The U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a hearing on May 1 regarding the Catawba Indian Nation’s application.
Richard Sneed, Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, stated, “Today’s hearing on Senate Bill 790, to give North Carolina land to the Catawba Indian Nation of South Carolina for an off-reservation casino, reaffirms our concerns about this bill. Congress has never authorized an off-reservation casino by legislation, for good reason. The bill circumvents the federal processes that give local stakeholders—the State Senate, the Governor, community members, and interested North and South Carolinians—a voice in whether to move forward with the casino. Rather than hear from interested parties, this bill silences those voices and replaces the process with backroom political dealing.
“The Department of the Interior—under both Obama and Trump administrations—rejected the Catawba Nation’s claims that the Department must take North Carolina lands into trust for the South Carolina Tribe. The proposed location of the casino off of I-85 in Cleveland County would encroach upon Cherokee aboriginal territory—territory ceded by the Cherokee by treaty, and territory recognized as Cherokee territory by the U.S. Indian Claims Commission. The Catawba have no valid aboriginal or historical claim to Cleveland County.
“We encourage Senators to reject Senate Bill 790—which is nothing more than a modern day land-grab by the federal government of Cherokee aboriginal lands. We hope that the Catawba Nation will instead pursue economic development in its home state of South Carolina.”
The Land-into-trust Application
The Catawba Indian Nation is the only federally recognized tribe in the state of South Carolina. The 2,800-member tribe wants to open a casino, but they wish to go across the border to North Carolina to do so.
“The Catawba Nation ancestral lands run throughout the Carolinas and well into Virginia, although the federal government now recognizes our service area as South Carolina and part of North Carolina,” Catawba Chief Bill Harris said in a recent statement.
Chief Harris related that the Tribe has filed an application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take 16 acres located in Cleveland County, North Carolina into trust for gaming purposes.
About the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
Located in Cherokee, North Carolina, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), once part of a much larger Cherokee Nation population that became divided when the Trail of Tears was mandated, is one of three federally-recognized Cherokee Tribes, including the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, which are located in Oklahoma. The Eastern Band is made up of those who remained and rebuilt within North Carolina’s Qualla Boundary (sometimes called the Cherokee Indian Reservation).
Currently, there are over 15,000 enrolled members of the EBCI located in Cherokee and throughout the state. Cherokee is a sovereign nation, and governed by an elected executive and legislative branch, and has its own judicial branch.
History of the EBCI North Carolina Land
Historic tribal territories were agreed to by both the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Catawba Indian Nation, designating aboriginal lands and boundaries for each tribe decades ago.
A proposed site for a new casino in North Carolina by the Catawba Indian Nation of South Carolina would encroach upon Cherokee aboriginal territory as defined by the Cherokee Treaty of 1777 and the 1884 Royce map that was adopted by the federal Indian Claims Commission.
The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs also recognizes this history-based treaty agreement and the boundaries set between the two tribes. The Catawba have no historical claim to the land in Cleveland County, North Carolina.