Prairie Island leaders say anti-casino literature ‘racist’

The Pioneer Press reports today that people in the Lake Elmo – Lakeland Township area are upset that the Prairie Island tribal community will build a casino on land its purchased at Manning Avenue and I-94.

Residents packed a meeting last week after a leaflet was distributed that charged the Prairie Island Indian Community would built a casino at the site. No casino has been proposed for the property, however.

Where would they get such an idea? The Pioneer Press.

The Tribe owns the Treasure Island Casino near the Prairie Island nuclear plant but purchased the land as an alternative, given the possibility the land along the Mississippi River, which floods occasionally, would be uninhabitable. The nuclear plant stores an increasing amount of spent nuclear fuel on the property, despite ongoing plans that it would someday be moved to a still-unapproved national site for nuclear waste.

“We must prepare for the likelihood that nuclear waste will never leave our ancestral homeland,” Shelley Buck, tribal council president, said in the release last summer announcing the land purchase.

Buck told MPR’s Tom Weber in June that the tribal leaders want to move homes to the site from Prairie Island.

Native American leaders called the leaflet “racist,” the Pioneer Press reports. At the meeting on Thursday, they refused to sign a pledge saying they’d never build a casino on the site, for which the tribe has applied for federal trust land status.

In a July article, the Pioneer Press stoked the fears that a casino would be built on the east metro location.

The announcement has led to increased speculation that a casino might eventually be built on the high-visibility site. The federal trust designation could lead to Indian-built businesses unaffected by local zoning and tax laws.

Township supervisor Dave Schultz said the township board recently discussed the future of the site. “We asked ourselves: How do we move forward?” he said.

When asked about the possibility of a casino, tribal spokeswoman Stacey Rammer wrote in an email: “The Tribe does not have immediate or definitive plans for development. Future intentions are to continue providing for community needs.” Other tribal leaders, she said, were not available for comment.

Schultz said that if the tribe wanted to build a casino, the first step of acquiring federal trust status could take as long as two years. After that, he said, state and federal officials would have to approve any gaming license — which could take years more.

The leaflet claimed there are already plans for a development that could include a casino.

“It’s really too bad. It kind of embarrassed me,” West Lakeland Township supervisor Dan Kyllo told the paper. “I was telling (tribal leaders) what a warm and welcoming community we are. I apologized to them about this.”