Recent congressional subcommittee hearings on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, chaired by Alaska Rep. Don Young, addressed the issue of the proposed casino being located in Medford by the Coquille Indians of North Bend.
The proposal is on its face a far stretch of the original purpose and intent of allowing Native Americans to create an economic benefit by opening casinos on their ancestral or tribal lands. The Coquilles are instead stretching that intent by trying to build a casino within their extended service area.
I am a member of the Chickasaw tribe located in Oklahoma. They presently have a number of gaming and destination facilities located on tribal lands that stretch from Oklahoma City to the Texas border. It's important to note that those facilities are all located on tribal lands.
I understand the benefits that can be derived from these facilities to tribal members and their families. I also believe I have a good understanding of what is a complex and varied legal issue from state to state and also from tribe to tribe, which is administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
To create a trust land designation — or for a better understanding, a sovereign nation status within the city of Medford for the purposes of a gambling casino — is in this instance, wrong in many ways.
The social and public safety impacts of a facility of this nature within this metropolitan area will only overburden and create additional negative effects and impacts to local small business, the school fund, county tax revenues and city tax revenues.
Oregon voters said "no" to measures 82 and 83, which were efforts to expand gaming in Oregon. Our governor has said "no" to this new effort by the Coquilles. Our local legislative members said "no." The Jackson County commissioners said "no." The Medford City Council said "no." Now Congress may be looking at the whole issue of Indian gaming nationwide, brought on by the actions of the Coquilles.
This is a misguided, presumptive and shallow attempt to confuse the facts and the truth about ancestral lands and a twisting of the intent of providing a service area for tribal members. It will create a cascading effect for the possibility of similar attempts statewide.
Sen. Diane Feinstein, D. Calif., coined the phrase "reservation shopping" for a bill she proposed in the last session to limit casino expansion on non tribal lands. The Coquilles say they find that phrase insulting. If the truth hurts, then so be it!
I am against gaming expansion in Southern Oregon.
Dennis C.W. Smith is a former Jackson County sheriff and county commissioner.