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15.5.03

(Part 1: The Question)

Indians Lay Claim To Land In Forks [Township]

Two American Indian tribes with historic ties to the Lehigh Valley returned to Pennsylvania on Wednesday to lay claim to their ancestral lands in an effort to bring expanded gambling to the state.

Leaders of the Delaware Nation of Anadarko, Okla., and the Delaware Tribe of Bartlesville, Okla., have initially set their sights on a 315-acre parcel called Tatamy's Place in Forks Township in Northampton County that is now home to Binney & Smith Inc. and 25 private residences.

... ''Today we are gathered to announce that the Delawares intend to reclaim their land rights in Pennsylvania,'' said Bernard Kahrahrah, tribal planner for the 1,200-member Delaware Nation. ''From this day forward will insist that any discussion about the future of gaming in Pennsylvania must include Indian gaming.''


What's surprising about this claim is the brazenness of the economic motive. Land claims that I've seen generally frame themselves as first and foremost an issue of justice -- fixing past disposession. But the Delawares seem to be saying essentially that the only reason they care is that they want to build a casino. WHile that may be honest, it seems like an odd strategy to take. Gambling is one of the most divisive issues between Native Americans and their non-Native neighbors. And it seems likely to be even more divisive given that the Delawares have been living in Oklahoma for over a century, and thus this land claim comes as a total surprise to the current residents of the area.

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