Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Letter in Opposition to Pechanga Land Transfer

Please help to keep Pechanga from getting a reward for violating the civil rights of it's people:

August 1, 2007 Senator Dianne Feinstein VIA US Mail and Facsimile United States Senate331 Hart Senate Office BuildingWashington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-3841Fax: (202) 228-3954

Re: HR 2963 Bill to Transfer Land to the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission IndiansDear Senator Feinstein: It has come to my attention that you may be considering sponsorship of HR 2963 (Issa) which would transfer land to the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in Riverside County, California.

I urge you to reconsider this course of action and review the letters previously forwarded in opposition to HR 2963 (previously HR 28) as well as its predecessor, HR 3507. In addition, I would like to draw your attention to a letter dated May 10, 2006 which was your response to opposition letters addressed to you and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, of which you were a member.

Specifically, you responded that you would “keep our concerns in mind as HR 3507 is debated in committee” and you also agreed that “Native Americans should not be denied their fundamental civil rights”- something Pechanga Tribal Officials have done on a grand scale.

While those who opposed HR 2963 were denied the opportunity to testify in opposition to the bill in the House of Representatives, I and many others would request that we be given the opportunity to meet with you or a representative of your office to discuss the implications and impacts of HR 2963. We further ask that we be given the courtesy to testify in opposition to HR 2963.

I oppose HR 2963 for several reasons. First of all, HR 2963 does not benefit all the Indians who are associated with or have ties to the cultural and sacred sites located on and within the land proposed to be transferred.

The land should be transferred to all Indians with ties to the cultural and sacred sites. If a transfer occurs that fails to include ownership and use rights for all affected Indians, especially those who have had their human and civil rights violated by actions of Pechanga Tribal Officials, the Pechanga Band will deny access to individuals who have undisputed cultural and lineal ties to the sacred sites seeking to be protected by HR 2963.

I also oppose HR 2963 based on the Pechanga Band’s actions to deprive and deny individuals of their human and civil rights. No entity that participates in, supports, or otherwise partakes in human and/or civil rights violations should benefit from the public trust. The actions taken by Pechanga Tribal Officials -denial of due process, failure to provide equal protection of the laws, establishment of ex post facto laws, etc.- mirror those which led to the introduction and passage of the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 ("ICRA"). As you know, the ICRA 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.

However, Pechanga Tribal officials have hid behind the Tribe’s sovereignty to escape prosecution and to prevent the victims of their actions from seeking recourse for the injury and harm resulting from the human and civil rights violations. Although the tribal officials may be immune from suit, this does not equate to innocence of action.

Additionally, I would ask you to take a hard look at lands previously transferred to trust for the Pechanga Band. Specifically, the Great Oak Ranch was transferred with the intent of protecting it and its invaluable resources from a proposed transmission line project that threatened to negatively impact the Great Oak and other resources.

The Pechanga Band spent a great amount of time and money lobbying Congress to protect the Great Oak Ranch, and it was stressed that the Pechanga Band had no intent in changing the use of the ranch. In fact, Congressman Issa introduced at least one bill to protect the Great Oak and the Great Oak Ranch from the transmission project.

Today, with the Great Oak and the Great Oak Ranch spared from the transmission line project and the property transferred into trust, a portion of the Ranch has been turned into a staging area for on-going construction projects both on the Ranch and associated with the casino complex. The character of the Ranch has been drastically changed and in no way reflects the “no change in use” mantra used by Pechanga officials in lobbying Congress, your office, and federal agencies for its protection and transfer to trust.

In light of the issues presented above, I must oppose HR 2963, and I ask to meet with you to discuss these issues

Respectfully submitted,
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