The UKB Battles On


The United Keetoowah Band’s casino in Tahlequah, Okla., sits empty and displays a message of thanks on its roadside sign. The casino was closed on Aug. 30 after UKB officials failed to get the casino’s land into trust status as required by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX


On September 10th, the UKB’s legal fight for putting its Casino land into trust continued in the Northern District of Oklahoma court. Putting their Casino land into trust means they can reopen it. As a reminder of this court case, it is the UKB vs. the Cherokee Nation vs. the Department of Interior with the State of Oklahoma stalking out their own position. (see front page sidebar for prior story, “The UKB Casino Battle”)

From the Tahlequah Daily Press article it appears this particular court session was for rebuttal arguments, but the key players repeated the same positions. The Cherokee Nation argued that the decision to allow the UKB Casino would be a disastrous blow to its sovereignty. They also said CNE would suffer irreparable harm if the UKB Casino were to reopen.

The Department of the Interior defended their decision to grant the UKB trust land status and cited several other cases of shared jurisdiction within Oklahoma. Their counsel said, “Here, the parcel provides the UKB’s sole source of revenue and allows it to maintain its independence and self-sufficiency. The agency action at issue serves the long-recognized policy of ‘further Indian self-government.’”

The Cherokee Nation’s lawyers called the land-in-trust decision “arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law,” maintaining that the UKB land is under Cherokee Nation jurisdiction.

It seems both sides are arguing two opposite positions of what it means to “further Indian self-government.”

The judge will take the rebuttals into consideration and render a decision at some unknown time, in what some think could be many months.

Negotiations between the UKB and the Cherokee Nation administration broke down last year with bitter statements directed at the Cherokee Nation’s Chief from the UKB Chief. The fight has been in court since.

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