on which a Class II casino was operated within the
city of Kansas City by the tribe, is legal gaming trust land, because it
was part of the original reservation of the Wyandotte Tribe.

"There is no question, no one disputes the land is trust land. Once the
land is in trust IGRA provides that the state has no jurisdiction over
Class II gaming," Schulte said.

The state asserts that the land could not be used legally for gaming and
confiscated 153 gaming machines and filed charges against managers of the
casino based on state law, "which don't apply," Schulte said.

The casino employed more than 40 people, some non-tribal members and the
financial loss to the tribe could be in the hundreds of thousands of
dollars, Schulte said.

Watson contended that the Wyandottes were a wealthy tribe and that their
argument that the state's actions would create a hardship was not the case.

The Wyandotte Nation ancestral lands are where Kansas City is now located.
At one time the Wyandotte people helped create the city and it was
originally named Wyandotte. Then came the removal and the tribe was moved
to Oklahoma. The tribe continues to argue that the IGRA exception for land
put into trust after 1988 can still be used for gaming purposes; since it
was part of the Wyandotte original reservation or homeland.

"The land is in trust, the United States holds the land in trust, and there
is no getting around that fact. The police in Kansas City and the Kansas
Attorney General's office had no business in moving in with their guns
drawn on Indian land," Chief Bearskin said.

Watson said the state's contention is that it is not trust land.

"The state never claimed jurisdiction and the land has been held in trust
for eight years. At no time did the state claim jurisdiction," Schulte

The original filing by the Wyandotte Nation occurred in Washington, D.C.,
but the federal court transferred the case to Kansas. In the transfer order
the judge said the land was indisputable and that the state had no
jurisdiction, Schulte said.