"Gambling is a vice industry built on deception and fed by the intentional exploitation of human weakness for the sole purpose of monetary gain."

                                                          -- Focus on the Family

Well said! For more, see Economic Impact, or our page on Problem Gamblers.

Sign our online petition at change.org! We will be presenting this to the BIA.

There was a shooting (and attempted robbery) at the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee recently (run by the Forest County band). This follows another shooting there three years ago.

This is not what we want for Shabbona.

Our initial BIA filings are now online, here and here, or see the "BIA submissions" menu item at left. The public will have additional chances to comment on the casino in the future.

One more smoking gun: The Prairie Band has told the County Board that their casino "would create 400 new jobs, with a $17 million annual payroll". But a 2003 study of the Prairie Band's Kansas casino states that in 2002, "937 employees received wages and benefits totaling $17.4 million". By proportion, that would put the Shabbona payroll+benefits under $9 million, adjusting for inflation, with take-home under $8 million.

BIA "scoping" hearing

The BIA "scoping" hearing was held January 26 at Kishwaukee college. If you missed that event, you can still comment on the casino proposal; here is the BIA form (you can also send a letter). You should mail your comments so they arrive at the address on the form by Feb 22, 2016. You may also send emailed comments to Scott.Doig AT bia.gov.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you're trying to decide what to say:

Casinos aren't Entertainment

A question came up at last Saturday's community meeting: how is a casino different from Wal*Mart? Both pay lower-wage salaries, and both take dollars out of the community.

The difference is that you go home from Wal*Mart with things that you've bought. You leave a casino with, much of the time, nothing.

You also leave the movies with nothing, though, and the casino industry has long tried to claim that they to offer "entertainment". But this is a myth; most people go to casinos because they hope to win (and they spend there a heck of a lot more than they would on movie tickets, too). Casinos do whatever they can to encourage this hope, but, ultimately, they give the lie to it: in the long run, the casino is the only winner.

DCTAC Informational Meeting Saturday January 23 at 3:00 pm

DCTAC will host an informational meeting on Saturday, January 23 at 3:00 pm at the Shabbona Lions Club (in the old train depot, next to the water tower). We'll explain the difference between the Prairie Band's 2007 application and their 2016 application, answer questions, and discuss the BIA's "scoping" hearing the following Tuesday.

Land Into Trust

Back in 2007, the Prairie Band tried to argue that their Shabbona land was still a reservation. This claim went nowhere with the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Now they're trying a different strategy: they are asking the Department of the Interior to take the land into trust for a casino. This time they don't need to prove the land is part of a reservation. Here's the relevant part of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act:

... gaming regulated by this chapter shall not be conducted on lands acquired by the Secretary in trust for the benefit of an Indian tribe after October 17, 1988, unless ...

(A) the Secretary, after consultation with the Indian tribe and appropriate State and local officials, including officials of other nearby Indian tribes, determines that a gaming establishment on newly acquired lands would be in the best interest of the Indian tribe and its members, and would not be detrimental to the surrounding community, but only if the Governor of the State in which the gaming activity is to be conducted concurs in the Secretary’s determination

So far, it looks like the DeKalb County Board has not been consulted, and they have only 30 days from the notice publication on January 8 to speak up. Call your County Board representative!

There is a lot of evidence that a casino here would indeed be detrimental to the community. Casinos market most heavily to patrons who live within a 35-minute drive. That's DeKalb County, pretty much, and maybe Mendota. We're the ones who will be footing the bill; see our Economic Impact article. The casino would also be detrimental to the adjacent Chief Shabbona Forest Preserve and Shabbona Lake State Park, bringing traffic, congestion, noise, litter, vandalism and runoff to those areas.

But there's also a twist: because the Prairie Band no longer needs to prove the land is part of a reservation, they are no longer tied to their Shabbona property. They could just as easily build their casino somewhere else, say, closer to Chicago. That would mean that their economic impact was spread over a much larger population. It would also leave the Shabbona natural areas undisturbed.

Public Hearing January 26, 2016

The BIA has announced a "scoping" hearing for public comment on the Prairie Band's proposal to have their Shabbona land taken into trust by the federal government for the purpose of building a casino. The hearing will be held at the Jenkins Auditorium at Kishwaukee College west of Malta, Tuesday January 26, starting at 6:30 pm. This is an important step, though not the final step, in the Tribe's effort to build a casino. The BIA site for the hearing is prairiebandeis.com; the hearing announcement is here (pdf).

To the best of our knowledge, the Prairie Band has not announced publicly whether they are pursuing an on-reservation land-into-trust acquisition or an off-reservation process, though apparently the BIA doesn't make a major distinction between these two approaches. DCTAC's official position is simply that there is no reservation -- no treaty-recognized title to the land in question. Community members may speak at the hearing regarding any casino-related issue, however; a few that have been raised by our supporters in the past include:

If any of these issues concern you, please attend on January 26! Comments may also be submitted in writing.

The 2015 proposal

The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation is back with a new strategy for building a casino.

On the one hand, the off-reservation process sidesteps the question of what happened in the 1850's. On the other hand, to open an off-reservation casino the PBPN will now need to demonstrate that their project will not harm the interests of the local community.

We, however, believe the local community will be harmed. Look at a map. Where will the customers come from? Our big neighbors to the east and west already have casinos. See our Economic Impact analysis, and our discussion of the impact on Problem Gamblers.

The 2007 reservation claim

A sign in Jimmy John's Sandwiches reads, "If you think you have a reservation ... you're in the wrong place." Our sentiments exactly.

The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation (PBPN) has purchased 128 acres outside of Shabbona, which is part of a 1280-acre allocation made for Chief Shab-eh-nay in 1829. The Nation has long claimed that this property still has status as a reservation. If that is true, the Nation would be able to open a Class-II casino on the property.

While we welcome our new neighbors, their reservation claim is far from clear. DCTAC firmly believes that no reservation exists. This question is currently before the National Indian Gaming Commission; everyone involved agrees that it is up to the federal government to answer it. DCTAC also believes, regardless of the reservation status, that all legal rules and regulations should be followed; we are committed to resisting claims that the Nation can rekindle its ancient sovereignty without due process.

In the 1829 Treaty of Prairie du Chien, the combined nations of Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi ceded to the United States much of northern Illinois, thus giving up their "aboriginal title" to the land. This treaty also provided that 1280 acres was "reserved, for the use of" Shab-eh-nay and his band. In the early nineteenth century, "reserved" simply meant "held back"; property that was "reserved" for a tribe or band was simply property that was being excluded from a larger area ceded to the United States. Such reserved property, soon referred to colloquially as a "reservation", represented a hole in a larger treaty-recognized "cession"; the land "reserved" for Shab-eh-nay was an exception from the large northern-Illinois cession.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the word "reservation" also came to denote parcels of land for which a tribe was awarded what is known (both then and now) as treaty-recognized title; that is, allocations for which tribal ownership was formally recognized by the United States. The word "reservation" can thus refer to land for which a tribe held treaty-recognized title, or to land for which a tribe held only the much weaker aboriginal (or Indian) title; the first usage is the most common.

And here is where the PBPN's reservation claim begins to break down. In order for the PBPN's rights still to exist after 160 years of abandonment (voluntary or not), it is essential that the tribe have treaty-recognized title. However, in 1833, United States Attorney General Roger Taney issued an opinion that reservations of Shab-eh-nay's type, above, representing holes in larger cessions,did not create treaty-recognized title. Tribes held only their aboriginal title to such "reserved" parcels, and that title does go away if abandoned. (Due to the confluence of two treaties of 1816 and 1825, Chief Shab-eh-nay did not even hold aboriginal title to his land.)

Neither the PBPN nor its historian, James McClurken, has presented any evidence that the critical treaty-recognized title was ever awarded or was intended to be awarded. And aside from the Taney opinion, there is additional compelling circumstantial evidence that the authorities of the era did not believe they were creating treaty-recognized title.

Taney's opinion was echoed by a succession of federal officials: TH Crawford in 1843, Wm Medill in 1848, Chas Mix in 1853 and 1854, and the House Committee on Indian Affairs in 1856. It was Medill's 1848 opinion that declared the Shab-eh-nay property abandoned, and thus that the aboriginal title was extinguished. The PBPN has worked hard to portray Medill as careless and ignorant, but in fact he was quite aware of Taney's opinion and its subsequent interpretations, and he had compelling documentary evidence of Shab-eh-nay's intent to abandon his parcel.

Shab-eh-nay left his DeKalb home in 1849. When he returned four years later, he discovered that his parcel had been declared abandoned and sold to settlers. However, the reason the land was declared abandoned was not the Chief's prolonged absence; it was because he had signed deeds before he left agreeing to sell the land to the Gates brothers. Medill interpreted these attempted sales as evidence of intent to abandon, and, under a widely understood legal principle, abandoned Indian lands without treaty-recognized title reverted to the United States. When Shab-eh-nay hired attorneys in 1854 to argue his case, he acknowledged selling the land and asked only for the sale proceeds due him.

The 1829 treaty allocated the land for "Shab-eh-nay and his band". Despite the inclusion of the band, some officials of the era appeared to treat the allocation as for Shab-eh-nay alone. His band left Illinois in 1837. Regardless of whether one chooses the individual or the communal interpretation, the land was abandoned and the right to use ended.

Particulars about the nature of title might seem unfair to Chief Shab-eh-nay, and in fact there is a general federal rule that treaties are to be interpreted "as the Indians understood them". However, this doesn't help the PBPN's case at all, as it is well documented that Shab-eh-nay himself understood that the land was being granted to him personally, and thus was not a reservation in either sense of the word.

Many of these facts come from the Lynch reports, available at left under "NIGC submissions"

DeKalb County Taxpayers Against the Casino, Shabbona, Illinois, 60550
Peter Dordal, President
Comments may be sent to dctac AT dctac.org