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10th Circuit Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of UKB of Cherokee

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Thursday determined land owned by the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Tahlequah, Oklahoma can be placed in federal trust. The ruling by a three-judge panel upheld a 2011 decision by the Bureau of Indian Affairs  (BIA) that granted the tribe authority over the use of a 76-acre tract.

The Cherokee Nation, also based in Tahlequah, sued to halt the BIA’s decision, maintaining the United Keetoowah Band’s land fell within their tribal lands. The Cherokee Nation is separate from the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians.

“It’s one of the happiest days of my life,” said former Chief John Hair. “I like what is going on.”

On Thursday, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians said it will use the land for governmental operations.

“It was overturned and removed an injunction for our land and trust of 76 acres,” said current UKB Chief Joe Bunch. “This is the springboard to go into economic development, and get federal program dollars we should have been acquiring,” Bunch said.

Tribal officials say getting the land-in-trust allows for an opportunity to improve so many parts of their lives, from healthcare, to grant money, education and more.

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