Sunday, April 29, 2007
Senator Sheila Kuehl Via Facsimile and US mail
State Capitol, Room 5108
Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: Opposition to Pechanga Band Compact
Dear Senator Kuehl:
I would like to thank you for the position you took and the comments you made in opposition to the Pechanga Band's amended compact. Your statement was the first instance in which a member of the California Legislature has publicly addressed the situation at Pechanga.
As you know, Pechanga Band tribal officials have committed numerous human and civil rights violations since the signing and ratification of their last gaming compact with the State of California. However, Pechanga is not alone in its actions.
In California, over 2000 Indian individuals have been stripped of their citizenship and many more have been denied citizenship with their tribes. The rash of disenrollments and denials of citizenship has coincided with the passage of Prop 1A which legalized Indian gaming in California. In most, if not all instances, actions to disenfranchise members have been conducted in violation of tribal, state and federal laws.
The lawlessness that has infected California Indian Country has created an ever-growing population of individuals who have been subjected to and tormented by the unjust actions of tribal officials.
A few examples of the gross violations of basic human rights and civil liberties suffered at the hands of tribal officials include the denial of due process; denial of equal protection of Tribal, State, and Federal laws; the imposition of ex post facto laws; denial of participation in the electoral process; denial or stripping of tribal citizenship; denial or stripping of tribal benefits and services; and the taking of personal property without cause or just compensation.
Many of the actions taken by tribal officials are prima facie examples of prejudicial acts intended to deny targeted citizens of rights guaranteed by the United States and Tribal Constitutions, the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 ("ICRA"), and tribal law.
I mention the ICRA because, as a matter of record, the California State Legislature supports and is committed to the enforcement of the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 (25 U.S.C. Sec. 1301 and following), which was intended to "… protect individual Indians from arbitrary and unjust actions of tribal governments" and to secure for the individual American Indian the broad constitutional rights afforded all other American citizens. These protections and security do not exist in many areas of Indian Country- at least not for those who have been subjected to the arbitrary and capricious actions of tribal officials.
Whereas the actions taken by tribal officials are the very same as those prohibited by the ICRA, the tribal officials find themselves at odds with the California Legislature regarding the rights which should be afforded citizens of California and for which the Legislature has committed to enforce.
Therefore, I would like to request that you meet with individuals who have been violated by actions of tribal officials to deny or strip rights guaranteed by law. You will find that Pechanga is not alone; many gaming tribes have taken actions to strip individuals of the basic rights guaranteed by law and which the California Legislature has committed to enforce.
Once again, I commend you on the stance you made in opposition to the Pechanga Band's amended compact and urge you to meet with the victims of the egregious human and civil rights violations committed by California tribal officials.
Pechanga has disenrolled 25% of their adult members, causing them to lose per capita payments, health coverage, educational assistance and conversely, enriching the remaining members.
Tribal Council Members Butch Murphy and Mark Luker looked pale. OF COURSE, since Murphy has NO Indian Blood, that's easy to do.
There were many in the audience that rose in approval of Kucinich's words.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Mark Macarro, chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians, said the tribe will sue Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration if it attempts to restrict the tribe from operating the machines.
He said they are permitted under the gambling agreements.
"The governor's office will have to realize (its) in error and back off or we're going to continue to fight in court," Macarro said.
"We believe these devices are entirely legal and allowed, and under our compacts we're exercising our right to have these devices. So the governor's getting some bad legal advice."
The administration last week sent letters to Pechanga and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, ordering the tribes in Riverside County to remove thousands of "video lottery terminals" and have them returned to the manufacturer.
Pechanga had 1,671 terminals and Morongo will have 2,025 that "are virtually indistinguishable from slot machines next to which they have often been placed," according to the letters sent Nov. 4 by Peter Siggins, the administration's legal affairs secretary.
The tribes were given 60 days to remove the machines.
A spokesman for the governor, Vince Sollitto, said yesterday that if the tribes refused to comply, the state would consider filing a lawsuit in federal court against them.
Under the 1999 compacts signed by former Gov. Gray Davis, tribes are allowed to operate a total of 2,000 slot machines, which are subject to fees paid to two state-controlled funds.
One fund earmarks $1.1 million a year to tribes without casinos. The other fund benefits local governments where tribal casinos are located.
This year, counties received $25 million.
Morongo and Pechanga both have 2,000 slot machines, but tribal officials said the video lottery machines are not covered under their compacts and do not count toward the 2,000 limit.
The main difference between the two types of machines lies within their software, tribal officials said.
With slot machines, gamblers play against the house, which determines the odds. Players of video lottery machines play against one another.
Morongo attorney George Forman yesterday declined to say whether the tribe would remove the machines.
Macarro said Pechanga has had about 400 video lottery machines on its casino floor for the past year. He said the tribe will refuse to pay revenues from those machines to the state.
Friday, April 6, 2007
Pechanga Elders Blackballed
Thanks for YouTube
Please also check out: www.pechanga.info and
Sunday, April 1, 2007
An early story from 2006
Indians decry banishment by their tribes
Protesters say power struggles, mainly over casinos, have stripped them of gaming profits By Michael Martinez Tribune national correspondent Published January 14, 2006 PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- Dozens of American Indians in several states tried to launch a national movement this week as they protested the growing trend of Native Americans being denied profits from tribal casinos following political disputes.
They denounced what they said was tribal corruption during demonstrations outside the Western Indian Gaming Conference here, a meeting already overshadowed by the scandal over Capitol Hill lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty this month to conspiracy to defraud Indians with casino interests of more than $20 million. Thousands of Indians nationwide--including 4,000 in California--have been stripped of or denied rightful membership in their tribes, and 75 percent of the California cases involved controversies over casinos, said Laura Wass, founder of the Many Lightnings American Indian Legacy Center in Fresno.
One of the protesters this week was Donald Wanatee, who lived for nearly all of his 73 years on an Iowa reservation but one day last spring went from tribal elder to outcast. His exile followed a struggle over a tribal casino that pitted Indian against Indian within the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa. He, his brother and 16 other members of the tribe ultimately lost to a rival faction. Last May they stopped receiving their share of gaming profits amounting to $2,000 a month each in the 1,300-member nation in central Iowa, Wanatee said.
Disenrollments often are appealed to U.S. courts, but tribal leaders have defeated or deferred the challenges by asserting that Indian nations have sovereignty in determining membership. Tribal councils have defended the removals as legitimate and allowable under their constitutions, with due process given to all. Anthony Miranda, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association that sponsored the gaming conference, said his group did not involve itself in enrollment disputes, saying they were local matters. "As an association we view that as an internal government issue," Miranda said. "You really have to look at that on a tribe-by-tribe basis."
About 1,500 of the disenrollments occurred after an official challenge by another tribe member or leader who questioned a fellow member's blood percentage or alleged that an ancestor left the reservation or tribe's rolls decades ago, voiding descendants' standing, according to protesters here. In the other cases, Indians often were denied recognition after tribes imposed a moratorium on enrollments, despite the individuals' long-standing ties, said Mark Maslin, a protest organizer. Protesters reject explanations But the official explanations, protesters said, are a pretext for purging tribe members seen as a threat by a ruling faction, frequently after an argument over a tribal casino. In Maslin's case, his Indian wife, Carla, and 75 members of her extended family were thrown out of the 295-member Redding Rancheria tribe in Northern California in 2004 after a woman elder questioned a maternal lineage of Carla Maslin's grandmother. Each of the 76 lost $3,000 a month in casino profits, Mark Maslin said.
At stake is the wealth created by lucrative casinos, granted by the government since the 1980s to long-subjugated and impoverished Indian nations to promote economic development and self-sufficiency. In one tribe, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians in California, annual payments to each member exceed $100,000, according to one disenrolled family. Claiming civil rights violations, protesters demanded a congressional hearing to raise public awareness of the disenrollments, but Andrea Jones, a spokeswoman for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, declined to comment.
While fellow protesters burned sage, some even asserted that tribal sovereignty, long a sacred political tenet among Native Americans, needs a system of checks and balances. "The corrupt tribal leadership has been using sovereignty as a personal tool to hurt you," said protester Vicky Schenandoah, 44, disenrolled and fired from her $20,000-a-year job as tribal language teacher in the Oneida Nation in New York in 1995 after she and dozens of other tribe members demonstrated for open meetings on casino operations. At the time, her casino rights paid her $1,500 a month.
"What's really happening in Indian country, with the weapon of a casino in place, the tribes are using that as a weapon of mass destruction against Indians that oppose them and anybody else," said John Gomez, 57, who was disenrolled from California's Pechanga tribe a few years ago and now is out of more than $100,000 a year in casino profit-sharing. Losing end of power struggle "They are planning to disenroll us and banish us from the tribe," said Wanatee, who was aligned with a faction that lost a power struggle over how to conduct 2003 council elections and casino operations. The dispute shut down the casino for half of 2003. "They are going to throw us off our land," he said. A spokesman for Wanatee's tribe declined to comment. In an encounter that illustrated the divisiveness caused by disenrollments, Lorena Foreman-Ackerman, 65, walked across a giant lawn outside the convention center and approached a member of the Redding Rancheria council that ousted her and 75 relatives.
Feeling trepidation at first while wearing a black T-shirt stating "Stop Tribal Disenrollment," Foreman-Ackerman was surprised to receive a hug from the council member, Jason Hayward. Representing the tribe in this week's gaming conference, Hayward has a son by a niece of Foreman-Ackerman's, she said. "I never voted for you to be out," Hayward told Foreman-Ackerman. "I should have said something. I think it was wrong." Foreman-Ackerman blamed another woman for starting rumors that led to the family's banishment. "To me, when somebody knows the truth and doesn't step forward ..." Foreman-Ackerman told Hayward, completing her statement with an expression of exasperation. But Hayward, approached by a reporter, said only: "I don't want to make speeches."
We were at a party last night and it was good. Many members of the extended family were together and that is what family is all about.
While once, we were related strangers, now, we are becoming family. There is some good.
More importantly, we can strengthen our bond, and strengthen our resolve to press on with the fight......