Indiana Pokagons Awaiting BIA Action

Two years ago the Bureau of Indian Affairs told the Pokagon Band of Indians the agency would issue a draft environmental impact statement on 164 acres the tribe owns in South Bend, Indiana. The Pokagons wants the land taken into federal trust so it can build a casino, housing and tribal village for its 600 members.

The Pokagon Band of Indians is awaiting the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ approval of its application to take into trust 164 acres owned by the tribe in the south side of South Bend, Indiana. The tribe wants to build a

casino, plus housing and a tribal village for the 600 Pokagons who live in northern Indiana. Tribal officials said the group travels to Michigan for healthcare, educational opportunities and tribal events, and would like to establish a home in Indiana.

The BIA held a public hearing on the issue in September 2012. At the time, Commissioner Dave Thomas said, “The economic impact would be a major and permanent boost to our local economy.” Several gambling opponents also spoke out. BIA officials said it would take two years before an environmental impact statement would be issued. Those two years have passed and tribal members are expecting the report soon. In a statement, Pokagon Band spokeswoman Paige Risser said, “In 2012 the Pokagon Band requested that land in the South Bend area be taken into trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The BIA is preparing a draft environmental impact statement outlining the potential impact that our proposed use of the trust land will have on the environment. The BIA is expected to hold a hearing in the future during which it will solicit public comment on the initial findings of its draft environmental impact study.”

City of South Bend spokeswoman Kara Kelly said, “The Pokagon Band filed a land-into-trust application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2012 concerning tribal homelands within city limits, and has kept the city updated on that process. The Bureau is expected to announce a public hearing regarding the environmental impacts of the application later this spring. The city is interested in learning more about the land’s potential for development.”

In November 2014, St. Joseph County and the Pokagon Band signed a 10-year law enforcement agreement.