A Tribal Tussle
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux, a Minnesota tribe that runs the hugely successful Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake, knows how to cause a Washington ruckus. Four years ago, the tribe’s lobbying effort helped persuade the Interior Department to reject a rival Indian casino project in Hudson, Wis. For roughly a year, Independent Counsel Carol Elder Bruce has been investigating allegations that Interior Secretary Bruce E. Babbitt denied the casino license because the tribes opposing the proposal contributed $ 400,000 to Democrats in 1995-96.
This time around, however, members of the Shakopee tribe are fighting one another. Two members of the tribe—Winifred Freezor and Cecilia St. Pierre—say the Interior Department has allowed corruption among tribal leaders to go unchecked . Since 1992, the two allege, the tribal council has allowed more than 350 adoptions by Shakopee members. Each adoptee is a tribal member and is entitled to roughly $ 700,000 a year from the casino. Many of the adoptees, Freezor and St. Pierre contend, don’t meet the tribe’s constitutional requirement that its members be one-quarter Shakopee. (The federal appeals court in Minneapolis has ruled that the tribal council can set membership requirements.) The issue is ”greed, pure and simple,” Freezor said. The two have hired the Washington office of the Richmond, Va.-based law firm of McGuire, Woods, Battle & Boothe to press the issue with Interior and with the House Resources Committee. The duo ”don’t want to disparage their tribe, but they feel legitimate members of the tribe have lost all rights,” said Elizabeth T. Walker, a vice president with McGuire Woods’ federal public affairs group. Meanwhile, the Minneapolis Star Tribune has reported that a federal grand jury in the independent-counsel investigation has subpoenaed the tribe’s enrollment records.
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