Shawnee tribe set to reclaim Indian Hill - Oklahoma tribe claims 1 million acres in Ohio
"The Shawnee tribe is ready to file a federal claim on 1 million acres in Ohio, Casey said, including the Symmes Purchase: Indian Hill, Montgomery, Loveland -- even downtown Cincinnati."
July 11, 2004
By Peter Bronson
[email protected] or 513-768-8301
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati, Ohio
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As they say in old Westerns, it's been "many moons" since anyone saw a Shawnee run on Shawnee Run. But they don't call the most valuable real estate in Southwest Ohio "Indian Hill" by coincidence.
It once belonged to Indians -- and the Shawnee tribe says it stills own it.
"The whole Symmes Purchase and Indian Hill are very interesting,'' said Terry Casey of Columbus, a consultant to the Shawnee tribe, which was "removed'' from Ohio to Oklahoma in 1830.
"We'd like to do something in Cincinnati.''
What he and the tribe have in mind is five to seven casinos.
Not the racetrack barns being considered by the state.
We're talking destination resorts, with water parks, golf courses, restaurants, shopping and plush hotels.
Vegas in Ohio.
The Shawnee tribe is ready to file a federal claim on 1 million acres in Ohio, Casey said, including the Symmes Purchase: Indian Hill, Montgomery, Loveland - even downtown Cincinnati.
John Cleves Symmes bought 330,000 acres for 67 cents [per acre] in 1794, with permission from President George Washington. But it was not legal, Casey said.
"We have three of the top lawyers on Indian land claims, who have won cases before the U.S. Supreme Court," he said. "They say the Shawnee claims are the best of the best."
A federal law in 1790 said only Congress could take land from the Indians, by ratified treaties.
That law has been used to reclaim Indian land in other states.
The Symmes Purchase was not a treaty and wasn't ratified.
The Shawnee tribe has been federally recognized since 1939, and already has plans for a $500 million casino in Botkins, 50 miles north of Dayton.
Indian gambling had revenues of more than $16 billion in 28 states last year.
The tribes have deep pockets to make their claim stick.
If they file it, "that can create real havoc for property owners,'' Casey said.
In Colorado, the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes filed claims in 30 counties and sent notices to title companies to block sales, mortgages and title insurance.
But that's not the plan here. The tribe just wants "political leverage'' to get Governor Bob Taft to cut a deal for Indian casinos, Casey said.
Ohio Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, hopes the state gets there first.
He says slots are inevitable now that Pennsylvania has approved 61,000 slots in 14 casinos.
"Every state on our borders permits it except Kentucky," he said.
Ohio is a jackpot waiting to be claimed. Argosy Casino in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, a half-hour west of downtown Cincinnati, had revenue of $411 million last year, up 10 percent. And the parking lot is usually crowded with Ohio license plates. Casey said Ohio loses $1.5 million a day to casinos in neighboring states.
Lawmakers want to keep that money in Ohio to fund college scholarships and early-education programs. So Seitz proposes 15,000 slot machines at seven racetracks: River Downs in Cincinnati, Lebanon, Toledo and two each in Columbus and Cleveland. He says it would raise $600 million a year.
Casey says the state's push for slots helps his cause, because anything allowed by Ohio is guaranteed to the tribes under federal law. But he scoffs at rundown 4-H pole barns stuffed with racetrack slots trying to compete with a Shawnee "MGM Grand'' off I-75, with Jay Leno and the Beach Boys on the marquee.
"Our carrot is 'Look what we can do -- economic development, jobs, tourism.'"
Or the stick: Indian Hill goes back to the Indians.