Senator Feinstein Effort to Kill Jobs and Violate Native Rights
With all due respect, Senator Feinstein’s recent editorial on reservation shopping was deeply flawed.
Nationwide, over 700,000 jobs have been created since the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988. Indian gaming is now a $25 billion-a-year staple of our national economy.
It is also undeniable that tribal government gaming has been good for tribes and good for neighboring communities. California examples abound from San Pablo to Palm Springs.
Senators Feinstein and Reid (Nevada) have been actively intimidating Department of Interior staff to stall Tribal applications regardless of the law. Unable to force the administration to reject legitimate tribal claims, the Senators now are trying to change IGRA with a sneaky backroom deal, absent due process, and in conflict with President Obama’s policy of “transparency”. Their strategy is an 11th hour appropriations rider, a process Sen. Feinstein has objected to when it suited her.
Over the past 22 years there have been many attempts to change IGRA. Congress, however, has consistently found that the law works well in its current form.
When Congress passed IGRA, a number of tribes, including Guidiville, were landless because the federal government illegally stripped them of their recognition and their land. Lawmakers wisely included a “Restored Lands” provision allowing these tribes to acquire land for gaming and economic independence.
“Restored Land” tribes are not “reservation shopping” as Senator Feinstein wrongfully stated. Reservation shopping applies to tribes with existing reservations that shop for new lands to develop a more profitable casino site. There currently are no active “reservation shopping” proposals in the Bay Area.
Senator Feinstein claimed that “Restored Lands” projects in urban areas, like our Tribe’s proposal for Point Molate, defy California and federal law. That is simply untrue.
California law allows tribal gaming on Indian Lands and defers to the federal definition of “Indian Lands”, which clearly provides for Restored Tribes.
Despite our strict compliance with IGRA, Senators Feinstein and Reid want to change the rules after we have invested years and tens of millions of dollars to follow the law. Their actions not only hurt us; they hurt local communities in need of employment, and anyone who believes in following the law as written.
She also claims our project would bring a large social cost. This is false.
If she had reviewed the independent environmental reports, she would know our project’s minimal social impacts pale in comparison to the much larger social costs of chronic unemployment that plagues Richmond.
Why hasn’t Senator Feinstein curtailed non-Indian-owned gaming facilities, like the card clubs, race tracks and off-track betting that ARE exploding all over the nation’s urban areas, including the Bay Area? Why is she sheltering the millions of California dollars flowing to Nevada mega-casinos so ardently protected by Senator Reid?
She apparently believes that Indian Lands were only in distant, low value rural areas.
Remember: the federal government confiscated our reservation, and prohibited our return to it.
Something similar happened 160 years ago when our ancestors signed treaties with the U.S. relinquishing what is now Marin and Sonoma counties for land they were promised but never received. After the treaties were signed, California’s Senators lobbied not to ratify them, but the government never returned the land it took through the treaties.
Senator Feinstein's actions today are no different from those of the mid-1850s. Justice may be OK for Indians, so long as it doesn't interfere with the business interests of non Indians and Nevada Corporations
There is no danger of Indian casinos overrunning the Bay Area, or anywhere else for that matter, as she plainly predicts. Over the past 22 years, fewer than five off reservation projects have been approved nationwide.
Our land restoration project will bring billions to local business and thousands of jobs driven by increased tourism to the area. It is time our leaders moved beyond legislating for politics and actually tried to support private and tribal projects that create the sustainable jobs we need without uncontrolled deficit spending.
Chairwoman, Guidiville Band of Indians