The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma is working to move property it owns just east of Little Rock into federal trust. Moving the land into federal trust would essentially turn the property into federal land held by the U.S. government in trust for the Quapaw Tribe.
There are provisions in federal law that might make it possible for the Quapaw to open gambling establishments on the property once it is moved into federal trust. Moreover, once the land goes into federal trust, the State of Arkansas, Pulaski County, and the City of Little Rock all lose most of their ability to tax or manage the property; how the property is developed or used becomes a matter that rests largely between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Quapaw Tribe.
Recently it was announced the Little Rock Port Authority–which is adjacent to the Quapaw Tribe’s property–is considering signing a memo of understanding with the tribe that, among other things, might effectively prevent the tribe from developing a casino on the property. However if the land is moved into federal trust, that memo arguably will not have any force of law.
If the land were going to remain in the Quapaw Tribe’s possession, the memo might be binding. However, if the land is moved into federal trust, the property will become federal property; arguably, no agreement between two private parties–in this case the Quapaw Tribe and the Little Rock Port Authority–can impact what happens on a property once that property becomes the federal government’s.
If you would like to call the Little Rock Port Authority to express your thoughts regarding this proposed memo of understanding with the Quapaw Tribe, their telephone number is (501) 490-1468.