By Joshua Armstrong
Supporters and opponents of a proposed casino in Glendale accused each other of subverting the system Tuesday as they clashed on a bill that would prevent the Tohono O'odham Nation from building the project.
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, told a House Indian and Alaska Native Affairs subcommittee that his bill is the only way to protect a compact among Arizona's tribes to limit casino development in metro Phoenix. He said his bill would prevent extensive "reservation shopping" by tribes creating reservation land within cities.
"If the compact totally dissolves, chaos will result," Franks testified. "There will be reservation shopping all over the state."
But Tohono O'odham Chairman Ned Norris Jr. said the bill "sets a dangerous precedent for all tribes" because it changes a tribal-federal agreement without the tribe's consent.
It would be "another black mark in the United States' history of broken promises with Native Americans," he said.
Franks' bill would ban most types of gambling in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties on "replacement lands" acquired by the Tohono O'odham Nation after a federal dam flooded thousands of acres of the tribe's lands. That 1986 agreement between the tribe and the federal government was known as the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act.
Franks said the act should be amended to comply with a compact signed by all 17 Arizona tribes about 10 years ago that limits the number of casinos in metro Phoenix to seven -- the current figure.
In 2003, the Tohono O'odham bought 135 acres of replacement land in Glendale as part of the Gila Bend settlement. It asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to put 54 acres of that land into trust and allow gaming there.