Attorney speaks out for Red Clay Casino developers

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. - For the first time developers of the controversial casino under construction in Broken Arrow are speaking out.

The dispute still centers on just who has jurisdiction over the land at 111th and South 129th East Avenue.

The land is owned by two sisters who are Muscogee (Creek) and inherited the land.  They recently leased it to casino developers in a multi-million dollar, seven-year deal.

The casino is being built by the Kialegee tribe, a tribe that originated from the Creek Confederacy.

The Red Clay Casino is slated to open in Broken Arrow in just two months -- despite the protest of thousands of residents and dozens of lawmakers.

On Wednesday, Dennis Whittlesey, a nationally-recognized expert in Indian law and attorney for the developers, shared their side of the story.

"I think a lot of the concern is fear of the unknown," Whittlesey said.

Whittlesey says the Kialegee tribe shares jurisdiction over the land with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation-- despite the Creek Nation's opposition to the plans.

"The law, as it applies to the lands of the Creek Confederacy, is that, and the treaties have guaranteed, that each of the tribal towns, each of the tribes if you will, has jurisdiction over all of the land, concurrently with others, so there is a shared jurisdiction," Whittlesey said.

He says the Kialegee tribe does not need the Muscogee (Creek) Nation's approval to build the casino.

"The jurisdiction can be impacted, but that would take an act of Congress. Because the jurisdiction is guaranteed by treaties and federal law," Whittlesey said.

According to federal law, an Indian tribe must have jurisdiction over the land it wishes to build a casino on.

Whittlesey says the tribe has filed appropriate paperwork.  Records show the tribe received approval for a tribal gaming compact with the state. That compact has been listed on the Federal Register since July of last year.

"There's no approval that's required. The only license that's required for this project is a tribal gaming facility license," Whittlesey said.

Jared Cawley is the co-founder of Broken Arrow Residents Against Neighborhood Gaming. He is also a formal tribal attorney. Cawley says the argument doesn't hold up to federal law.

"I believe they've kind of argued out of both sides of their mouth on this one. At one point saying, they're part of the Creek Confederacy, and we share jurisdiction, but we are our own tribe, because we're not part of the Creek Confederacy," Cawley said.

He says a tribe cannot decide by itself that it shares jurisdiction with another tribe.

"In order for them to game on those lands, they have to have jurisdiction over those lands. They can't establish jurisdiction," Cawley said.

Right now the casino plans are under federal review by the National Indian Gaming Commission. 

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