The Alabama-Coushatta tribe never received the $270.6 million that a federal court ordered paid to them because they want something more permanent. This settlement was to compensate the tribe for the illegal forestation and oil and gas removal from their ancestral lands.
Now, the Austin American Statesman is reporting that the Texas Native American tribe is willing to give up their rights to 5.5 million acres. Land the tribe has been fighting to reclaim for years.
Giving Away Their Heritage
Why? For the right to own and operate a casino in the Livingston, Texas area, the 1,170 member tribe will literally walk away from their own heritage. A lawyer for the Alabama-Choushatta tribe, Andy Taylor explained that the tribe was looking to their future. The rights to a casino would help to ensure that the tribe had a viable hope for eventually obtaining financial independence.
“What the tribe is willing to give away is huge,” said Mr. Taylor. “We’re willing to forgive the past and walk away from our rights in order to have some economic independence in the future.”
Not the Tribe’s First Casino
Texas has two other recognized Native American tribes, the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, and the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe. Currently only the Kickapoo tribe is operating a licensed casino in Texas, the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino. Both the Ysleta and the Alabama Chousatta tribes previously operated casinos, until a new law was passed in 2002, closing their doors.
With millions of dollars owed to them, the Alabama-Chousatta tribe wants to use that as leverage in return for full ownership and the revenue that comes with it.
What the tribe will give up, has many in Texas legislature wondering if it is worth it. U.S. rep. Steve Stockman proposed a bill that if passes, will take away the tribes rights to the 5.5 million acres of tribal land. The state of Texas also wants the tribe to discontinue a lawsuit that was filed demanding monetary payment for any natural resources that have been taken from the Davy Crockett and Sam Houston National Forests, and Big Thicket Reserve.
What the Tribe has to Say
Ronnie Thomas, a tribal council member told the Statesman, says that the entire tribe is in favor of giving up their ancestral rights for the opportunity to own and operate their own casino. Freedom comes at a high price these days and only time will tell if this will give the tribe the financial independence they are looking for or if they should have just taken the courts money.
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