Chafee: Don’t free tribal land from state law

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee opposes a bill in the U.S. Senate that could make it easier for the Narragansett Indian tribe to build a casino on land it owns in Charlestown.

Chafee announced his position Friday.

Narragansett Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas says his tribe wants the right to govern its own land. He says the tribe intends to build housing, not a casino.

The bill would allow federal authorities to place land in trust for tribes like the Narragansetts that were federally recognized after the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. Trust status largely exempts tribal land from state and local control.

A 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision limited the federal government’s ability to place land in trust for tribes not recognized at the time of the Act.

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