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 Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Vol 33, No. 5

Page A1, column 1


Karuk’s eye new casino


-- Funds from casino will pay for fish restoration.


-- Karuks say Alturas Rancheria casino is a “no go.”


By Liz Bowen, Pioneer Press Assistant Editor, Fort Jones, Calif.


YREKA, Calif.  – It is a new and interesting angle proposed by leaders of the Karuk Tribe of California. What the Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger does with this newest casino proposal is anyone’s guess.


Last week, some tribal leaders, along with their newly re-hired attorney, appeared during the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors meeting. They brought with them the new proposal for a casino that they submitted to the governor’s office on Nov. 18, 2005.


Karuk tribal attorney, Dennis Whittlesey, said that the tribe will “dedicate a portion” of casino funds to the programs that the Karuks are doing for fish and restoration of the Klamath River.


“It is an environmental project that a casino will support,” said Whittlesey.


Sandy Tripp, the director of the Karuk Department of Natural Resources, explained that her department is mostly grant funded and there is a lack of stability of those funds. She also said that there have been misunderstandings and representations of the Karuk’s Natural Resources Department and its stand on logging and Wilderness.


“We are not against logging,” said Tripp. “We don’t look forward in putting more land into Wilderness.”


Leaf Hillman, vice chairman of the Karuks, reiterated that the tribe will commit to funding its Natural Resource programs with funds from a casino. He explained that the tribe “has a very small land base for its population size” and that it “needs to generate revenue.”


Several items were at the crux of this casino proposal. Whittlesey and Hillman were straight forward, when they admitted that the tribe’s last proposal was not acceptable to the National Indian Gaming Commission, called NIGC. It is the NIGC that governs Indian Gaming, since the U.S. Congress created the Indian Gaming Act in 1988.


Whittlesey said that the 2004 proposal “failed to qualify for gaming,” because the case was not “well presented.” He added that he did not prepare the document for the tribe, although he has worked for the tribal council in years past.


Whittlesey said that the tribe has the right to re-submit the trust land for gaming to the NIGC and he is doing so. He said that the land failed to meet the criteria, because it became trust land six months after the Indian Gaming Act was enacted. The six months delay made the land unavailable for gaming under the Congressional Act.


It was October 2004, when the Karuk’s received the “negative” declaration on its trust land in Yreka.


In trying to claim Siskiyou County area as its tribal territory, Whittlesey and Hillman cited a 1910 census of the county, where it showed that 69 percent of the Native Americans were Karuk.


“We are not a reservation shopping tribe,” said Whittlesey, although he was candid and added that “on occasion people have called me a reservation shopper.”


Later in the meeting, Betty Hall and Gary Lake represented the Shasta Nation. Hall said she was “appalled” at the incorrect statements made by the Karuks. She explained that for any Native American to be enrolled in a tribe, each individual must trace his or her lineage back to1852 under the Bureau of Indian Affairs regulations.


“Not one Karuk can claim an ancestor that lived in Scott Valley,” she said. “This is our aboriginal territory, especially Yreka.”


Boundaries have been set by the U.S. government of the tribal territories. Under the NIGC regulations, casinos for Indian Gaming can only be established on a tribe’s reservation or trust land in its aboriginal territory. Hall said that a census does not establish historical aboriginal territory, because people and societies move from place to place.


Marcia Armstrong, county supervisor for district 5, challenged Hillman about natural resource programs. She asked how the Karuks were going to deal with others involved in natural resource areas that they had litigated against or sued, such as the suction dredge miners, Upper Klamath Basin farmers and Scott Valley farmers.


“There is a lot of head-butting right now and a loss of trust,” she said.


As part of his answer, Hillman blamed the newspapers for incorrect reporting.


County Administrator Howard Moody, said that the Karuks are fighting to get dams removed on the Klamath River and the county does not agree with that tactic, which puts his board of supervisors in a difficult position.


Karuks give answer on Alturas Rancheria casino


Attorney Whittlesey was asked how a second casino would survive, referring to the casino that Alturas Rancheria has proposed.


First, he explained that the Alturas casino may “never operate” as a casino, because the land does not qualify with the federal NIGC or state compact.


Whittlesey also said the Darren Rose, who is now the vice chairman of the Alturas Rancheria, used to be enrolled as a Karuk and added that the allotment of Indian land that the Alturas is using to develop a casino was a Karuk Indian allotment – originally under the name of Bender or Benter.


In reality, the legal land documents show that the Bender or Benter 160-acre allotment of trust land was a Shasta Indian, not Karuk. Currently, probate has not been cleared and Darren Rose is not the soul owner of the property.







Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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