Despite filing a land-into-trust application with the federal government for a 16-acre plot of North Carolina land over four years ago, the Catawba Indian Nation has reportedly revealed that it is still waiting to hear if its petition has proved successful.
According to a report from the local Gaston Gazette newspaper, the tribe had its federal recognition restored in 1993 courtesy of the Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina Land Claims Settlement Act. This piece of legislation was supposed to grant the Catawba Indian Nation the right to establish a reservation of up to 4,200 acres along with access to a $32 million trust fund that could be used for the purposes of purchasing land.
However, the newspaper reported that the reservation has yet to materialize while the Catawba Indian Nation is hoping to use a portion of the $32 million to buy the plot in Cleveland County so that it can build a $600 million casino resort complete with a hotel, restaurant and retail offerings. The tribe is purportedly hoping that the 1.8 million sq ft facility it wants to construct off of Interstate 85 near the small city of Kings Mountain will moreover feature a spa and a performance stage and provide employment for up to 5,000 people.
But, the Gaston Gazette reported that all of this can only happen once the tribe’s pending land-into-trust application with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs has been signed off and that this is being delayed following last year’s controversial election of Donald Trump.
“When administration changes in Washington, DC, that causes delays at the federal level as there are many positions that need to be refilled,” Kerri Melton, Community Services Director for Cleveland County, reportedly told the newspaper. “We do not have any updates or recent information regarding this project.”
The Gaston Gazette cited Nedra Darling, Public Information Officer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as declaring that the land-into-trust petition from the Catawba Indian Nation was still being reviewed and that there was as yet no definitive timeline for when a decision may be announced.
“Land-into-trust applications undergo a careful analysis of the statutory requirements for taking land into trust,” Darling reportedly told the newspaper.
For its part, the Catawba Indian Nation reportedly explained that it looked at several locations in North Carolina sites in nearby Mecklenburg County and Gaston County before submitting its land-into-trust application for the plot in Cleveland County.
“Several places in Mecklenburg [County] were hard looked at,” Bill Harris, Chief for the Catawba Indian Nation reportedly told the newspaper. “There were a lot of strings attached to the Mecklenburg County area with a couple of the properties. The property that really caught the eye of everybody was that in Cleveland County. The proximity to Interstate 85 was a huge contributing factor.”