2022 was a big year for the Siletz Casino Project. In January 2022, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) held a virtual public hearing on the Environmental Assessment for the Project and received written public comments through April 2022. The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians’ Section 20 Application outlines the chronic social and economic challenges of the Tribe and how the Siletz Casino Project can help address these challenges. The application is now under review by the Department of the Interior.
To best illustrate some of these challenges, it’s important to understand the history of the Siletz Tribe and the impact of adverse federal Indian policies applied to the Tribe and its members. For context, here is a short historical recap:
- The federal government unilaterally removed two-thirds of the original Siletz Reservation by Executive Order in 1865 and statute in 1875. That reservation land was taken without tribal consent or just compensation. In 1954, the federal government enacted the Western Oregon Indians Termination Act, which ended the federal relationship with the Siletz Tribe and its status as a federally recognized Indian Tribe. As a result, the Tribe was stripped of its remaining 25,000 acres of tribal land. Termination devastated the Siletz tribal membership and many families moved away from the Coast Reservation area.
- In 1977, the Siletz Tribe was restored to federally recognized status. However, as part of restoration, Oregon officials demanded that the Siletz Tribe severely limit its treaty hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering rights.
- In the last two years, Oregon officials, including former Governor Kate Brown and the current Director of ODFW, Curt Melcher, acknowledged that the State’s position during the late 1970s to limit the Tribe’s treaty hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering rights was unconscionable. Jointly, the two state parties have been working with the Tribe to rightfully restore the rights for the Siletz Tribe and its members.
Gaming in Oregon
The Oregon Legislature created the Joint Committee on Gambling Regulations to review casino and lottery regulations in Oregon. As part of their work, the committee reviewed and heard public testimony on a number of gaming-related issues including what some refer to as the “One Tribe, One Casino Policy.”
The committee co-chairs, Senator Sarah Gelser Blouin and Representative John Lively noted they could find no evidence that any “One Tribe, One Casino Policy” by the State of Oregon has been formally adopted or exists in any written form.
The co-chairs further acknowledge that among tribal communities, gambling revenue is a critical part of the economy.
For years, Oregon’s state-run lottery has rapidly expanded while tribal gaming has not. This has resulted in a decline of the Tribes’ overall share of gaming revenue in Oregon. The Siletz Casino Project creates an unprecedented revenue-sharing agreement with state and local governments, as well as every participating Tribe. In fact, 50 percent of net revenue from the casino will be shared with Oregon’s eight other federally recognized Tribes.
Approving the Siletz Casino Project is a necessary step to restoring the balance between state-run and tribal gaming.
So, how can you support the project?
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