Federal ruling hands authority over land to Keetoowah tribe

DENVER (AP) — A federal appeals court has determined that land owned by the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma can be placed in federal trust, giving the tribe authority over use of the 76-acre tract.

A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled Thursday that a 2011 federal Bureau of Indian Affairs decision to place the land near Tahlequah in trust was legal. The Cherokee Nation had sued to overturn the bureau’s decision, saying it fell within their tribal lands.

The trust designation means the Keetoowahs could place a casino there. Keetoowah attorney Klint Cowan says the tribe has no such plan and will use the land for tribal government operations.

Cherokee Nation spokeswoman Julie Hubbard says the tribe’s legal staff is reviewing the ruling.

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