For years, questions have swirled around whether the leader of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria had Native American heritage.
Now a relative has stepped forward to challenge the claims, saying there is no one in her family who is Native American and that the story Chairman Greg Sarris, a well-known writer and academic, is telling is pure fiction.
“I’m not Indian and neither is he,” said Velia Navarro, a 68-year-old Los Angeles County resident and Sarris’s second cousin. “He’s a manipulator, he’s self-centered and he does things for his own benefit.”
Navarro first met Sarris in the late 1980s when he contacted the family saying he was the illegitimate son of Navarro’s cousin. She describes her family’s ancestry as a mix of Filipino, Spanish and French and said that she grew concerned after hearing Sarris’s stories about the family, many of which she says are wrong.
“How does a person have the audacity to do something like that? He is a writer and what he is saying is pure fiction…If I thought I had Indian in me, I would like to be part of a tribe building a casino because I know I’m going to get a piece of the pie.”
The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria are in the process of building a 3,000-slot casino west of Rohnert Park, prompting concerns about overdrawing the region’s water, impacts on traffic and other quality of life issues, including gambling addiction and crime.
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