PRESS RELEASE: Indigenous Peoples Caucus Opposes Bill Tying Gaming Compacts to Tribal Water Claims
Updated: Mar 5
PHOENIX, State Capitol - Members of the Arizona Indigenous Peoples Caucus today expressed the group's opposition to a bill that would prevent tribes from negotiating and renewing their gaming compacts if they are currently involved in water-rights litigation with the state. Introduced by Rep. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, House Bill 2447 would leverage tribal gaming rights over tribal water rights.
IPC Chairwoman Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson:
"Our indigenous nations have had inherent water rights since time immemorial, and Indian gaming was approved by the citizens of Arizona and allows the tribes to negotiate the gaming compact directly with the Governor. This bill is a direct assault on that compact and our tribal sovereignty. We will work hard with our tribal members and our legislative colleagues to defeat this proposal."
Rep. Arlando Teller, D-Chinle:
"This bill is a direct assault on tribal sovereignty. Tribal gaming rights and tribal water rights are not an either-or consideration. Achieving economic self-determination through gaming should not be held hostage until tribes surrender our traditional water rights. Tribal gaming, tribal water leasing agreements and all the enterprises they support provide a tremendous benefit to our state. This bill should be withdrawn to help build and preserve all the mutually beneficial relationships that it has now put at risk."
Sen. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson:
"Gaming compacts and water rights must be treated as the separate issues that they are, not used as leverage. All negotiations must be made in good faith while recognizing and honoring the sovereignty of Arizona's tribes. We must never return to the tactics of oppression and broken treaties."
Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Cameron:
"This bill is a blatant attack on Arizona's tribes. The fact is our state is ill-prepared to handle to water crisis, and instead of addressing it with real solutions like conservation and efficiency, Republicans want to threaten Arizona's tribes. Our water rights disputes should not be conflated with either the water crisis or the gaming compact. To do so only make these situations worse. Tribes should consider this an existential threat to their existence."