Tag Archives: North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians

BIA Approves Two Gaming Sites, Rejects Two Others

The head of the BIA has approved land into trust applications for two gaming sites in California and rejected two others in California and New Mexico.

Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk and Deputy Assistant Del Laverdure announced the decisions in a press call today, September 2, and issued a press release with links to fact sheets on each determination.

Applications for proposed gaming facilities from the Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians in Yuba County, California, and the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians in Madera County, California, were approved while two negative decisions were issued on applications from the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians in California, and the Pueblo of Jemez in New Mexico.

“We understand gaming applications can generate strong feelings on many sides, but it is our job to focus on the law and to ensure that we have a clear, sound and thorough process for reviewing those proposals,” Echo Hawk said. “Our existing regulations provide clear and adequate standards for reviewing tribal applications. This is one of the reasons I recently rescinded what is known as the ‘commutability memo’ issued by the previous administration and announced the department would move forward in reviewing pending off reservation gaming applications under existing regulations.”  The ‘commutability memo’ Echo Hawk rescinded in June was issued in 2008 and said, among other things, that tribes could not develop casinos on off reservation land that was not within “commutable distance” of the reservation. It didn’t define “commutable.”

But commutability continues to play a factor in approving off reservation gaming applications.  “Under our regulations we look at whether a parcel is within reasonable commuting distance from its reservation,” Laverdure said. And the further away it is, the more scrutiny the applications gets, he said.

The Enterprise Rancheria wants to operate a gaming facility on 40 acres of land in Yuba, County, California, which is 36 miles south of the tribe’s headquarters in Oroville in Butte County.  “The gaming facility would only be 36 miles from its government headquarters, allowing the Tribe’s government to exercise governmental power over the gaming site,” Echo Hawk said. The Enterprise Rancheria has around 800 members and currently only 40 acres of land in trust, which have been held in trust since 1915 and are currently used for residential purposes, according to the fact sheet. The proposed gaming site is approximately 40 miles north of Sacramento, CA.  The Tribe originally submitted its application in 2002. The proposed facility would include 1,700 machines, and an eight-story/170 room hotel. The BIA estimates the casino would yield annual net revenues of $46.2 million by year seven, with $19.3 million in cash available to the Tribe’s government in year seven.

The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians is proposing to operate a gaming facility with 2,500 gaming machines and a 200-room hotel on 305 acres of land in Madera County, California – 36 miles southwest of the tribe’s headquarters in North Fork, and 38 miles driving distance from its existing trust lands. The North Fork Rancheria has 1,750 members and currently has only 80 acres of land in trust, located in the Sierra Nevada foothills, four miles east of the town of North Fork, CA. Those lands are currently used for residential purposes. The BIA estimates that the casino would generate net revenues of $53.8 million by year seven, with $19 million in cash available to the Tribe’s government in year seven.

Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the governor has veto power over the land into trust acquisition. The governor of California has one year to concur in Echo Hawk’s determinations on the Enterprise Rancheria and the North Fork Rancheria before the parcels can be acquired in trust for each tribe to conduct gaming. If the governor does not concur in the Assistant Secretary’s determination for each tribe, or if he simply does not respond to a request to concur, then the tribes may not conduct gaming on the proposed site.

Commutability was a factor in the BIA’s decision to decline to take land into trust for both the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indian and the Pueblo of Jemez . The Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians had sought to develop a gaming facility in Richmond, California, more than 100 miles from its existing tribal lands in Mendocino County. The Pueblo of Jemez proposed a casino in Dona Ana County near the New Mexico-Texas border almost 300 miles away from its reservation in northwest of Albuquerque.

“We have closely reviewed the proposals from the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians and the Pueblo of Jemez and have determined that they do not meet the requirements under the law necessary for approval,” said Echo Hawk. “The Guidiville Band’s application did not satisfy many of the requirements to develop a gaming facility at that particular site. With the Pueblo of Jemez, we had significant concerns about the Tribe’s ability to effectively exercise jurisdiction over a parcel nearly 300 miles from its existing reservation.”

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) generally prohibits tribes from conducting gaming on lands acquired after 1988 when the law was enacted, but provides a number of exceptions. The Guidiville Band was seeking land into trust under IGRA’s “restored lands” exception, but could not prove it has both a modern connection and a significant historical connection to the proposed gaming site – two of the requirements to qualify for that exception.  “The Tribe relies upon anecdotal evidence and presumptions relating to the larger Pomo cultural group, rather than historical evidence relating to its own predecessors, to support its claim of a `significant historical connection’ to the site,” Echo Hawk said. The tribe could amend its fee-to-trust application for a different purpose, or submit a new gaming application for other lands, Echo Hawk said.

Two factors doomed the Pueblo of Jemez’s application—governmental power and distance. The IGRA requires a tribe to exercise governmental power over lands in order for them to be “Indian lands” eligible for gaming. In the Jemez’s case, the tribe had enteredinto several intergovernmental agreements with local governments near its proposed casino site in Anthony, New Mexico—300 miles away from its reservation—to exercise governmental power of the proposed trust lands.  The intergovernmental agreements and the 300-mile distance between Jemez’s reservation and its proposed casino would prevent the tribe from properly exercising governmental power over the site, Echo Hawk said. In addition, the assistant secretary noted the tribe was “unlikely to demonstrate a significant historical connection to the site, which, when coupled with the great distance between the site and the Tribe’s reservation, would make it difficult to render a positive Secretarial Determination under our gaming regulations. “

Feinstein Opposes Rancherias’ Trust Land Approvals for Gaming

Sen. Diane Feinstein has taken her fight against what she calls “off reservation gaming” to California’s governor.

In a September 23 letter, Feinstein urged Gov. Jerry Brown to reject the Bureau of Indian Affair’s (BIA) approval of applications to take land into trust for gaming facilities for two California rancherias: the Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians in Yuba County and the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians in Madera County. The proposals will “strain State and local resources and public services, and they should be denied,” Feinstein wrote.

Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk approved both applications in early September. Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians is headquartered in Butte County, 36 miles from its proposed 40-acre gaming site. The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians is headquartered in Madera County, California, 36 miles from its proposed 305-acre gaming site. Both tribes submitted applications under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act’s “Secretarial Determination” exception (or Two Part Determination), which allows tribes to conduct gaming on lands outside of their existing reservation where the Department determines that it would be in the best interest of the tribe and its members, and not detrimental to the surrounding community. Brown has one year to concur with Echo Hawk’s approval.

Enterprise Rancheria Chairwoman Glenda Nelson, defended her tribe’s right to trust land at the recent Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. The Enterprise Rancheria has sought trust land for gaming for more than a decade, she said. In an ironic twist, other tribes in the region that were terminated received trust land when their tribal status was restored and were able to exercise their rights to gaming as an economic development strategy years ago, she said.  “We’ve always fought for our sovereign rights, but we were never terminated. We had to go through the Two Part Determination. My argument is that we should at least have the same rights as restored tribes, but not less.”

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act generally prohibits Indian gaming on land acquired after the act was passed in 1988. The Two Part Determination provides exceptions to the prohibition. But the process is so rigorous that only five applications have been approved since 1988.

Feinstein told Brown that “off reservation gaming proposals” received “overwhelming opposition” from California voters in the year 2000. The referendum “allowed tribes to operate casinos provided that they did so ‘on Indian lands,’” Feinstein said.

But Nelson says that the approved land is Indian land. “It’s not off reservation. Our Indian Health Service has always been there in Yuba County and when the BIA came out and put our (other) land in trust the noted that our people live in Yuba County all up and down the Feather River drainage.”

History also backs Nelson’s claim that the proposed trust land is Indian land. Rancherias were created to compensate indigenous peoples of the area for being dispossessed of their aboriginal lands. Between 1851 and 1852, 18 treaties were negotiated between the United States Government and more than 100 California Indian Tribes and Bands, according to Native Arts. The treaties called for reservations of more than eight million acres for the tribes, but on July 8, 1852, the U.S. Senate secretly rejected the treaties and from 1852 to 1854 Indian Tribes were forcibly removed to temporary reservations, the article says. In the early 1900s a researcher discovered the unratified treaties and reformers petitioned Congress to appropriate money to provide land for the homeless American Indians of California. Congress appropriated the money to purchase 9,000 acres of land that became 50 separate Rancherias.

Feinstein says the Interior Department’s assertion that the proposed casinos enjoy strong community support “is simply false.” She claims that “only Yuba county” supports the project and that three of the officials polled by Interior “expressed outright opposition while the remaining 15—including myself—did not respond.” She says she never received the letter and would have opposed the trust land approval if she had.

According to the Enterprise Rancheria’s website, the tribe has “voluntarily entered into two separate enforceable agreements” with Yuba County in December 2002 and with the City of Marysville in August 2005. “These comprehensive agreements call for over $75 million in contributions over 15 years to fund an array of local public safety, education, infrastructure and parks, housing, economic development, employment, and other local projects.” Additionally the tribe has agreed to mitigate possible significant improves through several environmental and socio-economic safeguards detailed in the Environment Impact Statement, the site says.

Feinstein Directs Interior to Review Gaming Decisions for Two Rancherias

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has directed the Interior Department to revisit its decision to approve land into trust for gaming facilities for two California rancherias: the Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians in Yuba County and the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians in Madera County.

Interior’s Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk approved the trust applications in early September. The Enterprise Rancheria plans to operate a gaming facility on 40 acres of land in Yuba, County, California, which is 36 miles south of the tribe’s headquarters in Oroville in Butte County. The Enterprise Rancheria has around 800 members and currently only 40 acres of land in trust, which have been held in trust since 1915 and are currently used for residential purposes, according to the Interior Department. The Tribe originally submitted its application in 2002. The proposed facility would include 1,700 machines, and an eight-story, 170-room hotel. The BIA estimates the casino would yield annual net revenues of $46.2 million by year seven, with $19.3 million in cash available to the Tribe’s government in year seven.

The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians proposes a gaming facility with 2,500 gaming machines and a 200-room hotel on 305 acres of land in Madera County, California—36 miles southwest of the tribe’s headquarters in North Fork, and 38 miles driving distance from its existing trust lands. The North Fork Rancheria has 1,750 members and currently has only 80 acres of land in trust, located in the Sierra Nevada foothills, four miles east of the town of North Fork, California. Those lands are currently used for residential purposes. The BIA estimates that the casino would generate net revenues of $53.8 million by year seven, with $19 million in cash available to the Tribe’s government in year seven.

Feinstein, a noted opponent of what she calls “off-reservation gaming,” inserted additional language into the massive Interior Department appropriations bill in a conference committee December 16. The bill was approved by the Senate the next day. Feinstein’s addition says that the committee conferees were “concerned” about an alleged “lack of support” for the two proposed casinos. She directed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to review the applications “to verify the claim of ‘strong local support’” and report back to the committees within 60 days after the bill was enacted.

A recent survey by Stand Up for California, an anti-casino citizens’ group that particularly targets Indian casinos says on its website say that a recent poll in commission shows “69 percent of Yuba County voters oppose building off reservation casinos altogether and 73 percent feel that tribes should get permission from the voters before moving forward with such projects. The poll found that 63 percent of Yuba County voters specifically opposed the Enterprise Rancheria casino while only 32 percent support.”

“Those numbers contradict Interior Department decisions to move forward with new casinos in both counties, especially since those decisions were based on ‘strong local support,’” Feinstein said, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Cheryl Schmidt, of Stand Up for California, told Indian Country Today Media Network that 1,400 statewide respondents took part in the poll, but only 300 of them were in Yuba County. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Yuba County is 72,155, which renders the 300 respondents statistically insignificant.

In a September 23 letter, Feinstein urged Gov. Jerry Brown to reject the Bureau of Indian Affair’s (BIA) approval of applications. Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the governor has veto power over the land into trust acquisition. The governor of California has one year to concur in Echo Hawk’s determinations on the Enterprise Rancheria and the North Fork Rancheria before the parcels can be acquired in trust for each tribe to conduct gaming. If the governor does not concur in the Assistant Secretary’s determination for each tribe, or if he simply does not respond to a request to concur, then the tribes may not conduct gaming on the proposed site.