Creek Nation vetoes resolution opposing casino

By Susan Hylton
Okmulgee, Oklahoma (AP) April 2012

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Chief George Tiger has vetoed a National Council resolution opposing the Kialegee Tribal Town’s construction and operation of a gaming facility in Broken Arrow.

Tiger said he vetoed the resolution because he had asked a council committee to postpone the vote for 30 days so that he could meet with Kialegee and other tribal town officials.

“I felt like we gave our word to the Kialegee and other tribal members too, and that we should honor it,” Tiger said.

The Creek Nation was originally a confederacy of tribal towns in Georgia and Alabama. The Kialegee Tribal Town gained federal recognition as its own tribe in 1941, but its 439 members are still considered part of the Creek Nation.

The Creek Nation’s two other tribal towns are the Alabama-Quassarte and the Thlopthlocco, which operate gaming facilities in Wetumka and Okemah, respectively.

The National Council passed the resolution opposing the Kialegee casino in a split 9-4-1 vote on March 8, eight days short of Tiger’s requested postponement.

Speaker Sam Alexander said some members of the council felt pressed to go ahead and vote on the resolution due to pressure from U.S. Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla., and a vocal neighborhood group that has fiercely fought the casino.

“Sometimes there seems to be a sense of urgency, but we can’t control the time frame of the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the National Indian Gaming Commission,” Tiger said. “As far as I’m concerned, the ball is in their court, and as a nation we can voice our opinion in terms of our opposition to it, but still yet, a decision is going to be made outside the realm of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.”

Alexander said the National Council will consider a veto override. A veto override would require a two-thirds majority, or 12 votes from the 17-member body.

“According to our constitution, the chief has a right to exercise his objection with a veto. We look forward to resolving it at the next council meeting,” Alexander said, noting that he will vote for the override.

The resolution asserts that the Kialegee Tribal Town does not have jurisdiction on the restricted Creek allotment owned by Marcella Giles and her sister Wynema Capps. Several modular buildings have already arrived on the plot and are being assembled in preparation for a summer opening of the casino.

The resolution also states that the Kialegee Tribal Town lacks a gaming license through the Muscogee (Creek) Nation gaming commissioner and noted that a district court has ruled that governmental powers cannot be transferred through a lease agreement.

Tiger said he takes no position on the resolution and referred to his comments at a January news conference when he said the land should not be used for a casino by any other tribe without the Creek Nation’s consent.

He did not rule out the possibility that the casino project eventually could gain approval from the Creek Nation.

“The only position we have is we are going back to our traditional cultural belief that if we sit across the table from each other that issues can be worked out. It’s not only this particular issue but others, as well,” Tiger said.

The new chief said he has had three meetings so far with leaders of the tribal towns. “It’s the first time in the history of the nation that we’ve been able to do that,” he said.