CLARK COUNTY, Wash. (KOIN 6) — For the first time ever, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe is getting its own reservation, and they plan to build a casino and hotel on the site in Northwest Clark County.
“It’s a footprint, it’s a place to start,” Cowlitz Indian Tribe Chairman William B. Iyall told KOIN 6 News. “It’s a place to be, it’s our homeland. We’ve always been here, we know that, but the government affirmed that.”
Tribe Chairman Iyall said plans for the 134,000 sq-feet casino are moving at full speed now that he’s signed documents designating the reservation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“Our mantra now is to be shovel ready, and that means we’re going to try to turn the dirt and get this project underway,” Iyall said.
This week’s signing comes three months after a federal judge tossed out a lawsuit aimed at stopping the casino project. Among the plaintiffs was the City of Vancouver.
“It impacts our transportation infrastructure, it impacts our housing stock,” Vancouver Assistant City Attorney Brent Boger said.
Boger said they have appealed the dismissal, arguing the government’s Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 only applies to tribes under federal jurisdiction at that time. The Supreme Court upheld that in a 2009 case, and the Cowlitz Tribe wasn’t federally recognized until 15 years ago.
“There’s very little evidence that the federal government had any relationship with the Cowlitz Tribe in 1934,” Boger said.
But the judge who tossed out the lawsuit in December called the statute’s wording, “ambiguous” — which is why Iyall is sure the casino will be standing on the reservation sometime in the near future.
“Judge Rothstein was very succinct and very precise in her decision,” Iyall said. “We are very confident those appeals will be overturned.”