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 Siskiyou County Supervisor District 5, Marcia Armstrong
Column 12/9/05

KARUK CASINO

"(This) could have impacts on the Upper Basin. If the Karuk have more resources, they will most certainly use them and not in your favor."  Marcia

The Karuk tribe recently briefed the Board of Supervisors about progress on their plans to build a casino in Yreka on the ridge behind the fairgrounds. The Indian Gaming Commission made a negative determination that the land, which was taken into federal trust for housing, qualified for reservation gaming. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) requires that land proposed for gaming be taken into trust prior to October 17,
1988. The area in question missed that mark by about six months.

There are also questions about whether the land is within original Karuk tribal territory. Currently, the Karuk have no reservation, only land in trust for housing. Their primary center of government is in Orleans, way down the Klamath River. The Shasta Nation claims most of Siskiyou County, including Yreka, as tribal territory. The Karuk tribe has commissioned an ethnographic study to show that there was dominant Karuk presence in the Yreka area at the Indian census in 1910. (The Shasta Nation claims that tribal boundaries were ultimately set in 1852.) With this information, they will go forward with an appeal to the Commission's prior eligibility determination. They claim to have the backing of the "Shasta tribe," which is another group separate from the Shasta Nation. (Neither Shasta group has received official federal recognition.)

To make things even more confusing, the Karuk tribal attorney has indicated that he believes that the individual allotment land being planned for casino development by the Alturas tribe south of Yreka is of a type ineligible for a casino.

On a separate track, the Karuk tribe has also approached the Governor to secure his blessing for an "off-reservation" casino under IGRA Section 20. Governor Schwarzenegger 's policy for approval of off-reservation casinos requires that they meet three criteria: (1) The site will not be located in any of the 200 urban areas he has listed (Yreka is not on the list);
(2) That there is a "local expression," such as an advisory vote of the local population, in favor of the casino; and (3) That a certain percentage of the casino proceeds be dedicated to one of several "public policy objectives." The Yreka City Council has indicated that they are opposed to any voting process. The Governor has indicated that he will accept a scientific poll instead. It is not clear at this point who will be polled and within what distance from the proposed casino.

The Karuk presentation to the Board of Supervisors centered around their proposal to dedicate casino proceeds to their own tribal Department of Natural Resources to fulfill public policy objectives of "the environment." The Karuk wish to substantially fund a continuation of their work in restoring and preserving the health of the Klamath River. The proposal heralds their ongoing efforts to aggressively combat the effects of hydropower dams, pollutants from agriculture, logging and mining and other water quality and flow issues. Further, the Karuk propose to specifically dedicate a portion of their casino revenue to a Dam Decommissioning Fund to "assist local communities affected by future dam decommissionings."

It should be noted that the Karuk tribe has an extensive history of engaging in lawsuits to curtail the use of natural resources by local farmers, ranchers, loggers and miners. Their position on issues has quite often been at odds with that of the County Board of Supervisors. Personally, I have some real concerns about whether the money will be used in the "public interest." I do not feel that fueling of further adversarial action against non-tribal interests would be beneficial to the community and the local economy.

At this point, the casino proposal by the Karuk is very sketchy on details. There were only four short paragraphs in the written document. They have determined the proposed site, access through Sharps Road, that they plan to start with 500-600 machines, that the casino will be from
50-60,000 sq. ft large, that they plan for a 75-100 room hotel and that parking will be on the adjacent lands (prior Thunderbird mill site) next to the County Public Works facility. There is currently no actual plan. That would be developed later when they secure a partner or financial backer and develop the plan with community input. Tribal attorney, Dennis Whitlsee indicated that they would want to negotiate the impacts "in principle" with the County, with an understanding that the exact monetary scale of compensation to the City and County for impacts would be adjusted later.

The track with the Governor is apparently moving rapidly and they anticipate a positive determination by the end of the month. The Board of Supervisors has not expressed a position in favor of the casino or the proposed plan, nor has it approved any agreement with any tribe.

 

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