The Prairie Flower Casino to Open in Carter Lake

Prairie Flower Casino

The Prairie Flower Casino to Open in Carter Lake

by Casino Ned | October 27, 2018 10:38 PM

United States | Nebraska | Iowa

CASINO UP NEWS — The Ponca Native American Tribe of Nebraska (PTN), is set to open its new Prairie Flower Casino in Carter Lake in just a matter of days. The tribe announced the opening of the land based casino on its sovereign land in a news release earlier this week. The states of Iowa and Nebraska have both brought charges against the federal officials who approved the project. Despite these developments, Prairie Flower Casino will open its doors on November 1 of next week.

The casino opens just one day after the anniversary of its official recognition as the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska in 1990.

Casino Details

The Prairie Flower Casino Phase I sits on 5 acres of land at Ninth Street and Avenue H. The building is situated approximately 3 miles north of downtown Omaha and comprises 9,500 square feet of gaming space. Phase I of the casino is fitted out with 200 Vegas-style slot machines, a full-service bar and a snack bar. No table games are offered for the time being. The casino is set to open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The casino intends to expand the casino at a later unknown date. No details on its intended expansion were not made known.

In Prairie Flower’s Memory

The casino is named in memory of a daughter of the 19th century Ponca chief, Chief Standing Bear. Prairie Flower died of consumption caused by tuberculosis during the tribe’s 1877 Trail of Tears. At the time, the federal government forced some hundreds of tribal members to leave their homelands near Niobrara, Nebraska, and move to the Indian Territory reservation in present-day Oklahoma. Unfortunately, Prairie Flower died along the route in Neligh along with several others. As a result, she’s now interred at Potters Field, Laurel Hill Cemetery, in Neligh.

The federal government approved this new casino and a ground breaking ceremony was held in June 2018. Consequently, the casino will also replace the Ponca Tribe’s smoke shop, presently located at the site in Carter Lake.

Social and Economic Impact

The new casino hopes to employ as much as 100 persons whereby tribal members will constitute 20% of all employed. Prairie Flower Casino hopes to contribute around $775,000 per year for police, fire and rescue, and community services to the city of Carter Lake.

Additionally, casino profits are to be directed towards programs and services for tribal citizens, job training, continuing education, land preservation and cultural arts. It will also contribute to the construction of a health clinic near Ralston, which was originally planned for the Carter Lake site.

Address: Prairie Flower Casino | 1031 Ave H | Carter Lake IA, 51510

Ponca Tribe Reacquires Sovereign Land

1881 – Knox County

Land in Knox County was returned to the Poncas in 1881, and the tribe split permanently between groups in Oklahoma and Nebraska.

1966 to 1990 – Ponca Nebraska Tribe Loses and Regains Recognition

In 1966, the federal government terminated the Nebraska tribe, then known as the Northern Poncas. The government officially restored recognition of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska on the last day of October in 1990.

1999 – Acquisition of Carter Lake

The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska purchased five acres of land in Carter Lake, Iowa in 1999. It was the first acquisition of a growing list of sovereign tribal territories. The land was subsequently placed into trust in 2002 for the stated purpose of building a health clinic.

In 2007 the tribe announced their intention to build a casino. Consequently, a ground breaking ceremony for the new casino was held in June 2018.

2018, Ralston – Acquisition of Plot of Land in Ralston

In February 2018, the tribe closed on a 60,000-square-foot property near Ralston, where it intends to build the new health care clinic, originally planned for Carter Lake. The new clinic will offer a suite of health services such as primary, dental and behavior health care, physical therapy, plus a pharmacy. Additionally, it will not only serve Native Americans, but the new health facility will also serve the general public.

2018, Neligh – Acquisition of Plot of Land in Neligh

Introduction to Neligh – Death Along the Ponca Trail of Tears

During the tribe’s march in 1877, a Ponca girl by the name of White Buffalo Girl died of pneumonia. She was the daughter of Black Elk and Moon Hawk and among those who perished along the trail. The Poncas had camped overnight in the mud near Neligh. The journey to Indian Territory, Oklahoma was plagued by muddy roads and floods caused by heavy spring rains. Black Elk had asked the townspeople to treat his daughter’s grave as if she were a child of their own.

Thereupon, the townspeople organized a Christian burial for White Buffalo Girl and a local minister presided over a graveside service that was translated into Ponca.

In 1913, the Neligh community erected a marble monument at the site and has cared for White Buffalo Girl’s grave ever since.

The Tanderups Transfer Ownership of Land to the Ponca Tribe

In June 2018, Art and Helen Tanderup, who farm north of Neligh, Nebraska, deeded a 1.6-acre plot to the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. The Tanderups made this decision to assist the Ponca in preventing TransCanada from charting its planned course through what it regards as sacred land. As such, Trans Canada will be forced to negotiate with the Tonca tribe, one that is opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Erection of a Statue of Standing Bear in Niobrara

A new, 11-foot, bronze statue of Chief Standing Bear was unveiled by Chairman Larry Wright, Jr. in August of this year. According to Wright, the statue “honors the tribe’s past, while having a bird’s-eye view of what lies ahead.”

Chief Standing Bear Statue
A 10-foot tall, bronze statue of Ponca Chief Standing Bear was erected October 15, 2017, along a plaza leading to the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln. In 1879, in the case Standing Bear v. Crook, held in Omaha, Nebraska, the US District Court established for the first time that Native Americans are “persons within the meaning of the law” of the United States. As a result of the ruling, Native Americans would also enjoy the rights of persons. This was an important civil rights case. Photo within our screenshot is by Kevin Abourezk

A Controversial History

Carter Lake is the only city located in Pottawattamie County, Iowa, west of the Missouri River.

‘Cut-Off Lake’ – A New Name for Carter Lake

Carter Lake was severed from Iowa when an 1877 flood caused the Missouri River to change. A previous meander in the river took a straight line course as a result of the storm and as a result, the city was left on the west side of the Missouri River. Suddenly located on Nebraska’s west side of the river, the area is now marked by a lake in the shape of an oxbow, a remnant of the old river course.

After the flood, Carter Lake gained the nickname of ‘Cut-Off Island’. From thereon, it became a place torn between the two states. The approximate two square miles of real estate then became the subject of legal battles for its ownership. Carter Lake was not supplied with sewage lines nor electrical connections to its detriment. Neither Council Bluffs (in Iowa), nor Omaha (in Nebraska), managed to serve the area properly.

Supreme Court Ruling

In 1892, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that Carter Lake belonged to Iowa. This came after extensive litigation between Iowa and Nebraska. Carter Lake was not considered subjected to the laws that regulated state boundaries at rivers which followed gradual changes in a river’s course. The change to Carter Lake was extreme and the river had avulsed its bend.

In 1930, Carter Lake was finally incorporated as a city in the state of Iowa. In 1972, the Supreme Court made yet another ruling on a boundary dispute between the two states. The new Prairie Flower Casino’s location in Carter Lake seemed just another lawsuit bound to happen.

Traffic Oddities

The Eppley Airfield, a Nebraska facility, is surrounded by Carter Lake city on its southern and western sides. As such, travelers going to the airfield experience a geographical oddity. Drivers must therefore travel through Carter Lake to reach the airport. This means that drivers must enter and leave Iowa into order to get back into Nebraska. This continues to cause some traffic confusion and Iowa remains with straightforward connection to Carter Lake.

Yet Another Lawsuit involving Carter Lake

Iowa filed the lawsuit on the basis that it would compete with casinos in Council Bluffs (Iowa). The state of Nebraska has joined the lawsuit as Nebraska’s own constitution bans casino gambling.

About the Ponca Tribe

The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska (PTN) does not have a reservation. However, the Ponca Restoration Act established a fifteen-county Service Delivery Area across Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. The tribe offers a broad range of health, social, educational and cultural services.

  1. Famous Chief: Chief Standing Bear (c. 1829 – 1908)
  2. Most Famous Judicial Matter: The US District Court established for the first time that Native Americans are “persons within the meaning of the law” of the United States, in the case matter, Standing Bear v. Crook (1879, Omaha, NE). The civil rights case was previously unprecedented and therefore of great historical importance.
  3. Tribe Membership: The tribe numbers more than 4,200 people, split between both Nebraska or Iowa
  4. Current Tribal Chairman: Larry Wright Jr.
  5. Current Tribal Spokesman: Jimmy Centers


  1. The Prairie Flower Casino
  2. Prairie Flower’s Grave
  3. Tribe hopes new trail will shine light on story of Ponca and Chief Standing Bear


Author: Casi Nedi

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