A rendering of Catawba Resort & Casino (Facebook/”Bring Catawba Resort & Casino to NC”)
Federal approval for land to open a casino in North Carolina has finally come to the Catawba Indian Nation. The Tribe is based in South Carolina on the Catawba River at the border of North Carolina.
The U.S. Department of the Interior will put 16 acres near Interstate 85 in Kings Mountain in trust, opening the opportunity for the Nation to develop a casino resort. The Tribe plans to open a $273 million Vegas-style casino in Cleveland County, a mere 35 miles miles outside of Charlotte.
“It’s a righting of a wrong,” Catawba Chief William (“Bill”) Harris said during a news conference Friday. “We have now regained what once belonged to us.”
The Nation has pursued a casino in North Carolina since 2013, a process long delayed by legal setbacks and other Tribal opposition in spite of the Catawba’s federal recognition re-established in 1993. The DOI’s move to take land into trust empowers the Tribe to “achieve the promise of self-determination though economic development,” Harris said in a statement.
The Catawba’s asserted right to land in North Carolina has long been a point of contention for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), who argue the Catawbas should keep economic development on their side of the state border — in South Carolina.
The Eastern Band has vowed to fight the decision in court, according to The Charlotte Observer.
“The federal government has no right or authority to create a new reservation for the Catawba Nation across state lines, into Cherokee historical territory, just to build a casino,” EBCI Chief Richard Sneed said in a statement.
Harris has previously argued against claims that the Catawba have no history in North Carolina: “Catawba College, Catawba County, the Town of Catawba, and the Catawba River are but four examples of how North Carolinians commemorate the Catawba’s long, rich history in the state,” he has said. “The laws of the United States government clearly specify that the Catawba’s Federal Service Area is comprised of all of South Carolina and six counties in North Carolina, including Cleveland County. The Catawba Tribe is a part of and loves North Carolina, and North Carolina is a part of and loves our Tribe.”