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Ho-chunks Say Casino Plan An Incursion
BLACK RIVER FALLS – Ho-Chunk Nation leaders have renewed their strong, long-standing objections to off-reservation casino plans in Beloit by two northern Wisconsin tribes—the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians and the St. Croix Chippewa Indians.
The Ho-Chunk objections came in response to approval of the plan by the Midwest regional office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which was granted despite the fact that the two tribal governments have no legitimate historical or cultural ties to the land in Beloit.
“The Ho-Chunk Nation has been consistent in our support for the requirement that tribal gaming should only be conducted in areas in which an Indian tribe has a specific historical or cultural connection,” said Ho-Chunk President George Lewis.
“In this case, the only one with any connection to the land in Beloit is
a non-tribal developer who’s hoping to hit the jackpot. But the St. Croix and the Bad River Band have no legitimate historical territorial claim in Beloit”, Lewis says.
Indian tribes have historically battled over land issues, but in recent years tribal governments have come together in broad agreement to respect the rights and territorial boundaries of other tribes.
Beloit and the surrounding area have long been recognized as part of the Ho-Chunk Nation’s aboriginal territory. By contrast, the reservations of the Bad River Band and the St. Croix are located several hundred miles away in Northern Wisconsin.
Off-reservation gaming has been a hot-button issue both at the state and national level in recent months and years, with only three off-reservation casinos having won final approval by the BIA.
Ho-Chunk Nation leaders warned that by granting final approval for an off-reservation casino to two tribes that have no historical connection to the community, the BIA would set a dangerous precedent that would open the door to a dramatic expansion of gaming both statewide and nationally.
Ho-Chunk Nation leaders pledged to meet with state and federal officials and work to ensure that their aboriginal territory is respected and that their rights are preserved.
“The Ho-Chunk Nation will do everything in its power to protect the rights of our 6,663 tribal members, as well as our 3,065 employees,” Lewis concluded. ”Our ancestors were repeatedly forced to defend our territory from incursions by outside tribes. Today, we are facing an incursion of a different sort; and we will defend our aboriginal lands.”