BIA Director W. Patrick Ragsdale sent a letter to its Minneapolis office saying approval for the land trust was premature. In the letter, Ragsdale said it was his understanding that he would have an opportunity to review the decision before it was issued. He asked the regional office to express his apologies for the premature decision.
The regional office then sent a letter to the tribe, saying the regional office and the director extend apologies for any inconveniences or confusion this may have caused.
The voluminous record supports the decision taking the land into trust.Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux spokesman Willie Hardacker
The regional office directed MPR's calls to its main office in Washington. BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling says the July 7 approval was a mistake.
"The regional office somehow didn't make it through the circuit back to headquarters for Mr. Ragsdale to have the opportunity to review the package," said Darling. "At this point, he's asking for the opportunity to fulfill his end of the process by requesting a withdrawal so he can review it."
Willie Hardacker, a spokesman for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, said the tribe was surprised by the BIA's action but confident it will prevail.
"The voluminous record supports the decision taking the land into trust, and we believe the decision will be the decision that ultimately is issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs," Hardacker said.
The land at issue is 753 acres in the southwestern Minneapolis suburbs of Shakopee and Prior Lake. Scott County officials oppose the land trust, because they say they'd lose nearly $3 million a year in property tax revenues.
Scott County Administrator David Unmacht says last Friday's initial announcement caught county officials off guard, because they were to meet with authorities in Washington next Wednesday.
"So we were naturally surprised by the regional office's decision," Unmacht said. "And in our communication to confirm our meeting with the officials in Washington, and our conversations that have ensued, the result is that this letter was issued July 14."
July 14 was the date of BIA Director Ragsdale's letter rescinding the approval.
An expert on American Indian Law says the BIA's change does not forecast its final decision on the case. Nevertheless, University of Arizona Law Professor Kevin Gover says the tribe has a right to complain. "This is an unfortunate circumstance, where they've been told one thing and then it all changes for them," Gover said. "On the other hand, I don't think it tells us anything about the final outcome is going to be. The fact that it's now on the director's desk, and the director is directly involved, means there's going to be a decision soon."
BIA Director Ragsdale said in his letter that his office will issue a final decision after he's had an opportunity to review the case record.