Competition and land rights disputes surround the Catawba Indian Nation of South Carolina’s proposal for a casino and gaming facility in Cleveland County, N.C.
After attempts to legalize gambling in South Carolina failed, the Catawba applied for property in Cleveland County, N.C., in 2018. U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham introduced Senate Bill 790 on March 14 to authorize the Catawba to take the property into trust for a casino. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which operates two casinos in Western North Carolina, objected to the bill.
“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,” Principal Chief Richard Sneed of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians said in a statement.
The Catawba argue that they do have rights to land in North Carolina and that they have been prevented from exercising this right due to unclear language in a 1993 land claim settlement.
“The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is simply trying to protect their own economic interests based on inaccurate historical information,” the Catawba said in a statement. “It is sad that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is trying to enforce a state border on another tribe when, like us, they were here long before state borders existed.”
The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs is reviewing the proposal for regulatory compliance. If approved, the application will go to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior for a final decision. — By Eric Halvarson