There have been growing resentments within some of the smaller Indian tribes with how Washington is treating them. The most recent fight involves the Comanche tribe’s legal battle with how Indian casino applications are being handled in Oklahoma.
What is the fight that started it all?
There was a 2017 Interior Department decision that was made in 2017 to go around the Comanche. The department approved a rival casino project in Terral, Oklahoma without consulting the tribe at all. The project was approved only miles from the ancestral lands of the Comanche, near the Red River.
The rival casino project belonged to the Chickasaw Nation, one of the Five Civilized Tribes that are considered more powerful and more politically connected. The other four tribes that fall within the powerful include the Cherokee, Chocktaw, Creek, and Seminole.
The construction for the Chickasaw casino was already started before the Interior Department actually published the required public notice. This meant that the Comanche didn’t have much time to seek relief.
The biggest concern is that the Five Civilized Tribes in the east are slowly expanding into the west, into the areas that have always belonged to other tribes. With the westward expansion being blessed by the Interior, it’s causing Chickasaw and other tribes to have to fight. It’s threatening their tribal income and their more modest gambling operations.
The Comanche Don’t Fight Alone
The Comanche aren’t the only ones upset by what the Interior Department is allowing the Five Civilized Tribes to get away with. The Apache and other Plains tribes are fighting the battle with them.
The Comanche’s petition to be heard in the Supreme Court also included a footnote that discussed another Indian law case that is pending, which is also rooted in the state of Oklahoma.
The Refusal by the Supreme Court
Being denied a writ of certiorari or petition for review is a long shot for everyone, so it’s not anything personal against the Comanche, although they see it that way. They wanted a chance to air their grievances at a higher level, though that will not be happening.
Every year, the Supreme Court has to deny petitions due to the number of competing interests as well as their workload. No explanation was given for the denial, which isn’t uncommon, either.
Richard Grellner, the lead attorney for the Comanche, has stated that the Nation is disappointed. They’re holding out hope that the second Indian law case comes out favorably for them so that their claims can be given some new life in the lower courts.
What Denial Could Really Mean
The Comanche have a right to be upset. They believe that both the Chickasaw Nation and the Interior Department have breached their obligations to consult with the Comanche based on a number of applicable regulations and federal statutes with respect to the building of the Terral casino.
The Chickasaw nation has always been a southeastern territory tribe. Traditionally, the Chickasaw resided along the Tennessee River as well as west of Huntsville, Alabama, parts of southwest Kentucky, and parts of Mississippi. When European settlers came over, they began to migrate to Oklahoma, where most of them now live.
The Choctaw is another member that also claims Oklahoma as home, with the capital of their Nation being located in Tuskahoma. With Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Comanche all claiming parts of Oklahoma, it’s easy to see where problems can arise.
Further, two of the three are part of the Five, with the one who isn’t finding themselves on the outskirts – and being pushed out of the equation entirely.
The Department of the Interior is responsible for honoring the responsibilities of the United States to tribal nations and advocating for their rights. With the lines being blurred as to who owns what land, it can become a problem if it’s not dealt with appropriately.
It’s only a matter of time before one of the Five decides to build another casino in the vicinity of the Comanche again. If they’re not consulted, it could end up as a war in between the tribes – which isn’t going to be good for anyone.
With the Supreme Court choosing not to hear the dispute and settle it once and for all, it’s going to mean that the Comanche are feeling slighted.
Now, we can only sit back and wait for the other Indian case to be heard to see if it gives the Nation any more power in order to settle future disputes in the lower courts.