The Pechanga Tribe is one of the most notorious of the gambling casino tribes when it comes to the treatment of their own people. They have disenrolled hundreds of tribal members, targeting dissenters who had the audacity to question the leadership. On Saturday February 2, 2008 at the Pechanga Casino in Temecula people will gather to protest this self-styled dictatorial regime and its policies - and its plans to add thousands of slot machines. From Original Pechanga's Blog:
"No Rights, No Compact!"
Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 10 am
Pechanga Resort & Casino
Pechanga tribal officials have signed a compact with the State of California that would authorize the largest expansion of casino gambling in U.S. history. Yet Pechanga tribal officials have tried continuously to keep California voters from exercising their Constitutional right to participate in the referendum process. First, they tried to block voters from signing petitions. This failed as nearly 3 million signatures were gathered to put the deals on the ballot. Next, Pechanga filed a lawsuit to keep the Prop 94 from going to the voters- this also failed.
Why are Pechanga officials so eager to deny California voters their right to decide this issue when it was California voters who approved gaming on Indian lands in the first place? Could it be that the Pechanga officials know that its "sweetheart deals" may not hold up to voter scrutiny?
No Rights, No Compact!
It should come as no surprise that a tribe that has denied its own members basic rights guaranteed by tribal laws and the Constitution would work so hard and spend so much money to deny other Californians their rights as well. Should you really expect Pechanga officials to value and respect the rights of others when they have not done the same for their own citizens?
Due process and equal protection of the law are hard to come by at Pechanga. Throw in blatant disregard for the Constitution and lack of protection of basic rights, and you will begin to understand why nearly 300 Pechanga members have been stripped of their citizenship- and many hundreds more denied membership- since California voters approved tribal gaming and Pechanga became one of the wealthiest tribes in the State.
Please join us on February 2nd to protest the rights violations committed by Pechanga tribal officials, and please vote No on Prop 94.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
The Pechanga Tribe is one of the most notorious of the gambling casino tribes when it comes to the treatment of their own people. They have disenrolled hundreds of tribal members, targeting dissenters who had the audacity to question the leadership. On Saturday February 2, 2008 at the Pechanga Casino in Temecula people will gather to protest this self-styled dictatorial regime and its policies - and its plans to add thousands of slot machines. From Original Pechanga's Blog:
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Pete Wilson is a gentleman, when he calls the tribes' advertising 'misleading'. The ads are downright falsehoods and lies - but when you are a tribe with a casino you can say anything you want and you have enough money to get your deceitful words out there. If your lies become evident who is going to take you to task? No one will because you can hide behind sovereignty.
Former governor opposes Indian casino gambling
Former California Gov. Pete Wilson reasserted his opposition to Indian casino gambling during a speech in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday, and he predicted the state won't receive significant new revenue as a result of the four gaming propositions on the ballot next Tuesday.
Wilson's stance puts him at odds with a fellow Republican, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has endorsed Propositions 94-97.
"I don't think it will lead to increased revenues for the state," said Wilson, in response to a question from an audience member at the luncheon on the campus of California Lutheran University. He was speaking only a few hours before the Republican presidential candidates were scheduled to debate nearby at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.
Schwarzenegger and other supporters of the four initiatives say they will give a measurable boost to state revenue by increasing the number of slot machines allowed at four Indian reservations in Southern California.
Wilson, who was governor from 1991 to 1999, described the advertising campaign in favor of the initiatives as "misleading" and the promise of more money for the state as "hypothetical."
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
This just in from Chumashland in Santa Barbara County. Mr. Sammy Cohen, counsel for the Chumash Casino (and Vincent Armenta's sockpuppet) was supposed to appear in court today on charges of domestic violence. Basically, as we reported in December, he was beating his wife in front of the Chumash Casino and was arrested. Mr. Cohen FAILED TO APPEAR, and a bench warrant has been issued for his arrest. Stay tuned...
Previously on TribalWatch:
Searching the web for information on 94, 95, 96 & 97 one finds a plethora of editorials covering the issues. What becomes blatantly clear is how shallow the claims are on the "vote yes" side. If it was such a good deal why is it necessary to spend so many millions to convince voters it is what the tribes are claiming? If it was the win-win deal they are touting there would be no argument. It is no longer about tribes living in poverty, it is about unfettered expansion of the worlds largest casinos, might as well leave the word "Indian" out of it. Indeed, many tribes have been taken over by people who have little or no Indian heritage, and have ousted the real tribal descendants.
Editorial: It's simple: No on 94, 95, 96, 97
Article Launched: 01/28/2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Deciding how to vote on the four Indian casino measures on the Feb. 5 ballot is a lot like choosing the best hog in a wallow.
The common characteristic of the three main players in this debate is greed, and the thin self-righteous arguments each offers just leave us shaking our head. Does anyone really believe the hooey they're offering up?
On the one hand are the four tribes themselves, which each operate a casino with 2,000 slot machines and many other devices for separating gamblers from their cash. The four tribes are quite small numerically, and have already advanced beyond the legitimate "lifting themselves up from poverty" pitch Californians agreed to when they first approved Indian gambling.
The four tribes have grown from desert slums to shimmering moneymaking palaces. They spend as much on manipulating state government through campaign contributions and other means as is spent on the welfare of their members. And that political spending is largely exempt from most state and federal regulation as the tribes are sovereign states.
Then there's the state, which eagerly accepted the compacts with the four tribes as a way to increase revenue to its overdrawn general fund. At the time the compacts were moving through the Capitol in 2006, they were sold as adding more than a billion bucks to state coffers each year. The estimate is now down to below $200 million over the next few years, maybe rising to a half-billion dollars annually by 2030 when the deals expire.
The increase comes at the expense of local government, by the way. Currently the four tribes pay into what's called the special distributions fund, most of which is used to offset impacts to local government.
For example, the two Oroville casinos kick about a million dollars a year into that same fund, and that money has been spent on upgrading fire and police protection and fixing roads in Oroville and southern Butte County.
The four south state tribes are paying about $28 million into that same fund, which is being spent on the same kinds of benefits for the Riverside and San Diego County jurisdictions near the casinos. That $28 million payment vanishes under the four compacts covered by Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97. It's replaced with a requirement that the tribes negotiate with the local jurisdictions to cover any impacts. And we wish those two counties luck in dealing with the sovereign states within their boundaries.
Finally, there are the opponents to the four propositions. Gambling interests. Go figure. Why would horse track operators and Las Vegas casino operators oppose these compacts, since they're brothers in arms?
Oh yeah, they're competitors. More money spent at the casino means less money spent at the track or Vegas.
That points to one of the reasons we oppose all four measures. They aren't boosting the economy of the state. Expanding these four casinos just channels spending from one venue to another. And the venue the spending is being diverted to doesn't pay sales or property taxes, another hit on local government.
If these four propositions pass, state government gains slightly, the economy is largely unaffected, and the local governments that have to haul the freight get whacked. And four wealthy tribes that have shown themselves to have an agenda beyond aiding their people get their coffers stuffed.
We suppose those of us in Northern California could say, "So what, two south state counties take a hit and state government's a little better off." But there should be no question that other tribes will seek similar deals if these four stand. And at some point, the hurt's going to hit home.
In any case, these four propositions deserve a no vote.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Rob Walter summarizes the issues on props 94-97 quite clearly. Our 'popular' governor has decided to consummate the states' marriage to various Indian casinos by allowing them almost 20,000 more slots. Slots that take money from the population who would have otherwise spent it on things less harmful than gambling. As Mr. Walter shows below- Californians must LOSE 60 BILLION at those very slot machines to get a measly 9 billion back. The rest? Down the toilet. Add 25-40 billion in social costs directly related to gambling and you have the perfect recipe for financial disaster for the state. From The SYV Journal:
CALIFORNIA & GAMBLING
By Rob Walter, Contributing Writer
Calif. sells soul to gambling
In 1820, Congress passed the Missouri Compromise. In an agreement between pro-slavery and anti-slavery states, Missouri would be admitted to the Union as a slave state in return for designating other territories of the U.S. to be off limits to slavery. The convoluted thinking was that by agreeing to the limited expansion of the evil of slavery, we would be able to control the evil of slavery. And, by the way, the addition of Missouri to the Union would be beneficial to our national economy.
Now our Governor, who tries desperately to be well liked above all else, along with our Assembly and Senate, who try desperately to be reëlected above all else, have determined that we have been engaged to the gambling interests long enough. It’s time to get married. With an “it’s the economy stupid” mentality, the California Compromise is considered a way by which with the spread of an evil, we could gain control of the evil and, more importantly, benefit the state economy. The sad fact is that they don’t see the evil for what it is.
California has a $100 billion budget. Propositions 94-97 will create the biggest casinos in the U.S. For this payoff to the gambling lobbyists and tribes, the State will receive an estimated $200 million a year extra, only 0.2 percent of our budget, allegedly growing to a projected total revenue for the state of $9 billion over the 23-year life of the tribal compacts. But now it’s official. California will have gone into the gambling business, as our Governor has become a co-conspirator with the gambling industry to fleece the public.
Now, you would think that some groups would oppose this 17,000 slot machine expansion, and they do. Reading the State Voter Guide, you will find that the unions don’t feel adequately protected or represented in this deal, and neither do the teachers, who are upset that the extra funds aren’t earmarked for education. In other words, the opposition is coming from those who weren’t invited to the party, those whose only real complaint is that they won’t be able to get their fingers in the pie.
The fact is that these propositions are bad for California because gambling is bad for California. Why is it that neither the legislature nor the Governor mentions the fact that before California can receive $9 billion in gambling revenue the hard-working people of California must first lose $60 billion at the slots. That’s right — $60 billion of paychecks, depleted IRA’s and social security checks are required to produce $9 billion in revenue, and we’re being told this is a good deal.
This is $60 billion that won’t be spent on braces, utility bills, mortgage payments or washing machines. This is $60 billion that won’t be used for starting new businesses, invested in equipment or placed into retirement accounts. This is $60 billion that goes down the toilet to a septic tank of gambling operators so that they are assured of having enough funds to purchase new legislators after their minions are termed out of office. I thought prostitution was only legal in Nevada. I must have been on vacation the week they decided to legalize it in Sacramento. (ed~ heh)
The fact is that every study of gambling has shown that three things occur, not sometimes, but every single time gambling comes into a community: there is an increase in crime (from burglary to embezzlement), an increase in divorce, and an increase in bankruptcy. Conservative estimates have placed the “cost” of gambling at $3-5 of social cost for every dollar of gambling revenue. Now, let’s go back and do the math. It turns out that our $9 billion “windfall” is really a $27-$45 billion plunge to death on top of the $60 billion amputation. For the first time, revenue in California will be tied directly to how much of your savings and paychecks you throw away at the casinos. The more we lose, the more politicians have to spend. If the Governor wanted to rape, pillage and plunder the hard-working people of California, he could not have devised a better plan. Who needs Attila the Hun to do it when you have a legislature at your disposal?
That Missouri Compromise? Politicians thought that it was the way by which to avert a civil war. Little did they realize that it only ensured a national bloodbath. In similar fashion, the “cure” for our financial woes will become part of the disease. That which is thought to be a way by which to avert economic devastation will only ensure our demise. Like the old medical treatment of bloodletting, by which, it was believed, the disease could be removed by removing the blood, these propositions will be the bloodletting of California. Actually those doctors had some success. They did in fact get rid of the disease — when the patient died from the cure.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
As we approach a vote on giving four tribes 17,000 more slot machines, it is a good idea to review some older articles to gain a wider perspective of where we have been and where we seem to be going. I cannot imagine WHY we should give these tribes any additional sort of income when we have United States citizens having THEIR RIGHTS trampled by the tribes. To those who keep crying about "how wronged these tribes have been" I say, donate YOUR property or house and the let them put a casino in it. Let them build next door to YOU and see how YOU like it. As far as tribes go with their sovereign immunity - perhaps it is time for the US taxpayer to quit subsidizing them and we should start treating them like the foreign entities that they are and so badly want to be. From the Sacramento Bee in 2003, yet as timely today as it was then:
On their land, tribes' law is the last word
With court rulings that affirm their sovereignty, Indians are fighting off a variety of challenges
SAN DIEGO COUNTY -- Bob Bowling jokes that he drinks beer all day because he can't afford water -- the Barona Indian tribe down the road has sucked it all up for its world-class golf course and 400-room casino resort.
Two dozen of Bowling's fellow homeowners in the Old Barona Road Association have watched their wells -- and their property values -- dry up while their Indian neighbors consume nearly a million gallons a day. The association has pleaded with the tribe and complained to elected officials, only to run into a wall of sovereignty that protects Indian tribes from state and local laws.
"You can't even believe what it is to be the little person going up against a sovereign nation -- they blow us off," said Bowling, a water delivery specialist for the city of San Diego.
Clifford LaChappa, chairman of the 500-member Barona Band of Mission Indians, claims the water belongs to his people, and that sovereignty -- like water -- is a birthright, a matter of economic and cultural survival. He remembers his dirt-poor childhood spent on the 6,000-acre reservation, where jobs were as scarce as cars. Today, instead of welfare checks, tribal members collect $5,000 monthly casino checks.
Throughout California, a growing number of people are battling tribes over land, water, traffic and a wide range of civil claims, including auto accidents, personal injuries, firings and broken contracts.
And these days, the Indians have the legal firepower. Armed with a series of federal laws and U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have affirmed their sovereignty -- their status as autonomous nations -- and backed by the best lawyers and lobbyists gambling revenues can buy, California Indians are racking up most of the victories.
California, with 107 federally recognized reservations and rancherias, has become the front line in the struggle over sovereignty. More Indians, more casinos and more tribes are here than anywhere else, including some of the richest, most politically savvy Indian nations in America. Two once-destitute California bands, Cabazon and Morongo, won the landmark legal decisions affirming Indians' sovereign right to operate gambling nationwide.
Those who feel they've been wronged by tribes are turning to their usual remedies -- the courts and government regulators -- and coming up empty.
"It's like trying to sue Bulgaria," said one frustrated attorney, Victor Moheno, who sued on behalf of a Visalia woman who was crushed when a 350-pound man accidentally fell on her at an Indian casino. The case was kicked out because the tribe has sovereign immunity.
'Not just another minority'
Although criminal matters in California Indian country are supposed to be handled through the usual law enforcement channels, this state has little civil jurisdiction over the Indian nations in its midst. The state's top gaming cop, Harlan Goodson, likens himself to a diplomat whose job is to promote positive relationships with sovereign Indian nations. Goodson inspects casinos at the tribes' convenience.
Some Indians say it's payback time for the land, culture, resources and human rights robbed from them at gunpoint, or stolen with broken treaties. Tribes' status as sovereign nations independent from states is spelled out in the U.S. Constitution, and affirmed in U.S. Supreme Court rulings dating back 170 years.
Now, whether they have one member or thousands, tribes expect to be treated as governments answerable only to the U.S. government, not the state of California or the cities and counties that increasingly are affected by Indian casinos and other businesses.
"We're not just another minority," said Cindy LaMarr, a California Paiute and Pit River Indian who is president of the National Indian Education Association. "We were the original people of this land. And since the land was taken from us basically by the federal government, we have treaty rights in exchange for the land, which include health, education, welfare and self-governance."
Dottie Smith learned what sovereignty means firsthand. "It's the most powerful word in the English language," said Smith, a resident of Lake Havasu Landing in east San Bernardino County.
Smith said she was evicted from her lakeside trailer in 1999 and banned for life from the Chemehuevi Indian Reservation for challenging the tribe's sovereign right to the land.
Tribal attorney Les Marston said Smith was evicted for trespassing on tribal land, "and her mobile home was attached by lawful order of the (federal) court and sold to satisfy her outstanding back rent that she refused to pay the tribe."
The dispute landed Smith in federal court, where she became one of hundreds of Californians who have fought tribes and lost.
"You're not on equal footing with them," she said. "You can sue the president of the United States -- it's been done -- but try and sue the chairman of an Indian tribe. You can't. The federal court system was set up to protect them, not you."
Charity, campaign donations
Conflicts over sovereignty have escalated since 1999, when nearly two-thirds of California voters approved gambling on Indian lands and millions of them began driving to reservations and rancherias they had barely known existed.
More than 100,000 people a day now pull slots, play cards or enjoy shows and meals at California's 51 Indian casinos. Another 40,000 people, most of them non-Indians, work at those casinos.
California Indian gaming generates between $3 billion and $5 billion a year in revenues. With that money, the so-called "gaming tribes" have built hotels, museums, bowling alleys, malls, health clinics, schools and homes for tribal members. They are reviving dying languages and long-dormant customs, and providing full college scholarships to Indians whose ancestors had the nation's highest high school dropout rate.
Some of California's richest tribes have donated millions to the arts and charities. They've also become kingmakers, plowing more than $120 million into political campaigns in the last five years.
Two tribes, testing the limits of sovereignty, have claimed that as sovereign nations they're exempt from the state's campaign contribution disclosure laws. A Sacramento Superior Court judge recently ruled against one of the tribes. Just how far the tribes can fly above state laws has yet to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Not all the tribes are flexing their sovereign muscle in the face of local residents. A growing number are working with neighboring cities and counties to widen once-lonely country roads now jammed with casino traffic, and to pay for extra police, ambulances and fire response.
Yet even those tribes kick in because they want to -- not because they have to. (ed~and its still not a fraction of what they would pay if it were a normal business)
This epic power shift has gone beyond what the voters, the governor and even the Supreme Court originally envisioned. Indians have long had the sovereign right to develop their land and water supplies as they see fit, they just didn't have the means to do so, said UCLA law professor Carole Goldberg. "So non-Indians filled the vacuum and pretended the Indian rights didn't exist," she said. "Now they're shocked -- it's understandable."
'Not a level playing field'
Skirmishes over Indian sovereignty have ignited grass-roots citizens groups throughout the West who believe their rights are being trampled.
Cheryl Schmit, director of the most influential group -- Stand Up For California -- says Californians are paying the price for sovereignty run amok. "It's not a level playing field," she said. "As tribal governments expand their gaming opportunities and land base, local governments have been robbed of their political power to protect their citizens."
The Indians are exempt from local laws as long as they meet safety standards set by the state or federal government.
Schmit, called "the most powerful soccer mom in California" by one county fire marshal, runs Stand Up for California from her Penryn home in Placer County, peppers friends and foes with e-mails and news articles, and travels the nation defending citizens' rights.
She's become the champion of the anti-sovereignty forces -- and a target of Indian outrage. The Pechanga tribe's Web site recently ran a cartoon portraying her as the Wicked Witch of the West and her followers as monkeys. Deron Marquez, chairman of the newly rich San Manuel Band of Indians in San Bernardino, says those who challenge sovereignty are trying to wipe out the Indian way of life.
Schmit says she isn't anti-Indian -- she isn't even against Indian sovereignty, as long as tribal governments recognize her rights as a California citizen.
"All the problems occur because of the lack of a relationship between the tribes and the state, and the unwillingness of the state's constitutional officers to defend the state's sovereignty," she said. "Sovereignty was supposed to be a shield to protect Indians from settlers. It was never meant to be a sword against anyone."
That sword has sliced the property values of Bob Bowling and his neighbors in the granite hills northeast of San Diego.
When the Barona Indians announced plans four years ago to build a golf course, the neighbors wondered where all the water was going to come from. "The tribe invited us down for a free lunch and said they were sitting on approximately 50 years' worth of water," Bowling said -- citing an estimate from an environmental impact report commissioned by the tribe. The tribe refused to let the county hydrologist on its land, hiring its own hydrologist instead.
Then, two weeks after the golf course sprinklers went on in January 2001, 11 of the neighbors' wells went dry. All have had their homes devalued by the county assessor, said Bowling, who got a letter from a bank saying no bank would loan money on his property because of the lack of water supply.
LaChappa, Barona's chairman, has often spoken publicly about sovereignty but declined numerous requests for interviews for this story. The tribe has repeatedly maintained that it has nothing to do with the neighbors' water woes because they're tapping into a different water source. "If you're not on the same (water) basin you're not on the same planet, hydrologically speaking," tribal attorney Art Bunce told a San Diego television station.
The homeowners found themselves faced with two choices: truck water six miles up a twisting canyon road or keep digging deeper wells. "My neighbors and I have spent $250,000 just chasing water," Bowling said. "We've had people who spent $15,000 to drill down to 1,300 feet and got nothing."
Then, last summer, the Baronas' wells began running out, too.
The tribe urged the city of San Diego to declare a water emergency, saying it didn't have enough water to fight fires.
The city advised the tribe to just turn off its golf course sprinklers, so the Baronas took matters into their own hands and began laying a pipeline from the reservation to the city's San Vicente Reservoir. They were illegally grading a road through off-reservation creek beds until the county found out about it, issued a "stop work" notice and charged the tribe with illegal discharge, grading without a permit, inadequate erosion controls and causing a public nuisance.
The homeowners thought they'd won a round last November when county hydrologist John Peterson concluded, after examining water levels just outside the reservation because the Baronas wouldn't allow him on their land, that "a very strong time correlation exists" between the Baronas' water use and their neighbors' dry wells.
Today, the Baronas are negotiating with the city of San Diego to tap into the reservoir legally, perhaps in exchange for water rights Congress promised them when they were forced off their original reservation 71 years ago.
Even if the tribe gets permission to run a pipeline from the city reservoir, San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob said the tribe has no plans to give Bowling and his neighbors any water.
Spreading the blame
Attorney Bunce refused to discuss the tribe's parched neighbors. He told The Bee that outsiders have been stealing the Baronas' water for more than 150 years. In 1932 the tribe was moved off its reservation along the banks of the San Diego River to make way for San Diego's El Capitan Reservoir.
"The Indians had lived there for at least 2,000 years," Bunce said. "They were forced to dig up the bones of their ancestors and move them to the current reservation."
Frances Gesiakowski, a social worker who lives a quarter-mile from that reservation, now pays $800 a month to truck in water for herself and her horses. Her home is worth a third of what she's put into it, and she blames the tribe for mismanaging the environment and the county for "doing nothing to protect us."
County officials say they're helpless. "We have no legal recourse or standing," Jacob said. The bitter irony, she added, is that if the county approved a water-gobbling golf course next to the reservation, the Baronas could sue the county and the golf course owner -- as long as they waived their sovereignty immunity.
Others involved aim their blame higher: at Gov. Gray Davis, who negotiated the state's compact with the gambling tribes, and the U.S. government.
The compact "has absolutely no provisions to protect people who bear the brunt of these off-reservation impacts," said Bob Coffin, attorney for Barona's neighbors. "They can defame you, they can dry up your wells, they can fire you without good cause, as long as they're acting as tribal officers."
Coffin said that Congress, by giving the Indians a monopoly on casino gambling, along with sovereign immunity and full access to state and federal courts, has "given them more power and influence than anyone else enjoys in America."
Tribal leaders fire back that for years, local governments failed to consult them about the residential and commercial developments that sprouted around their reservations.
"They never came up here and said, 'Here's what we're doing, what do you think?' " said Anthony Pico, chairman of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, who like the Baronas were forced off the El Capitan Grande reservation in 1932. The Viejas now operate an outlet mall, a bank and a highly lucrative casino in east San Diego.
"Now they bitterly complain when Indians want to do something on our own land," Pico said. "They don't like having a double standard when they're on the wrong end."
Fight over river's bank
From the Russian River to the Colorado River, disgruntled residents have attacked sovereignty by challenging the Indians' ownership of the land -- only to meet with defeat.
For years, Indians and local residents have been fighting over the desolate yet beautiful west bank of the Colorado River.
The residents, mostly vacationers from Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego, have set up their mobile homes there and pay California taxes. The Indians say they've lived along the river since creation.
In 1969, U.S. Interior Secretary Stewart Udall decided that because the Colorado River had shifted eastward, 44,000 acres in California actually belonged to the Colorado River Indian Tribes (Mohave, Chemehuevi, Hopi and Navajo), whose reservation had previously bordered the east bank of the Colorado around Parker, Arizona.
The Indians gradually began taking over resorts on the California side of the river. When they raised the rents, some tenants refused to pay.
Two years ago, the Colorado River Indian Tribes -- CRIT for short -- took over Red Rooster, a mobile home park between Blythe and Needles run for 40 years by a crusty maverick named Bill Booth. The Red Rooster park's mascot was an 8-foot-tall fiberglass rooster.
Booth, 79, said he developed the resort in 1959 from a patch of cactus and sagebrush he leased from the federal Bureau of Land Management. When the Indians gained the land in 1969, Booth said they wanted him out and kept raising his rent. Resenting the rent increase, Booth claimed the land didn't belong to the Indians and stopped paying rent. The Indians began calling Booth and anyone else who withheld rent "squatters."
Normally such disputes end up in county courts, with one side seeking an eviction order and the other defending its right to stay. Tribes, however, are immune from state civil courts and fight most of their legal battles in federal court.
In 1993 and again in 1995, the Indians got a federal judge to order Booth off their property. Booth, a decorated veteran of Iwo Jima, wouldn't budge, telling friends, "They'll have to drag me out."
Trailer owners evicted
In November 2000, the Indians gave Booth and 40 other trailer owners at Red Rooster tribal eviction notices, even though they didn't have a California court order to evict anybody except Booth. "The tribe showed up with four carloads of CRIT tribal police, four carloads of Riverside County sheriff's deputies and a federal BIA investigator who told me, 'You're out of here'," Booth said.
Riverside County Assistant Sheriff Gayle Janes said his officers were at Red Rooster in November 2000 to keep the peace -- not enforce the tribe's evictions. "Tensions were very high on both sides," he said. "I don't believe a tribal appeals process was ever offered to these people at all." Janes added: "It's like being in a separate country: If the tribal court evicts people, that's none of our business."
Then, on a rainy day the following January, about 20 trailers that hadn't been towed out or were cemented down -- including Booth's -- were bulldozed and set on fire, Booth said. The fiberglass rooster was found dangling upside down over the river.
Today, all that's left of Red Rooster is a row of rusting metal trailer beds and a massive mound of concrete, broken glass and debris: vacuum cleaner parts, a sneaker, a recliner, a rusty bike, a water heater.
"That was my income, my livelihood, my only home," said Booth, touring the wreckage. "It tore a lot of people apart. They were firemen, electricians, truck drivers. ... They'd water ski, fish, do their barbecuing, drink a little beer, relax. No dopers, no prison people, just good solid American people."
The Indians had lived on the river for centuries before the white man came and built the series of dams that ruined it, said Russell Welsh, the 70-year-old vice chairman of the 3,500-member reservation.
"Before the taming of the Colorado this reservation was a utopia, a paradise where you could gather herbs and basket-making material, fish and game," he said. "The river's been like a mother to us, and it's been abused, it's been polluted, everybody's fighting for it."
The Mohaves, largest of the four CRIT tribes, call themselves Aha Makavi, "People of the River," Welsh said. The west bank includes several of their sacred sites, he said.
Priscilla Eswonia, a Mohave elder, remembers swimming in the river alongside giant salmon when she was a girl. Her uncle, a Mohave deer singer, told her the Indians originally came from the Pacific Ocean. "Our creator put the river down here for us to live," Eswonia said. "That's how all our songs begin."
The tribe gets along fine with the many west bank tenants who abide by their leases, according to Welsh. But, he said, "There's some radicals that don't want to cooperate. I think we have every right to say 'yah-hey, get off my land.' "
"We don't want to fight those people, but they're trying to make us losers," he added.
Judge's ruling stuns residents
The west bank residents feel CRIT has an unfair monetary edge over them: The tribe gets $1 million a year from California casino tribes for being a "non-gaming tribe" in this state, yet operates the Blue Water Casino Resort on the east bank of the river, in Parker, Ariz. That may change soon, however. CRIT plans to build a casino on the California side of the river.
Some 400 west bank tenants joined forces and raised more than $300,000 to fight the Indians in court. Last fall, U.S. District Judge John Walter ruled that because the Indians have sovereign immunity he wouldn't even consider the legality of the evictions, or the tenants' claim that the Indians don't own the land.
The ruling stunned the residents. "It's unfair for the tribe to hide behind sovereign immunity to maintain control of property they don't own," said weekender Tim Moore, noting that a judge appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court had found in 1993 that the land belonged to California, not the tribe.
"If you took the (2002) federal ruling to its absurd extreme, the Colorado River Indian Tribes could erect a toll booth on the Golden Gate Bridge and could not be removed because they have sovereign immunity," said attorney Dennis Whittlesey, who represents the tenants. "If they can go one mile beyond reservation land claiming sovereignty, can't they go 500 miles? Where does it stop?"
Where sovereignty stops is being debated not just on the west bank, but in Congress. Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawaii, recently said Indian tribes at the least "should be as sovereign as any state in the union" and said he will push for a bill giving them control of all law enforcement on tribal lands.
Jacob Coin, a Hopi Indian who is director of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, argues that tribes already are more sovereign than states, and always have been. "If you allowed even one state law to govern tribal lands, a huge chunk of tribal sovereignty would be destroyed. Our founding fathers said the United States didn't give them sovereignty, the Creator gave it to them." (ed~but it is the United States that ensures your sovereignty and the safety of the rest of us, and has provided for your so-called people for decades)
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
A lucid editorial in the Sacramento Bee lays out the negative impacts of props 94-97. Ambiguous deals leave too much wiggle room for casino tribes to meddle with payment amounts by toying with the number of machines that actually operate. With little to no regulation of Indian casinos, it is doubtful that these compacts can even be enforced. Even if they were enforceable and the money collectible, 9 billion over 20 years is a small fraction of what they would pay if they were like any other business in California.
Editorials: Voters should reject Propositions 94, 95, 96, 97
Think gambling is good for California's future? You're making a very bad bet
A staggering amount of money is being spent to persuade state voters to ratify four Indian gambling deals. If approved, Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97 would authorize 17,000 more slot machines for four of the state's wealthiest gambling tribes. The deals would catapult California into the gambling big leagues, well beyond the modest increase voters were promised when they first authorized Nevada-style gambling for tribes in 1998.
This page has consistently opposed the expansion of gambling, beginning with the state lottery. We oppose the new gambling deals contained in these referendum initiatives, too. Gambling is the wrong way to grow the state's economy. It doesn't create new economic activity. It simply substitutes one form of entertainment spending for another. More money spent gambling means less money spent to go to the movies, eat out, play golf – all activities that don't create gambling addiction or prey on the poor. (ed~ not to mention much of the non-gambling activities - portions of the money paid for them goes to feed our tax system. Not so with money spent in an Indian casino.)
The growing political clout of wealthy gambling tribes that are not accountable to the wider public is worrisome, too. In a few short years, gambling tribes have become the biggest political contributors in the state. Legislators and the governor, too, rush to do their bidding.
Voters should know that the principal opponents of the new compacts have suspect motives. They include rival gambling tribes that fear competition, as well as racetrack and cardroom operators who hope to end the tribes' casino monopoly in California so they can get in on the action.
Supporters of the new compacts, including most prominently Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, have suggested that the gambling deals will provide $9 billion to help ease the state's fiscal crisis. A clearer picture comes from the nonpartisan legislative analyst, who says of their likely fiscal impact, "Even assuming that all the 2006 compacts are ratified and a few more similar compacts are ratified in the future, we expect that compact related sources will provide the general fund with less than 0.5 percent of its annual revenues for the foreseeable future."
There is a real question as to whether California has the ability to adequately police these deals. The California Gaming Control Commission, the state's principal gambling regulator, has been notoriously ineffective in the past.
The legislative analyst says regulators have complained that they have limited access to tribal financial reports and information related to internal controls over slot machines. They lack casino financial reports prepared by independent accountants. They are unable to conduct interim walk-through audits (as Nevada regulators do). They can't station audit personnel at each casino 24 hours a day (as in New Jersey) to test devices.
Finally, the ambiguous language of the compacts is troublesome. Payments to the state are based in part on "the average number of gaming devices operated" during a quarter. Opponents say that by roping off machines during slow periods and thus reducing the average number of slots "operated," the tribes can substantially reduce any payout to the state. Compact supporters claim no such manipulation is intended or allowed. Maybe not, but the ambiguity gives voters another reason to vote No on Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97.
Monday, January 21, 2008
The above wise-crack-seeming header is not one of mine - it is an actual statement from a San Manuel Indian, and in the context of the story below - NOT funny.
And in accordance with that statement what is happening in San Bernardino is not at all surprising. Nor is San Bernardino unique. A little digging will turn up similar stories at any Indian Casino. Drugs and gang banging... what's not to like? You must be some kind of hater. Lets gives these guys another 20,000 slot machines so they can continue to enrich themselves.
From the Press-Enterprise:
Errant members, gangster friends give San Manuel casino headaches, ex-employees say
By MICHELLE DeARMOND
One of Southern California's busiest Indian casinos is plagued by criminal tribal members and Inland gangsters.
According to former tribal employees, a source close to the tribe, court documents and internal tribal documents, criminal elements have started brawls, assaulted people, brought in guns and used drugs inside the facility.
Those sources say the members of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, some with connections to criminal gangs such as the Mexican Mafia, aren't governed by the same rules as other patrons.
"They can do whatever they want and go wherever they want," said one former tribal employee, who spent more than a decade working for San Manuel. "They are above the law."
A source close to the tribe, whose casino near San Bernardino draws many customers from the Los Angeles area, said the tribe is failing to properly regulate itself. Leaders are too fearful of gangs to crack down on their errant members or other criminals, the source said.
The result, insiders say, is a poorly regulated casino and a reservation of tribal members paralyzed by fear. The tribe doesn't have its own police force to enforce laws, and its regulatory and security staff -- most of whom are not tribal members -- are not allowed to crack down on San Manuel Indians, former employees say.
The tribe says the casino is well-regulated, pointing to a "myriad of laws and regulations" the facility is subjected to, including tribal, state and federal rules. Tribal members are not exempt from those rules, and some have been banned from the casino in the past, said Jacob Coin, director of communications.
"We feel like it's been a very good system in that it guards against the type of criminal element that appears to be on the minds of people," Coin said. "I'm convinced that our gaming commission does a good job at making sure we're in good compliance."
The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department has at least one deputy dedicated at all times to patrol the reservation, but the deputy usually goes inside the casino only when a tribal public-safety officer requests it, said Jodi Miller, a San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman.
"They don't necessarily go inside the casino," she said, adding that the deputies patrol the parking lots and surrounding areas. "They respond in the event that ... there's a criminal activity that they need to respond to."
Critics say the tribe is failing to quash serious criminal risks -- such as drugs and violence -- brought on the reservation and inside the casino by its own members.
"The biggest issue they have up there is public safety," said one former San Manuel employee, who declined to be identified for fear of retaliation from the tribe. "It's actually nothing but a playground for them."
Most of those interviewed for this story requested anonymity, saying they feared for their safety or that speaking out would hurt them professionally.
The criticisms come as the tribe prepares to expand its gleaming 2,000-slot-machine casino. The tribe got state approval last year to add 5,500 more slot machines to its Las Vegas-style casino and is expected to expand soon.
Opponents of similar gambling agreements signed with four other Southern California tribes have challenged those agreements, and voters will get to consider them on the Feb. 5 ballot. However, the San Manuel Band's agreement has not been challenged.
The San Manuel tribe opened a bingo hall in 1986, but it wasn't until the January 2005 opening of its current casino that the place became the hot spot it's known as today. With restaurants, a lounge and popular music concerts, business has boomed in the past several years, but critics say the casino has grown and prospered beyond the 200-member tribe's ability to manage it.
"The San Manuel gaming is so amateuristic, it's like running a billion-dollar organization out of the back of a pickup truck," said Robert Bollong, a former lieutenant with the San Manuel Department of Public Safety. "These people have no expertise."
Former employees and a source close to the tribe describe the crime problem and the fear among tribal members as pervasive, not limited to just an isolated few members. Further fueling the problem, the critics say, are the $100,000-a-month casino-profit checks that each adult tribal member receives.
There are some tribal members whose names crop up in tribal public-safety documents and court cases. Most are young adults.
Among those is Stacy Barajas-Nunez, 25, who is awaiting trial on murder conspiracy charges in a case with her brother, Erik Barajas, 35, and two men identified by federal authorities as Mexican Mafia members.
The four were arrested when authorities raided multiple houses on the reservation and in other San Bernardino County communities in December 2006. The raids were part of a massive Drug Enforcement Administration investigation targeting the Mexican Mafia and its methamphetamine trafficking and street crime.
In court documents, law enforcement officials say Barajas-Nunez has served as a financial backer for gang members' families and has paid rent and provided vehicles for gang members. She and Salvador Hernandez, described in the court documents as a top Mexican Mafia member in Southern California, are charged in the same counts of transporting and possessing methamphetamine.
Barajas-Nunez, her brother, Hernandez and his brother Alfred Hernandez are due back in court next month in connection with the December 2006 bust and murder conspiracy case.
Her alleged criminal connections and activities have extended into the casino, according to law enforcement sources and tribal and court documents.
In June 2006, Barajas-Nunez assaulted a 110-pound woman who was sitting on a bench at the casino, according to a report by the San Manuel Department of Public Safety, which handles security for the tribe. The woman responded by attempting to hit Barajas-Nunez, who weighs 250 pounds, until public-safety officers stepped in and restrained the smaller woman, according to the documents. The smaller woman, who did not return phone calls seeking comment for this article, was banned from the casino; Barajas-Nunez spoke to her parents on the phone, then declined to make a statement to security officers and walked away, according to the report. She was never arrested or prosecuted, although surveillance tape of the episode showed she initiated the fight, according to the department's report.
In April 2005, Barajas-Nunez and acquaintances were at the casino on the night of a concert, when public-safety officers were on a heightened state of alert because they had heard rival tribal members and their gang associates would be there, former employees say. The surveillance staff saw Barajas-Nunez's friends hand her guns outside the casino, but didn't tell public-safety employees at the time, the former employees said. Public-safety officers later saw images from the surveillance tape and learned that she had taken guns into the casino and never was punished, sources said.
"The weight (of the guns) is pulling her pants down. She keeps pulling them up and pulling them up," one former employee said of the surveillance video he later saw.
Reached by cell phone Thursday, Barajas-Nunez denied both accounts.
Of the June 2006 fight, Barajas-Nunez said she was the victim and the other woman attacked her first. She said the Department of Public Safety report's description of the surveillance tape was "false."
Of the April 2005 account of guns, Barajas-Nunez said she wasn't at the casino that night and doesn't gamble. She denied accusations that she brings a criminal element to the casino.
"I don't even like going there," she said, adding that she goes to the reservation about once a week but not to the casino. "I live at my parents', but I've got my vacation places. That's usually where I am. I'm a kid; I'm trying to enjoy life."
In another incident in June 2006, multiple tribal members got into a brawl in the casino, threatening one another and pushing and shoving public-safety officers, said one former tribal employee.
Feuding tribal members and their friends, including a local gang member who later was arrested in the December 2006 DEA bust, started fighting in the casino and yelling at one another, the former employee said.
Some casino patrons who saw the fight asked why the tribal members weren't being arrested.
"This is typical -- you always had to take this. We knew who could push us around," said a former casino public-safety officer.
And on at least one occasion, employees witnessed a tribal member in his mid-20s smoking marijuana in a casino room reserved for tribal members, but they did not take criminal action against him, former employees said.
Instead, the tribal member's mother, a prominent member of the tribe, was called to take him home, the sources said.
Critics of the problems at San Manuel say there are several reasons for the security breakdowns and most can be traced to tribal politics and gaps in federal and state laws.
One problem, they say, stems from how the tribe selects its gambling commission chairman, a key regulatory job that involves many areas of expertise. Instead of hiring a skilled person from the gambling industry, as some other Indian casinos do, San Manuel members voted several years ago to make the job an elected position.
The decision injected tribal electoral politics and family feuds into regulation of a bustling Southern California casino.
"This is where culture and tradition collide with modern life," a source close to the tribe said.
A former employee of the tribe's Public Safety Department said the tribe should hire a top regulator from Las Vegas or Atlantic City, N.J., instead of expecting a San Manuel Indian to run for office and then regulate family members.
The only way to properly run the casino is for the tribe to hire a gambling commission chairman who is not related to any tribal members, as is done for the other commission positions, said Bollong, who oversaw the San Manuel security force's training and professional standards.
Bollong said he spent 2 ½ years working for the tribe until early last year and lost faith in the tribe's ability to regulate the casino.
Bollong died last week in Riverside.
The source close to the San Manuel Band said the tribe has tried to crack down on problems over the years but it is hampered by inadequate federal regulations, limited state involvement and its own tribal government.
"The system is flawed," the source said, acknowledging that crime involving tribal members has been a problem for the tribal government. "It's not capable of dealing with those types of incidents."
Another problem that public safety and tribal leaders have had to work around is the tribe's own governing body, known as the business committee. The committee is made up of elected members, including the mother of a 28-year-old convicted felon, Robert Vincent Martinez Jr.
The home of his mother, Audrey Martinez, was one of those raided when the DEA conducted its sweep through the reservation and surrounding areas in December 2006, according to Department of Public Safety documents. Neither Martinez was charged in connection with that raid, according to court records.
That family link and other similar relationships, former employees and another source say, has made people uncertain of the business committee's ability to put policing the reservation above family ties.
Audrey Martinez did not return a phone message left at her home.
Coin, the tribe's director of communications, said those concerns are unfounded. The business committee members are elected by the tribe, work as a collective and deal with problems "fairly, openly and honestly," he said.
The tribe's seven-member business committee has "worked well as a government system for us for a very long time," he said. "No one individual has authority over the six other."
The tribe has tried to address the problem of tribal criminal activity inside the casino, according to one recent court document, although it's unclear if any action has actually been taken.
James Ramos, the tribe's unity and cultural awareness director, was granted a two-year restraining order against Barajas-Nunez's father, Kenneth Barajas, last month in San Bernardino County Superior Court after an argument between Ramos and Barajas at a tribal meeting.
According to the restraining order, the tribe held a meeting in November 2007 that included an agenda item on possibly fining Barajas-Nunez for "her conduct at the casino on an earlier date and time."
The report did not offer specifics or clarify whether fines were levied against Barajas-Nunez. Ramos and Barajas apparently got into an argument when Barajas-Nunez and Barajas "became very agitated during the meeting."
Ramos originally sought a restraining order against both Barajas and Barajas-Nunez, saying he was afraid for his life and that Barajas-Nunez had ties to the Mexican Mafia. Ramos later dropped Barajas-Nunez from his request.
Barajas-Nunez refused to comment about the possibility of being fined by her own tribe.
"That's none of the public's business; that's our reservation," she said.
Friday, January 18, 2008
I find this letter to the editor of Capitol Weekly to be especially poignant. The writer is from Connecticut, home of the so-called Pequots and the largest casino in the world - Foxwoods. Connecticut is where it all started - where the huge loophole in the law was created for all these 'tribes' to get their own casino - following the blueprint created in Connecticut by the Pequots. An excellent book - Without Reservation by Jeff Benedict - details the convolutions within our government that created the debacle of Indian casinos.
Letter to the editor
By Capitol Readers (published Thursday, January 10, 2008)
With all this money being spent by tribes lobbying for a vote outcome, it’s time to revisit this concept of creating these “tribal nations” based on the theory that they are perpetually poor and “in need.” Firstly, we’ve all known many neighbors who were 100 percent U.S. citizens before a tribe was created for them to join, thereby allowing them to claim they were due to be exempt from the laws (they previously followed) because they had been discriminated against.
Give me a break! Many groups try for decades to find one shred of evidence that they are not part of the mainstream. When the BIA (who always wants to increase its authority) ignores reality and grants federal recognition, we hear how we “owe” these folks money, land, tax exemption, you name it, because of … discrimination. Yet the mainstream have always seen them as part of the country and it is the “tribal members” themselves who work so hard to discriminate themselves from the rest — in order to get their hands on our tax dollars.
When people have to prove a racial distinction in order to own and operate certain businesses (tax-exempt casinos), we had better review our founding documents. We had better realize that a government cannot have a treaty with its own citizens.
North Stonington, Conn
Monday, January 14, 2008
This has to be one of the greatest WTF moments since props 94-97 have been put on the table.
What's changing: A 45-day period lapsed, giving the lucrative compacts automatic approval, even though they never received federal review. Despite questions about the unusual circumstances, Interior has not conducted an internal investigation.
The future: On Feb. 5, voters will consider measures to block the agreements. Even if they are rejected, the federal approval could open the door for legal challenges.
Four California Indian gambling agreements, deals worth perhaps more than $50 billion, went missing for nearly three months after they were sent to Interior in early September.
Disappearance of casino deals called 'mistake'
By James P. Sweeney
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
SACRAMENTO – In June, on the day after the No. 2 man at the U.S. Department of the Interior was sentenced to prison for lying about his role in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne issued a new ethics policy for the agency.
Kempthorne's guidelines vowed to make the troubled department “a model of an ethical workplace” with integrity as a “core value.”
But that commitment has been called into question by the department's failure to take a hard look at another major embarrassment and potential scandal unfolding from within.
The disappearance forced the agency to approve the agreements automatically without any review, even though they still face a statewide vote on California's Feb. 5 ballot.
Interior officials have dismissed the blunder as a mistake by an unknown employee. But they cannot explain how they determined it was an innocent oversight if they don't know who did it.
“Somebody made a mistake; we don't know who,” said Nedra Darling, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a branch of Interior. “This is a very busy office. There was a mistake made and we're moving on.”
Some within the agency and longtime critics have been surprised that Interior has not launched an investigation into the disappearance of such lucrative compacts for tribes that also are major campaign contributors.
“I don't think accidents like this happen,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government watchdog that has been critical of Interior in the past.
On Friday, Kempthorne said he has asked Carl Artman, assistant secretary for Indian affairs, to find out what happened.
“We don't know where they went. . . . Apparently an address had been incorrect,” Kempthorne said. “But they've been reviewed; they're released, so it's now back in the state of California's hands.”
Kempthorne said he has seen nothing to indicate “anything improper” occurred.
The compacts authorize one of the largest gambling expansions in state history for four of California's most successful tribes – Sycuan of El Cajon, Pechanga of Temecula, Morongo of east Riverside County and Agua Caliente of Palm Springs.
The deals negotiated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger allow the tribes to add up to 17,000 more slot machines, a 29 percent increase over the 59,000 already in the state .
Referendum measures on the February ballot would nullify legislation that ratified the compacts. But even before those measures qualified for a vote, Interior had expressed misgivings about one of the compacts: Sycuan's.
The agreement authorizes the tribe to build a second casino on lands that are not yet part of the reservation or in trust, the status necessary to conduct gaming. Two years ago, officials at Interior declared the agency would no longer consider gambling agreements for lands not yet in trust or otherwise eligible for gaming.
If voters reject the compacts, the legal weight of the premature federal approval would become the subject of a long legal fight, several attorneys predicted.
In Washington, the four tribes' political clout has been developed through generous campaign contributions to members of both parties. Over the past decade, Morongo, Pechanga and Agua Caliente have consistently ranked among the top 10 tribal contributors to federal candidates, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
During that span, the three tribes contributed nearly $3.5 million to federal candidates and campaigns. Sycuan contributed $274,000.
Agua Caliente also was one of Abramoff's clients. The tribe paid the disgraced lobbyist $10 million. J. Steven Griles, the former No. 2 at Interior, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for lying to senators about his relationship with Abramoff.
That triggered the pledge by Interior leadership to make certain that actions within the agency were above board.
The four tribes have said they didn't even know their compacts were pending in Washington. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen sent them to Interior without the tribes' knowledge, several tribal representatives said.
“We were just as surprised as everyone else, pleasantly though,” said Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the four tribes.
Aides to Bowen said she was simply following a legal requirement to submit the compacts, even though the referendum measures suspended state ratification of the agreements.
Indian Affairs spokeswoman Darling said the compacts were misplaced after they were sent to the wrong office, Room 2070 of the main Interior building. That is the former office of George Skibine, head of the bureau's Indian gaming management branch and the man who reviews most gambling agreements.
The office now houses Interior's Accessible Technology Center, which supplies equipment for handicapped employees. A staffer there has told officials she clearly recalled receiving the compacts in a Federal Express package and promptly delivered them to Artman's office.
“Apparently no one there will acknowledge or remembers getting the package,” Skibine said. “That's where we lose the trail.”
The compacts turned up 80 days later in Skibine's in-box. It's unknown who dropped them off or where they had been, Skibine and others said. But the long hiatus left the agency with few options.
Federal law gives Interior 45 days to act on a proposed compact. If the secretary neither approves nor rejects a compact during that span, it is deemed approved.
In early December, Interior deemed the compacts approved. Skibine was still hopeful the department could delay final approval, which requires a notice published in the Federal Register. There is no deadline to do that.
But Skibine was directed by his superiors – he won't say who – to send the approval notices through the process. They were published Dec. 19.
In addition to the compacts' disappearance, Interior officials can't explain why the same thing didn't happen to another California compact that was sent to the same address in October.
The compact for the San Manuel band of suburban San Bernardino, another expansive agreement authorizing up to 7,500 slots, reached Skibine on Nov. 6, a week after it was mailed to his old office. At that point, Interior officials had no reason to change any procedures because they did not yet know the other compacts were missing.
San Manuel's deal was negotiated with the other four but ratified later and does not face a referendum. Unlike the others, it had become largely noncontroversial and was widely expected to receive federal approval.
All five compacts – San Manuel's and the other four – were sent in packages directed to Artman's attention.
Artman, a member of the Wisconsin Oneida tribe and a former Washington lobbyist, was appointed by President Bush. He declined to be interviewed. But he is no stranger to the big Southern California tribes.
While Artman served as his tribe's general counsel, the Wisconsin Oneida developed two hotel projects with San Manuel and the Viejas tribe of Alpine. The hotels are in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
Artman did request an internal review of what happened, Darling said.
“I don't know how deep it was. I know Mr. Artman had some questions . . . on the tracking of where things were and they were found and things moved forward at that point,” she said.
Whether the compacts' disappearance was an accident or a deliberate act would be something for the agency's inspector general to investigate, Darling said.
The inspector general's office has made some preliminary inquiries, but it has not opened an investigation and probably won't without an allegation of fraud, spokesman Roy Kime said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., one of the few California political leaders who has been willing to challenge the powerful tribes, said she will review the matter.
“I have not been briefed on this,” Feinstein said through a spokesman, “but I've asked my staff to look into it. In general, I am not a fan of expanding gaming in California.”
In the bucolic Dehesa Valley, where the federal approval could permit Sycuan to more than double the size of its gambling operation, some residents feel betrayed.
“It's just amazing to me that this can happen,” said Pat Riggs, president of the Dehesa Valley Community Council.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Another tribe's plan for an off reservation casino has been denied - this time the Jemez Pueblo of New Mexico. Also a smaller casino proposed by the Tiguas of El Paso was rejected. In the article below 65-year-old Jesus Aguila whines "That casino was going to be the future of this community,". No Mr. Aguilar, the Interior Dept. just saved your community (inadvertently of course). The crime, the graft, the division of community that arrive with the casino are not worth the low-end jobs the casino brings in.
Interior Department rejects trust land for Jemez Pueblo casino
By Jose L. Medina/Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES - The U.S. Department of the Interior has denied two proposals to build off-reservation Indian casinos in Doña Ana County.
The department on Jan. 4 sent a four-page letter to Jemez Pueblo of northern New Mexico denying an application to acquire in trust a 78-acre parcel to build a 48,000-square-foot casino in Anthony, N.M., nearly 300 miles away from the Jemez reservation in central New Mexico.
The tribe applied for the land on Dec. 23, 2004.
The Interior Department also denied a proposal by the Tigua Indians of El Paso to build a smaller casino near Chaparral. In a letter also dated Jan. 4, the department said it denied the Tigua proposal because the application was incomplete and no new information had been submitted in more than a year.
Federal law allows Indian tribes to build off-reservation casinos if the Interior Department is convinced that the casino will benefit the tribe. In the Department of the Interior had approved the proposal, the governor would then have also had to approve it.
In the letter denying the much-debated Jemez proposal, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Carl J. Altman wrote that a casino in Anthony would not address the pueblo's unemployment problems and could have a detrimental effect on the tribe because of the distance from the reservation.
"Because the proposed gaming facility is not within a commutable distance of the reservation, resident tribal members will either: a) decline the job opportunity if they desire to remain on the reservation; or b) move away from the reservation to take advantage of job opportunities."
The news was met with sadness by casino supporters who had hoped it would create jobs.
"We just need more work, more future," said 65-year-old Jesus Aguilar, an Anthony, N.M., resident who said his two sons have left the area because work opportunities are lacking in the community.
"That casino was going to be the future of this community," he added.
But opponents of the casino reiterated that its potential economic and social benefits had been overstated.
"We're very pleased with it," said Joe Monahan of the Committee to Protect Doña Ana County, a group opposed to the Jemez proposal and backed by Sunland Park Race Track and Casino owner Stan Fulton. "It's been a long, hard struggle."
The tribe had planned to build the casino off Interstate 10 in conjunction with Santa Fe developer and art dealer Gerald Peters. A call placed to Peters' chief of staff was not returned Monday.
In the three years since it was introduced, the plan had been met by opponents who argued the casino would draw away from local businesses and would open the door for other off-reservation casinos.
Supporters argued that the casino would bring tourist dollars to the area and provide an income stream to the Jemez Pueblo, which has an unemployment rate thought to be about 50 percent or possibly as high as 66 percent.
In a statement, Jemez Gov. Paul Chinana said he would not comment further until the decision was reviewed by the tribe's lawyers, but he did say that the ruling ignored the Pueblo's job creation plan, which would have benefited both the tribe and Anthony.
"Under our plan, the pueblo leadership would identify the needed jobs, which would include needed teachers, health-care professionals, nursing-home personnel, child-care workers, policemen, and a host of other needed tribal service providers and occupations," Chinana said. "Pueblo members would choose their vocations, obtain their education and training via a casino funded scholarship program, return to the reservation and provide needed but currently unavailable services to its own tribal members."
In the statement, Chinana said that a day prior to the letter being issued, the Interior Department issued new guidance regarding land into trust applications where the proposed site exceeds a "commutable distance" from the reservation.
The pueblo preferred the off-reservation proposal because Jemez is too far from a population center and faced too much competition from already established Indian casinos near Albuquerque.
The casino would have provided direct competition to Sunland Park Race Track and Casino, owned by Fulton. He has promised to give New Mexico State University 50 percent ownership in the casino upon his death, but only if no other casino exists within a 50-mile radius of his casino. NMSU President Michael Martin said he respected the department's decision, but otherwise repeated his previous stance not taking sides in the issue.
"The way the Interior Department phrased this, this is a firm rejection of off-reservation gambling," Monahan said.
The New Mexico Indian Gaming Association opposed the pueblo's request in December 2005, saying it did not object to a tribe entering into gambling or seeking economic development, but did not favor any proposal for off-reservation gaming in New Mexico.
The same year, the Doña Ana County Commission voted 3-2 to support the proposed casino, but six state legislators from the area asked the Interior Department to reject it. Gov. Bill Richardson never took a formal stand for or against the casino.
Friday, January 11, 2008
As the vote for propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97 approaches - information is surfacing as to how these props will actually (not) benefit the state. Initially they seemed to be the silver bullet for the Governors budget crises, and as the hype grew - giving four casinos almost 20,000 more slot machines would do everything from pump millions into schools to cure arthritis! This of course was not being put out by researchers - it was being pumped by public relations specialists hired by the tribes. Careful scrutiny however reveals a different story, as seen in the SY Valley Journal. Something else to keep in mind: recent history has shown us that an Indian Casino can claim sovereign immunity at any time - and simply do not have to abide by any agreement they enter into.
By India Allen, Staff Writer
With the California State budget still being negotiated and the 2006 Tribal Compacts awaiting approval by California voters in a slugfest characterized by claims from proponents that the compacts will guarantee additional funding for the state’s schools, a new study claims there is no direct connection between compact approvals and funding for public schools.
Strategic Education Services, a Sacramento based lobbying, consulting and advocacy firm, issued an Analysis of the 2006 Tribal Compact and Their Impact on Education Funding. Contrary to various pro-compact campaign advertisements that assert that compact approval will provide billions of dollars to California schools, the study not only claims there is no guarantee that money distributed by tribes from gambling operations will directly benefit California’s public education system, but also that even with extra money coming from Indian tribes as a result of compact approvals, the Governor and State Legislature will most likely distribute the extra money to other programs.
“If approved by voters under the false impression they are voting to ‘provide billions to California schools,’ these gambling compacts could further the misperception that schools are receiving adequate funding from gambling measures -- a measure that already plagues efforts to provide genuine revenue increases to California schools,” reads a statement in the analysis.
Because public school funding is issued and managed through Proposition 98, a school funding formula that derives money for schools through proceeds of taxes, such as property tax, the study further claims that since tribes are sovereign nations, the state cannot levee taxes on their economic ventures. Therefore, compact payments cannot be considered proceeds of taxes and would not be included in a public education funding calculations.
“All revenues from past compacts have been allocated to non-Proposition 98 expenditures,” the analysis states. “There is nothing in these compacts to suggest that such practices will be any different than current policy.”
Roger Salazar, media representative for Yes on 94, 95, 96 and 97, refutes the report’s findings, stating that since 40 percent of California’s general fund is required to go towards public education, an increase in money to the general fund would also increase the amount of money distributed to public education and other programs.
“Any time you put additional resources in the general fund it relieves all areas. I don’t see how adding more money into the general fund wouldn’t benefit schools,” he said. (ed~possibly because that is not your job? YOUR job Mr. Salazar is to sell it to the California voters - not point out the flaws eh?) “It benefits all state programs including schools. It’s a technical argument that Strategic Education Services are trying to make.
“We are not in a position to make the promise, but what we have said is that these agreements will allow $9 Billion over two decades to be applied to the California budget. We’re facing some very tough budget times, and what these tribes are trying to do is contribute to part of the solution.”
Though the Legislature can decide to apply extra money the state receives to education, it has a track record for only applying the minimum 40 percent to schools.
In May 2007, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger added an additional $427 million to the public education fund, which was more than the minimum 40 percent, and the Legislature reduced the funding by that exact amount -- applying only the minimum 40 percent.
The analysis questions how funds from compact agreements would be guaranteed to benefit public education since the legislature historically has applied the minimum 40 percent to schools, regardless of budget revenues.
While Salazar acknowledges this fact, he remains optimistic that the additional money from compacts would be applied toward public education and other vital programs.
“The folks on the other side are trying to do everything they can to mislead the voters to make them think that the compacts will not help the budget,” he said. “While nothing in life is guaranteed, what is guaranteed is that the state will receive hundreds of millions of dollars each and every year to help with its budget problems and fund vital services such as education, and that’s a good thing.” (ed~ such a telling statement~nothing in life is guaranteed, would that include even your "guarantee" Mr. Salazar?)
The Governors Office could not be reached for comment.
Recently the Miami Herald did an expose' on the Florida Seminole Tribe who have been siphoning millions from those Florida retirees, displaced Cubans and "snow birds" via their casinos with facimile (class II) slot machines and high stakes Bingo games. The paper was prompted to investigate because the Seminoles (rather the now fractional descendants of the original tribe) just bought the Planet Hollywood resort and restaurant chain for a mere nine hundred million dollars. Well it wasn't just that, you see the tribe wants Florida and the Feds to let them open full-on, Las Vegas style, class III gambling casinos, so they can siphon even more money from the unsuspecting non-Indian gamblers who think they have any chance of actually winning more than a free trip to the buffet line. Their investigation took them to the gated mansions of the tribal government officials where gardeners, chauffeurs and maids worked dilligently to polish up the Mercedes and BMW's parked on circular driveways and to keep their multi-million dollar "teepees" looking as good as any estate you might find in Scarsdale or Purchase, New York. What the rewporters found out in their investigation was, not only was this tribe of "Indians" making tens of millions from those gambling casino profits, but also that they still recieved over seventeen million in federal welfare and grant monies every year. In this day and age when so many governments are crying poor how is it that the federal government is still pouring millions of non-Indian tax dollars down the Seminole money pit? What planet are these bungling bureaucrats from? Better still, what insanity prompted Congress to unleash unregulated Indian casino gambling on the rest of the country without regard for the safety, welfare and quality of life of the other 298 million Americans?
Posted by advocate4all at 9:05 AM|PERMALINK
Thursday, January 10, 2008
...and it looks like we will be going into it minus a few "hoped for" casinos. It appears that the federal government is taking a fairly firm stand in denying tribes off-reservation casinos. Tough luck for three tribes in California near Barstow. How the mayor can feel 'disappointed' stretches one's imagination though. He has not realized that the feds just save his town. From the Desert Dispatch.
Federal government rejects tribes' casino plans
By Jason Smith, staff writer
BARSTOW — The plans of three Indian tribes to build off-reservation casinos in Barstow have been rejected by the federal government further stalling the projects over the objections of tribal and community leaders.
The Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno, Big Lagoon Rancheria and Chemehuevi tribes were sent letters from the Department of the Interior informing them that their applications to put land near Barstow into a federal trust, a step necessary to build casinos, had been rejected.
Barstow Mayor Lawrence Dale said he was disappointed by the ruling.
“You know, it’s aggravating to say the least. The city has worked for five years on this project in good faith. To have the Department of the Interior change the guidelines as we were approaching the finish line is unconscionable.” he said. “The ruling as far as I’m concerned is a slap in the face to the Governor, and a slug in the stomach to the people of Barstow.”
In similar, but separate letters to the tribes dated Jan 4., Carl Artman, the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, acknowledged that the tribes would receive economic assistance from the development of a casino, but stated that benefits were outweighed by the drawbacks because the proposed sites were not within “a reasonable commuting distance” of the tribes’ reservations.
“(T)he negative impacts on reservation life could be considerable,” the letter stated. “The potential departure of a significant number of reservation residents and their families could have serious and far-reaching implications for the remaining tribal community and its continuity as a community.”
The Chemehuevi’s reservation in Havasu Lake is 135 miles away, the Los Coyotes reservation is 115 miles southwest of Barstow in Warner Springs. Big Lagoon’s reservation occupies an environmentally sensitive coastal lagoon in Humboldt county 550 miles to the north of the casino site.
Tom Shields project spokesman for BarWest Gaming, which proposes a dual casino project by the Los Coyotes and Big Lagoon tribes, objected to the commuting distance clause in the department’s decision.
“These rules are arbitrary from the Secretary and certainly will be challenged if not by the Los Coyotes then by other tribes,” he said. “There may be a class action suit here.”
Shields said that the company stands behind its Barstow proposal and along with the Los Coyotes tribe, is negotiating with the governor’s office for a revised casino agreement. He said that although no decision has been made, the tribe can resubmit its land to trust application with additional information, appeal the ruling to the department, or file a lawsuit.
Shields rejected the idea that the development of a Barstow casino would negatively affect life on the reservation.
“(The Secretary) is basically saying the tribes are better off on their reservation unemployed,” he said. “Eighty-nine percent of the Los Coyotes don’t live on the reservation because there aren’t any opportunities to them, there’s nothing even close.”
The Big Lagoon Rancheria and Los Coyotes Indian tribes applied in March 2006 with the Department of the Interior to use 40-acres of land to build a joint casino near Lenwood. The Chemehuevi tribe applied with the department in February 2006 for permission to use a 40-acre parcel nearby to build a competing casino.
The Department of the Interior sent letters to 22 tribes across the country with pending land into trust applications. The department denied 11 of the applications, including the three tribes with Barstow casino plans, but asked the other 11 tribes to resubmit their applications with additional information.
The federal land into trust decision comes as the second setback to the Big Lagoon and Los Coyotes casino proposal in recent months. In September, the tribes’ agreement with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for the dual casino project expired without being passed by the state legislature.
In a press release from the Los Coyotes, the tribe blasted the decision from the Department of the Interior calling the denial illegal. Tribal members objected to the decision because the department had not completed its environmental review of the project or visited Barstow before issuing the ruling, the release stated.
Jason Barnett, spokesman for the Big Lagoon Rancheria tribe that while the tribe is moving forward with its plans to build a casino on its Humboldt county reservation, said it has not ruled out building in Barstow.
“(Tribal chairman) Virgil (Moorehead) has always said that if we can find a way to make the project work in Barstow, we will,” Barnett said.
The ruling also stalled plans for the Chemehuevi tribe to move ahead with their casino proposal.
The tribe’s chairman, Charles Wood said that he’s not sure how the decision will affect the tribe’s Barstow plans or if the tribe will continue with the project.
“We’ll have to take that into consideration and see what are options are,” he said. “I can’t comment at this time as to what those may be.”
Despite the new obstacle of the Interior Department’s ruling, Dale said still supports a casino in Barstow and expects one to be built someday.
“I still have faith that we will get the casino, but it will take real hard work on everyone’s part,” he said. (ed~not if people start reading sites like TribalWatch)
Council member Steve Curran said that he only recently learned of the decision, but said he doesn’t think interest in bringing a casino to Barstow will fade.
“It will happen as long as there is profit to make and there are people willing to work on it,” he said.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
I wonder if it has occurred to any officials of our government that in allowing tribes to proceed with building casinos and establishing gaming empires - they have allowed the creation of precisely the type of dictatorships we have been sending our troops to fight (and die fighting) overseas. These little "Hugos" and "Mahmouds" on their sovereign land waste no time in excising any dissident opinions from their midst, and keep who is left in check with intimidation. Part of an excellent article by Marc Cooper originally posted at the LA Weekly follows. Links are provide to the rest of the article - and it is worth reading.
Tribal Flush: Pechanga People "Disenrolled" en Masse
On the eve of what could be the largest gambling expansion in U.S. history, a tale of power, betrayal and lost Indian heritage
By MARC COOPER
John Gomez Jr. parks his silver family van in the back row of one more anonymous strip mall off California’s Highway 79, an hour and a half southeast of Los Angeles, on a windswept ridge overlooking the Temecula Valley. Gomez, his dark hair barely betraying a sprinkling of gray at his temples, steps out of the van and walks away from the mall, to a barren dirt lot marked off with adobe walls.
“This is where Pablo is buried,” he says as we peer over the locked iron gate.
Pablo is Pablo Apis, the celebrated 19th-century “headman,” or chief, of the Temecula/Pechanga Indians, who was given more than 2,000 acres of land in exchange for his work at the Mission San Luis Rey. Gomez, who is a direct descendant of Chief Apis, jiggles the lock on the gate. He has no key.
“This is where a lot of our people were buried,” Gomez continues, “including those killed in the famous Temecula Massacre.” He’s referring to the killing of several dozen Indians by Californio militias in the closing days of 1846. Apis survived and, indeed, the 1875 treaty between the Temecula tribe and the U.S. government, though never ratified, was signed at the chief’s village adobe home.
Today, on a corner of Apis’ original land grant, a few minutes down the road from the desolate burial ground, towers the $350 million Pechanga Resort & Casino, the glittering 14-story pleasure dome so familiar to Southern Californians from the promotional and political-advocacy commercials in near-constant rotation on local television stations. With 522 rooms, 185,000 square feet of casino floor, 2,000 slot machines, more than 150 table games and seven restaurants, along with Vegas-class showrooms, nightclubs and comedy lounges, the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, as the tribe is now known, runs the largest and perhaps most profitable of California’s nearly 60 Indian casinos. And now, under terms of a deal negotiated by Governor Schwarzenegger, ratified earlier this year by the Democratic-led state legislature and set to go before voters in the February 5 primary election, the Pechanga and three other Southern California tribes may soon triple their battery of slot machines, allowing each of the four Indian groups to operate twice as many slots as any Vegas casino. If the referendums go through, the four tribes — Morongo, Agua Caliente, Sycuan and Pechanga — will be responsible for the largest expansion of gambling in recent U.S. history.
Gomez, a 40-year-old paralegal, helped birth the Pechanga mega-resort, which opened in 2002 and today grosses as much as $1 billion a year. He worked as a legal and cultural adviser to his tribe, a representative and lobbyist, and, along with several of his family members, served on key tribal committees as the Pechanga moved, almost overnight, from obscure poverty to a position of awesome political and economic power.
But it’s Gomez’s tribe no more. At least as far as the tribal leadership is concerned. Gomez and 135 adult members of his extended family (and 75 or more children) have been purged from formal Pechanga membership; they have been “disenrolled.” They were accused of no crime, no misbehavior, no wrongdoing, no disloyalty. But a series of tribal kangaroo-court hearings, bereft of even the pretense of due process, ruled that one of the family’s deceased elders was not an authentic tribe member and, therefore, not withstanding their years of service to the tribe, they were all to be banned.
And so today John Gomez can only stand outside the cemetery where Chief Apis and his other forebears are buried. “My family’s history is the history of Temecula and the Pechanga,” says Gomez. “But now, somehow, we have become traitors.”
As we drive from the cemetery and cruise by the city park named for Chief Apis, Gomez says, “I loved my job. I loved my tribe. But growing up... growing up, man... I would never, ever have thought our tribe would come to this.”
What it’s come to goes beyond tribal pride. As a result of the disenrollment, many in the Gomez family, which accounts for some 10 percent of the total Pechanga tribe’s membership, have lost their federal standing and benefits as American Indians. Some have lost their jobs at the resort. All of the adults, including Gomez, lost the generous per capita monthly payout, derived from casino profits, that was given to each adult of the tribe. When the Gomez family’s expulsion was finalized in 2004, that was about $15,000 per month. Currently, for those who remain members of the tribe, the figure has risen to about $40,000 per month.
The sharp increase is due in part to a second wave of purges, finalized last year, which disenrolled another extended family, this one descended from Paulina Hunter and representing yet another 10 percent of the tribe. That second purge went ahead despite a tribe-commissioned expert probe that concluded that Hunter was, in fact, a Pechanga. Simply put: The fewer the tribal members, the bigger the payout.
Some of the elderly disenrollees found themselves cut off from tribal clinics they helped to build. Some of the younger ones lost their education subsidies. What all the disenrollees have in common is not only the sudden loss of significant income but erasure of their collective cultural history and identity.
“Yes, we lost homes and cars. Some went into bankruptcy,” Gomez says. “But mostly I was saddened for my family and for Indian country in general. It’s not just your money they’re taking away but also your heritage and your future.”
With Indian gaming revenues now near the $30 billion mark nationally, disenrollment has rocked and divided Indian reservations from coast to coast.
“Gaming has brought in the dominant culture’s disease of greed,’’ Marty Firerider of the California American Indian Movement told the Indian Country Today newspaper.
In Oklahoma, just to cite one example, 2,800 descendants of “freedmen” — former African-American slaves who were “adopted” by the Cherokee — are now being expelled. But the epicenter of the disenrollment crisis is in California, where more than a dozen gaming tribes have already purged as many as 4,000 members. Little recourse is available to the disenrollees because state and federal courts have so far ruled that under the cloak of sovereign immunity, the tribes alone can serve as final arbiters of membership. Likewise, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has mostly defaulted to the tribes. And the media has been met with a virtual stonewall from the tribes, which claim they have no need to justify their internal affairs. As a result, stories about the disenrollments in local media stir little public outrage. One exception took place this past Labor Day weekend, when Bill Cosby canceled a scheduled performance at the Chukchansi tribe’s casino outside Fresno. Over the past year the tribe has purged a whopping half of its 1,200 members, and the Coz wanted no part of the increasingly ugly dispute.
But now, with four powerful Southern California tribes ready to make literally billions of dollars over the next two decades if the Schwarzenegger-negotiated gambling expansion is approved in the February 5 primary, the disenrollments have taken on a new timeliness. Gomez and his allies have emerged as leaders of a growing national movement to legally and politically challenge the tribal purges, which were first set in motion among the Pechanga in 2002, 127 years after the 1875 eviction of the tribe from its ancestral land by Temecula ranchers. Not coincidentally, the case of the disenrolled Pechanga could move to political center stage over the next few weeks.
“Don’t be surprised if you see Gomez or some of the other disenrollees show up soon in some TV spots,” says an activist supporting the ballot initiatives (Propositions 94 through 97, one proposition for each tribe) that would cancel the expansion deals. “They are the faces of everything wrong with the runaway power of the tribe.”
Gomez first got into trouble with his Pechanga tribe in 2002, when, as a trusted legal adviser, he was elected to the tribal-enrollment committee, along with a cousin and a member of the Paulina Hunter family. These were sensitive positions. After the tribe won its first minor gambling concession in 1996, and after California voters approved major Indian gaming rights four years later, it was only natural that there would be an increase in those suddenly claiming membership.
“As soon as we were elected, we found that the committee was doing all kinds of strange things,” Gomez says. “On the one hand they weren’t adhering to an enrollment moratorium and on the other they weren’t properly processing the minor children of those already enrolled.”
Gomez and his new allies began an investigation.
The boom quickly dropped on them. Within weeks a letter emerged from a group called Concerned Pechanga People, a small faction closely allied with the tribal leadership and its chair, Mark Macarro, which accused Gomez and his family of not being legitimate Pechanga. By the end of the year, Gomez’s extended family were notified of pending disenrollment. During an internal process that lasted more than a year and a half, Gomez put together binders of documentation proving — at least to virtually every outside observer who has reviewed them — his Pechanga ancestry.
But the tribal leadership, in closed-door sessions that adhered to no formal due process or rules of evidence, held to its position that one key elder in Gomez’s lineage — Manuela Miranda — had left the traditional village after her marriage and, therefore, her descendants weren’t really Pechanga. The claim, according to several experts, is prima facie absurd, as the history of American Indians is based on such dispersion and diaspora.
“No matter,” says Gomez. “Their minds were made up. The tribe could provide no solid evidence to back their claim against us. We were just out, period.” Among those disenrolled with Gomez were his brother Marc, the executive chef for the casino; his father, John Gomez Sr., a major figure in tribal outreach; a cousin who was a top financial adviser to the tribe; a cousin who headed the tribal fire department; a cousin who was chief of the casino’s human resources; and a cousin who was an assistant in the same department.
The final disenrollment of the Gomez clan in 2004 sent shock waves through the Pechanga community. After all, Gomez had been very tight with Chairman Macarro, known broadly to Californians as the public face of Indian gambling. With his leather vest, ponytail, youthful good looks and soft-spoken tone, Macarro has been the prominent figure in tens of millions of dollars’ worth of pro-Indian-gaming advertising.
“Mark spoke at my uncle’s funeral. His brother sang at my son’s dedication to the tribe,” says Gomez. “I thought we were pretty close when we were lobbying together for the tribe. But then, as our power grew — and let me tell you, we have a lot of power in Sacramento — I could see this sort of Napoleonic complex emerge. He loved to send out BlackBerry messages with, like, ‘Fuck you! Fuck you, you guys. You don’t know what you’re doing.’ He became a control freak.”
Ironically, Macarro’s own lineage seems blurry, and he was not a significant presence on the reservation until after gaming was legalized in 1996.
Chairman Macarro, consistent with the tribe’s usual stand on these matters, refused to comment on this story. When KNBC produced a story on disenrollments last year, the tribe bought a pre-emptive rebuttal commercial designed specifically to air just before the news segment, then at the last minute granted a brief interview to reporter Colleen Williams. “This has never been about money,” Macarro told Williams in response to accusations of greed on the part of tribal leadership. “This is about the integrity of tribal citizenship here at Pechanga. If there was a corn field instead of a casino, these same challenges would have taken the same path to the same conclusion.”