Proposed West Valley Casino Is Pitting Valley Indian Tribes Against One Another

Jiivik Siiki sits inside the Wild Horse Pass Resort just outside Chandler. His black hair parted into two long braids that rest on his back, he wears a small silver hoop in each ear.

Siiki is a member of the Gila River Indian Community who values tribal traditions over the structure imposed by the U.S. government that all tribes adopted in the early 1900s. He's troubled by the ongoing battle his community is waging against the Tohono O'odham Nation over a West Valley casino the Nation wants to build.

His maternal grandmother was Tohono O'odham. He explains in his soothing voice that his community's approach is not the traditional path.


Gila River Indian Community Governor Gregory Mendoza condemns the cover illustration accompanying this story. See his letter here.

"It makes it uncomfortable at a time when we're trying to strengthen our bonds," he says. "This isn't us. This isn't our way of behaving."

He shudders at the implication of greed associated with his community because of its leaders' political position.

Gila River officials have maintained an exhaustive and costly campaign to frustrate the Tohono O'odham proposal for a state-of-the-art casino west of Phoenix, near 95th and Northern avenues.

On October 30, they posted a plea on a community Facebook page urging residents to support a measure in Congress that would prevent the sister tribe from building the West Valley Resort, just outside Peoria and Glendale's city limits.

"The Tohono O'odham Nation's proposed Glendale casino will encroach on [our] aboriginal lands and put at risk every Tribe's exclusive right to operate casinos in Arizona," the Facebook post read. "That's why our Community needs HR 1410 — and why we need your help."

The bill, sponsored by Arizona Congressman Trent Franks, was approved by federal lawmakers in the House of Representatives but has stalled in the Senate. The narrowly crafted proposal would prevent any new casinos in the Valley until current gaming agreements expire in 2027. A similar law adopted in Arizona in 2011 was overturned after a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled it unconstitutional.

Jiivik Siiki and others posted comments after the Facebook post, critical of Gila River's leadership. The issues of greed and waste of financial resources were brought up repeatedly.

"Is there an HR bill that reminds us that we are relatives?" Siiki posted.


Despite four years of vehement opposition, primarily driven by the city of Glendale, the Gila River Indian Community, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the Tohono O'odham Nation has prevailed over and over in state and federal courts, in the halls of Congress, and, arguably, in the court of public opinion.

This sobering reality has softened some critics.

Glendale approved a city resolution opposing the casino in April 2009, just a few months after the Nation announced a plan for it. More than four years and four new council members later, elected officials reached a consensus in October to open lines of communication with Tohono O'odham leaders.

And some Glendale officials report that informal talks could quickly turn into formal negotiations.

The city's new approach hasn't caused all opposition to wane. Leaders of the opposing tribes and state officials — including Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne — continue to fight the casino.

Pressing for support of Franks' bill, they accuse the Nation of breaking a promise to voters that there would be no new casinos in the Phoenix area and of threatening to invalidate the state's gaming compact approved in 2002.

Mayors of Scottsdale, Tempe, Gilbert, Litchfield Park, and Glendale parroted talking points about such alleged broken promises in a September opinion piece in the Arizona Republic.

In it, they warned that an explosion of new casinos "anywhere in the Phoenix metropolitan area that [the Nation] chooses" would result if its casino project prevails.

The rhetoric is contrary to a federal judge's ruling in June that no promise banning new casinos in the Valley is included in the 25-year agreement that regulates nearly every facet of gaming, including the number of casinos allocated to each tribe, the number and type of machines permitted inside casinos, and the location of future casinos.

On January 11, during an informational meeting at the Gila River's Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort, Indian Community Governor Gregory Mendoza kept the propaganda attack going.

He told those in attendance that it "pains" him that this dispute continues with the Nation, according to a January 17 story in a tribal newsletter:

"The Tohono O'odham people, they're our hajuñ, our family. And I believe a lot of us here are [part] Tohono O'odham. I am . . . but this dispute is not with the Tohono O'odham people. Our objection [is] to a reckless course of action that is contrary to a promise the Tohono O'odham Nation . . . made to each other and to the voters of the state of Arizona."

The article in the Gila River Indian News fails to mention what U.S. District Judge David Campbell wrote in his June ruling: That "no reasonable reading of the Compact could lead a person to conclude that it prohibited new casinos in the Phoenix area."

Campbell wrote that a matter of such importance — the location of future casinos — wouldn't naturally be omitted from the gaming agreement.

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20 comments
jeanjb
jeanjb

i miss gov mary thomas

kevinklein801
kevinklein801

Isn't it ironic that as the government entities arguments against this project get struck down time after time in court; that they are now falling back on a argument that basically says, "the tribe is breaking its promise"?  Seems broken promises sting both ways.

ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

The Gila River Indian Community is contractually required to indemnify their Casino Management Company and defend it's profit guarantee they granted it in their contracts.  They HAVE to pursue the Tohono O'odohm to not open that casino in Glendale.  If they didn't they'd have to pay all sorts of premiums to whatever slimeball casino management company they have out in Gila River.


devilsbeatwildcats
devilsbeatwildcats

This is just a delay tactic by the COG, Gila Monsters & Salty's for the Super Bowl revenue. All three tribes are decent descendants of the Hohokam's who were the original settlers in south central Arizona. Both tribes do not need casino revenue to spoil there people with free utilities, housing, etc... They can cash it in by leasing their land for development to European Americans.

FRONTERA
FRONTERA

    Shout out to Santa R0sa >>> "bouncin' on twenty fo's" ....."sippin' on coke and rum , i'm like so what I'm drunk" - R KELLY IGNITION...

FRONTERA
FRONTERA

If I were GILA RIVER , I would try to work out some sort of  deal with TO NATION ...TO has the law ,the money .the lawyers and patience to win...

mrwally373
mrwally373

I think the real reason the casino has not at this point been approved,...is the Gila People who operate in the west valley, they don't want the competition...they opened another hotel on their properties, and with a casino opening in Glendale would take ALOT of the casino customers away.

TaxpayingVoter
TaxpayingVoter

The people who spend REAL money consistently in casinos tend to change it up and move from one to another in a single night.


There is room for another casino up there and the community would benefit.


This whole situation really makes the Gila River community look bad and it saddens me.

serpico1000
serpico1000

Is this another card playing deal from the major government players? for the entire picture here is that since the local governments can not fight then turn the table on these tribal players?? 

Laura Antonuccio
Laura Antonuccio

Are you kidding me with this photo? A red faced slot machine wearing a headdress, covered in arrows, tomahawks and a teepee? No one should have to tell you how offensive this is.

davewk2002
davewk2002

I have worked on  the reservations involved  and have worked at an elementary school near the stadium in Glendale.  This dispute is about greed.  I believe that the casino would be a positive source of jobs for the west valley and would benefit the Tohono O'odham. I had the privilege to attend a Thanksgiving lunch at a school on the Salt River Reservation a few years ago when a tribal leader offered a prayer before the meal.  I was humbled by the words he spoke and it was clear that he held deeper respect for this land and for Arizona than the rest of us whose families might have been here only 100 years.  


To the tribe:  Look to your traditions to settle your dispute. Learn to share; you will all benefit.  There is plenty.  Do not be too quick to adopt attorneys to settle disputes among yourselves.  Use attorneys for disputes with others.  Be very careful of the White men that you are dealing with here.  They have their own interests at heart.


To those in Glendale who are offended by the casino:  Get over it!  These people are more honest in their dealings with others than you are.  Until your families have lived in this valley for 500 or more years you should be considered their guests.  These people were here before the Spanish and lived here long before this was part of Mexico or the United States.  Stop this nonsense; you should be ashamed of your actions.  There is much you could learn from the Tohono O'odham that would enrich your lives if you spend time with these people. 

Pakrat4ever
Pakrat4ever

What the other tribes are saying is the same things the Republicans are saying: We got ours screw the rest of your indians friends.  Once opposing tribes start pumping money into the politicians campaigns and the cities coffers that are opposed to letting the Tohono O'odham open their casino, it's pretty plain, the other tribes don't want their Brothers to reap the rewards of having a casino of their own.  It basically called Greed.  Yes, the O'odham casino will take a bite out of the other casino's profits. I see buses loading up in Sun City heading for the long trip to the other casino's.  But I feel the Tohono O'odham tribes should still have the right that the other tribes have to make a profit and help their people.  What's fair to one tribe, should be fair for all.  Yes, the Indians are still at war with their Brothers and now it's all about the Almighty Dollar, and Yes, they've dropped their bows, arrows and lances; and now the lawyers and politicians are reaping their rewards by fighting for the money; I'll bet they hope the situation goes on forever. I support the Tohono O'odham tribe in their quest for equal Casino representation.

pat029
pat029

This is just a issue that should be done by the indians and not by this rag this a newspaper thats just  yellow news paper every thing the sheriff  found was all correct . and just because you fond a cropt judge and had the board of supervisor that you paid off  you got off but leave the Indians alone and Frank Trent is as bad as flake and just as money hungry  just leave them alone.

jpnightrain
jpnightrain

What?!? The TOs broke their promise to the white eye to not build a casino in the Phoenix area?  I'm shocked, shocked, I say, since the WEs would never break a promise to them. LOL

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

It would be interesting to know just what is Trent Franks' angle in the ongoing controversy about a new casino in Glendale. It is very hard to imagine that he is concerned with the well-being of area residents, much less the plight of the T.O. Nation. Is his involvement all about paybacks from the Gila River Indian Community? That wouldn't surprise me at all.

donnied1
donnied1

Get off the booze and drugs, and try hard to focus! Orherwise, shut the fuck up. You embarrass yourself...

marcy
marcy

@eric.nelson745  

Trent's angle is $$$$ as in the thousands of dollars poured into his campaign coffers by the Gila River community.


Trent likes to talk about free enterprise but when push comes to shove, he'll go with the money every time.

logicman
logicman

@eric.nelson745  a congressman worried about the well-being of area residents?!?!?  HAHAHAHHAHHHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

 
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