Saturday, May 12, 2007

Disenrolled Tribal Members Join GAMING DEBATE

Ex-tribal members join gaming debate

INDIAN RIGHTS: They press lawmakers to add protections to any new casino agreements.

07:53 AM PDT on Friday, May 11, 2007

The Press-Enterprise

Away from the costly TV blitz and aggressive ground battles being waged over the future of Indian gambling, another campaign is beginning.

Californians who have been kicked out of Indian tribes are joining forces with some state Democrats to fight the Indian casino agreements pending in Sacramento. The ex-tribal members and their allies believe any new deals to let tribes expand their casinos should include provisions to protect Indian civil rights.

Steve Haze, vice chairman of the Fresno County Democratic Central Committee, says the amended agreements need to be rewritten to protect disenrolled members or those targeted for disenrollment.

"My feeling is that we need to step back, take some time and address some of these other issues," Haze said.

"If not, then I don't see how we can in good conscience allow for such a significant expansion of gaming for a handful of tribes."

Haze, former members of the Pechanga Band of LuiseƱo Indians and other disenrolled Indians, are pushing the California Democratic Party to adopt a resolution that recognizes some Indians' civil rights have been violated and supports state and federal efforts to reform the 1968 Indian Civil Rights Act.

Disenrolled members of the Pechanga tribe, who say they were unfairly kicked out, are working with disenrolled members of other tribes across the state to build Democratic Party opposition to the compacts and support for Haze's resolution.

The Pechanga tribe, which has a casino near Temecula, has kicked two families out of the tribe over the past few years, arguing they were improperly enrolled. Members of one of the families were on hand at the recent state Democratic Party convention in San Diego, trying to build support for Haze's resolution.

They hope to testify in the Assembly when members there consider the Pechanga tribe's pending proposal for an expanded casino, said John Gomez Jr., whose extended family of 130 people was kicked out in March 2004.

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