Miami Tribe hopes new brochure will win public support in Illinois

Thursday, April 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) _ With its lawsuit against 15 landowners in eastern Illinois counties still unresolved, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma is taking its case to the court of public opinion with a glossy new brochure.

The brochure recounts the Miami Tribe's history and reiterates its claim that the 2.6 million acres sought in the lawsuit was never relinquished in an 1805 treaty. The tribe contends that it never surrendered land in the Wabash River watershed in east-central Illinois that now includes some of the state's richest corn and soybean fields and the University of Illinois.

In addition to offering the tribe's version of the case, the brochure may serve as a step toward a settlement of the lawsuit.

In a summary of the brochure obtained by The (Bloomington) Pantagraph, the tribe says it ``wishes to come to terms with the people of Illinois so that once again the heritage they share can be celebrated.''

Although Miami officials have said that a casino isn't a key to any settlement, the brochure appears to reflect new interest in a gaming facility.

``A resort development in the claim area could create jobs, cultural attractions, tourism and new tax revenue from gaming in an area that does not now have a riverboat casino,'' the summary says.

The brochure will be distributed to members of the Illinois General Assembly later this month, but some lawmakers are already dismissing it as little more than a public relations move.

``As far as I'm concerned, I would respectfully listen, but it changes absolutely nothing,'' said state Sen. Judy Myers, R-Danville, whose efforts to help fight the tribe's lawsuit include moving legislation through the Senate that will set up a legal-defense fund for landowners.

State Rep. Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa, who also represents portions of the area being targeted by the tribe, said the brochure is unlikely to change his mind about the lawsuit.

``If they believe they have a legal case, they should pursue all legal remedies,'' Rutherford said. ``Obviously, I will take a look at it, but it doesn't deter my belief that the landowners need to be removed from any fault in this. The court case should be dealt with between the United States and the Miami Indians, not the landowners.''