Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cesar Caballero Carries Battle for Miwok Indians

Our friend, Cesar Caballero is in the news again, this time in the Sacramento Bee, who has the latest in his story on his fight over the status of the SHINGLE SPRINGS TRIBE.

Cesar Caballero has fired the latest volley in the battle over which tribe is actually the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians and, ultimately, the owner of the Red Hawk Casino.

He filed a countersuit against the casino tribe on Feb. 17, claiming it is fraudulently using the identity of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians.

The tribe operating the casino was originally the Sacramento Verona Band of Indians, made up of Maidu Indians and Hawaiians, Caballero told The Bee.

Caballero says he is the elected chief of a tribe of 300 descendents of El Dorado County Miwok Indians who are being denied their tribal rights, including land on the Shingle Springs Rancheria and proceeds from the new casino.

The countersuit is not driven by greed, he said. His tribe is willing to share the casino profits and land on the Shingle Springs rancheria with the casino tribe.

"It's not about that (the casino)," Caballero said. "It's straight up about our identity. Whatever comes with it, it's the identity."

He said his tribe should be eligible for the health care, land grants and other benefits that come with being a federally recognized tribe.

Calls from The Bee to Nick Fonseca, chief of the Shingle Spring Band of Miwok Indians, and to a spokesman for Red Hawk Casino were not returned Wednesday. OP: OF COURSE NOT!

Caballero hopes a jury will stop the casino Indians from using the name Shingle Spring Band of Miwok Indians and from operating the casino.

They also are seeking unspecified damages.

Attorney Brad Clark said Caballero's tribe also is considering asking the Bureau of Indian Affairs for federal recognition as the Shingle Springs Tribe of Miwok Indians.

Clark said both tribes could conceivably share the same federal recognition.

He said the case offers the tribe led by Caballero "an open field in their pursuit of federal recognition."

If the casino tribe asks the court to dismiss Caballero's case and loses, the BIA will be "more open to discussions with the indigenous group about federal recognition," Clark said.

"If we get defeated soundly … we anticipate the BIA will react in kind on our application."

If it were turned down by the BIA for federal recognition, Clark says, the tribe could return to court.

Because of its status as a sovereign nation, Caballero would have had a difficult time pursuing a suit against the casino tribe without his being sued first, Clark said.

In January, the tribe did sue, contending that Caballero was infringing on its registered trademark by using its name. The tribe is seeking a permanent court order to keep Caballero from using the name Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians. It also wants Caballero to stop representing himself as being affiliated with the tribe. The suit seeks unspecified damages, attorney's fees and any profits Caballero has made using the name.

The tribe has until March 26 to respond to Caballero's countersuit.
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