In 2010, the Cowlitz Indians, a landless tribe in the Pacific Northwest, celebrated a long-fought victory after finally persuading the federal government to take 152 acres in Washington state into trust as the tribe’s reservation.
The Cowlitz had grand plans for their land: a gambling resort with 3,000 slots and Las Vegas-style table games, a hotel and RV park, restaurants, and retail stores.
But two years later the project is on hold, frozen by federal lawsuits challenging the government’s right to take land into the trust for the tribe. Tribal gambling can take place only on sovereign Indian land, and until the lawsuits are resolved the tribe is technically still landless.
The travails of the Cowlitz are resonating across the country, all the way to Taunton, where another landless tribe, the Mashpee Wampanoag, was last week celebrating its own incremental victory in an effort to build a resort casino.
The fates of the tribes may be related: The Mashpee Wampanoag are following the Cowlitz blueprint for getting trust land.
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