Thursday, August 30, 2007

California Indian Wars: Pechanga

California Indian wars
Signature gathering for a referendum to cancel state compacts to expand tribal gambling meets opposition from four of the richest Indian casino owners in the state.

“I have seen ... near fisticuffs as people argue over these things,” Mike Arno, a consultant with a labor union representing hotel workers and a racetrack company, told the Aug. 28 Los Angeles Times. Arno referred to a political fight that might be played out in shopping centers across California in the next few months. The union, Unite Here, and the Bay Meadows Land Company have joined forces in a petition drive to qualify four ballot initiatives that would allow state voters to decide whether to cancel compacts signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and four casino-owning Indian tribes last year. The compacts would allow the tribes to add 17,000 slot machines to their existing 8,000 in return for paying 15% to 25% of their additional profits to the state.
The benefitting tribes are the Agua Caliente band of the Cahuilla (which owns casinos in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage), the Pechanga band of the LuiseƱo near Temecula, the Morongo band of Mission Indians (with a casino near Banning), and the Sycuan band of the Kumeyaay near El Cajon. The state legislature approved the compacts last month; they await approval by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Bay Meadows Land Company says the compacts have hurt business at its racetracks, Hollywood Park in Inglewood and a track near San Francisco.

Unite Here says the compacts did not include desired collective bargaining terms, like those in earlier compacts. Two Indian tribes – the United Auburn Indian Community, which owns a thriving casino near Sacramento, and the Pala band of Mission Indians, with a casino near the Pechanga operation – have together kicked in $1 million to help the referendum effort. (According to the July 28 San Diego Union-Tribune, ten years ago the Pechanga tribe financed a referendum opposing a state compact with Pala.) To save their compacts, the four tribes have begun a campaign to block referendum signature gatherers. Workers for the tribes urge people not to sign the referendum petition, or if they have signed it, to sign a form asking that their names be removed from the petition. State law allows voters to revoke their signatures from referendum petitions by filing a written request with elections officials before the signatures are turned in.

The four tribes’ apprehension may arise from what may be a change in public opinion toward Indian gambling casinos. “People have soured on the political influence of the tribes, their internal infighting, and they want to limit the proliferation of gambling,” Cheryl Schmit with the gambling watchdog group, Stand Up California, told the Union-Tribune. Bill Bengen of Dehesa Valley says his group, Residents Against Gambling Expansion, will support the ballot referendum against the Sycuan band. Bengen said Californians supported Indian gambling as a way to help tribes overcome poverty – and some have “done that grandly.” Other tribes, however, are still poor. Many El Cajon citizens oppose the Sycuan compact because it would allow the tribe to build a second casino at a former golf club owned by the tribe.

Pechanga Tribal Council Sued for Civil Rights Violations.

Attached is a media advisory sent out regarding Jeffredo et al. vs. Macarro et al. which has been filed in Federal Court and served on the Pechanga Tribal Council. The Writ alleges that the Pechanga Tribal Council committed numerous violations of the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 ("ICRA"), a federal law that prohibits tribal governments from violating certain civil rights such as due process and equal protection of law.

As Pechanga Tribal Officials have done before, it is a safe bet to expect the Pechanga Tribal Council to claim immunity so as to escape prosecution for violations of the ICRA. MEDIA ADVISORY Wednesday, August 29, 2007 Contact Persons: Patrick Guillory Paul Harris 415-285-1882 Federal Lawsuit Being Served on Pechanga's Tribal Council Temecula, CA- A Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus is being served on the Tribal Council of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians. The Petition names the current members of the Pechanga Tribal Council, including Chairman Mark Macarro, as Respondents for the Tribal Council's actions in violating the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 ("ICRA").* The Petition was filed in Federal Court by descendants of Paulina Hunter, who was retroactively stripped of her Pechanga citizenship.

All of her descendants, numbering over 100 tribal members, have also been disenrolled from their Tribe. (Disenrollment means the stripping of their tribal citizenship, and effective banishment from their Tribe.) Pechanga Tribal officials ignored the findings of the Tribe's retained anthropologist, who concluded that Paulina Hunter was one of the original Pechanga tribal members when the Tribe was formally recognized by the U.S. Government in the 1800s. The Petition cites numerous violations of ICRA, which was passed by Congress to provide basic civil rights to Indians on Indian Reservations. It's because the U.S. Bill of Rights does not apply on reservations that ICRA was enacted; to "protect individual Indians from arbitrary and unjust actions of tribal governments." Specifically, the Tribal Council's actions denied the Hunter descendants of due process and equal protection of the laws; inflicted cruel and unusual punishment; deprived the Hunter descendants of property without due process; and violated freedom of speech protections.

The Tribal Council also refused to comply with a "duly-enacted Tribal Resolution" stopping the wholesale denationalization of its citizens. These actions also constitute a "severe and continuing detention" and "restraint on Petitioners' liberty". The Petition requests that the Court issue orders directing the Pechanga Tribal Council to free the Hunter descendants from the restraints on their liberty and to invalidate the illegal stripping of their Indian citizenship. * The case is known as Jeffredo et al. vs. Macarro et al., US District Court-Central District of California, Case # CV 07 1851 JFW (PLAX).

Friday, August 24, 2007

Did Pechanga Corruption Lead to Snubbing of Prez on the Rez?

Were many Democratic Candidates looking to avoid embarrassing questions about actions by Pechanga to disenroll 25% of their tribe? At least Dennis Kucinich had the balls to stand up against disenrollments.

Candidates snub Indian forum in Calif.
A presidential forum set for today at the Morongo Band of Mission Indians reservation in Southern California has attracted only three of the eight Democratic candidates: Bill Richardson, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich.
The absence of top-tier candidates — Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina — shows the leading contenders continue to take the small and usually Democratic Indian vote for granted, organizers say.
"If they won't come talk to us now, they certainly won't be responsive to us if they get in the White House," said Kalyn Free, a Choctaw from Oklahoma who is organizing the Democratic forum, called "Prez on the Rez."
Top contenders said they could not attend because of scheduling conflicts. The event is the first attempt to bring a presidential debate to Indian country.
Tribes contributed $7.6 million to federal candidates in 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. They spent $16.7 million on Washington lobbying last year.
"They have gone from being the poor sisters of American politics to being more politically influential," said John Kenneth White, a political scientist at Catholic University in Washington. "The challenge they've had is how to be effective politically and savvy politically."
— Diana Marrero,Gannett News Service

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,