Gila River Indian Community Criticizes Tohono O'Odham

On February 27th, 2009, the Gila River Indian Community is publicly opposing its sister tribe’s planned casino facility near Glendale. Last week, the Gila River Tribal Council directed its lawyer to make a resolution of opposition that would be adopted by the tribe. Tribal spokesperson Alia Maisonet state that Gila River supports state agreements, known as gaming compacts, which would permit gaming on reservation land. Maisonet said that they do not support off-reservation gaming.

The Gila River Indian Tribe manages three casino facilities in the Valley, including one in the southwest Valley. The Tohono O’odham Nation owns 134 acres at 91st and Northern avenues near Glendale’s sports and entertainment area. The tribe applied in January to have the federal government take the 134 acres of land into trust, making a reservation land and easing the way for a proposed six hundred room resort and casino by the Tohono O’odham tribe.

Maisonet said that the land usually goes into trust and the Bureau of Indian Affairs makes the decision, so technically it is still not reservation. Tohono O’Odham officials have stated that they are focused on getting past the first hurdle, getting the location recognized as a reservation land.

Tohono O’Odham Chairman Ned Norris Jr. has rebuffed criticisms that the proposed casino facility would affect the state gambling compact. Norris and other tribal officials believe that they have the right to place the land under federal trust as part of a federal settlement for Indian reservation land that was destroyed years ago. No casino facilities currently exists in the Northwest Valley area. One of the closest casino facility is the Vee Quiva, which the Gila River Indian Community manages in Laveen.