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Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, CA, March 15, 2006, Page A1, Column 1
The Pioneer Press grants permission for the following article to be reprinted in its entirety.
The Game’s Over
Governor slams the door shut on Alturas Rancheria
• State claims Alturas Rancheria is building casino on “non-Indian lands.”
By Liz Bowen
Pioneer Press Assistant Editor, Fort Jones, California
One alleged breach in the state “Compact” is that the Alturas Rancheria had been telling the state for 10 months that the construction activities at its site in Yreka were “related to a planned pharmaceutical compounding plant and tribal offices and did not include construction of the Shasta Mountain Casino Gaming Facility.”
But on Dec. 8, 2005, the tribe conceded, “for the first time that what it had repeatedly told the State over the preceding months was false,” Hoch’s letter alleges.
At that time, the Alturas Rancheria leaders informed the state that the construction activities on the “Benter Allotment” had included the preparation of the casino’s foundation. The casino was to be housed in the same building with the pharmaceutical compounding plant. The Alturas Rancheria has not disclosed what type of pharmaceuticals it is planning on compounding.
Also the tribe had misrepresented the type of gaming it was planning on conducting on the “Bender Allotment.” The state said that the change to a “class II facility” is at odds with the tribe’s actions over the last year, because the tribe retains class III gaming device licenses.
As a result, the governor’s legal counsel said that the tribe should “voluntarily relinquish” unused licenses to the California Gambling Control Commission. Hoch added that there are a “number of licenses that may be subject to immediate cancellation” as well.
But, should the Alturas commence with class III gaming on the Benter Allotment, without approval of the U.S. Department of Interior Secretary or the California Governor pursuant to Section 20 of Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the state will immediately take all necessary steps to “terminate” the Tribe’s Compact for “material breach.”
In the letter, the Governor’s Office is under the impression that construction at the Shasta Mountain Casino site has been halted. Yet, it has been reported to the Pioneer Press that construction workers have been at the site as recently as last week. Hoch believes the construction has been halted as a result of unrelated matters with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Attorney General. The letter does not explain what those “unrelated” matters concern.
Using non-Indian lands is more than reservation shopping
Prior to the preparation of an environmental document and analysis, which is required by the state Compact, Alturas Rancheria began paving roads and building a foundation. This is one of the alleged major breaches of the state Compact, which also allegedly violated the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.
The term “Indian land” is a legal definition, which must meet specific criteria. There are several reasons that the casino site, on the Benter Allotment, is alleged as non-Indian lands. The Quartz Valley Indian Reservation provided those reasons to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Indian Gaming Commission and managers of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Quartz Valley Indian Reservation explains Shasta territory
Last year, when Alturas Rancheria finally presented its environmental assessment to the public, the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation leaders responded through public comment. The Alturas Rancheria’s environmental assessment document can be found for perusal at the Siskiyou County Library along with public comments including those from the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation.
The Quartz Valley Indian Reservation explained that the Benter Allotment was put in “patent trust” for a Shastan Indian, named Jim Benter, in 1897. It was never part of any reservation and the land is located within the “aboriginal territories of the Shastans” (Shasta Nation).
Also, the Quartz Valley claimed that the Benter Allotment of 160 acres was transferred out of the public domain and no tribes had ever held governance over the property.
The Quartz Valley group then asked for an immediate investigation into the Alturas Rancheria alleging ownership of the Benter Allotment.
The first letter was sent by Aaron Peters for Tribal Chairman Ron Lincoln on Aug. 15, 2005 to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington D.C. and alleged the Alturas Rancheria was promoting “off-reservation shopping,” which is against Indian Gaming Regulatory Act rules.
Darren Rose, an adopted member of the Alturas Rancheria, who was serving as vice chairman at the time stated in several public meetings that he had jurisdiction over the Benter Allotment. Several years previous, Rose’s name was found on the Karuk Tribe of California enrollment rolls.
A second letter from the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation was sent by Gaming Commissioner Aaron Peters on Nov. 23, 2005 to David Zweig of Analytical Environmental Services in Sacramento. It provided the same information regarding the Shasta Indian, Jim Benter, and alleged that construction of the Alturas Rancheria’s casino had begun without proper monitoring of the Shasta cultural resources and suggested possible violations to federal and state historical preservations acts.
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