Judge lets Ohio re-enter land dispute with tribe


COLUMBUS - A federal judge yesterday allowed the state to re-enter a land-claim case seen as the first step in the Eastern Shawnee tribe's long-term plan to establish Indian gambling in Ohio.

The Oklahoma-based tribe has asked U.S. District Court Judge James Carr in Toledo to approve proposed land settlements with private property owners and local governments in Stark, Logan, Shelby, Butler, and Warren counties. Attorney General Jim Petro contends settlement approval could be construed as federal recognition of ancestral tribal rights to Ohio land.

Mr. Petro asked to be allowed to intervene even though the Eastern Shawnee had already dismissed the state as a defendant in the case

"The people of Ohio and the state of Ohio have a substantial interest in whether the purchased land will remain under state control, and thus subject to state law, and whether Ohio gambling regulations will be enforceable," Judge Carr wrote in approving Mr. Petro's motion.

If the court approves the settlements, it would leave the city of Lima as the sole defendant left in a suit that once named more than 60 defendants, claimed ownership of 93,000 acres in western Ohio, and claimed hunting, fishing, and gathering rights for 11,215 square miles in central and southern Ohio.