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The Pioneer Press at the very top of the State of California grants permission for this article to be copied and forwarded.
Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California June 7, 2006 Vol. 33, No. 30 Page A1, column 1
Shasta’s looking for gold in a casino?
-- Gary Lake and Tom Hice are contacts for casino proposal.
By Liz Bowen, Pioneer Press Assistant Editor, Fort Jones, California
HORNBROOK, Calif. – First let it be said that there are two factions of Shasta Indians in Siskiyou County. But neither has received official recognition from the U.S. government, which must occur before any Tribe can legally establish a casino for Indian Gaming.
Also the two groups do not like each other, which is an understatement regarding various issues.
The name of one group, based in Scott Valley, is Shasta Tribe, according to state 501 c 3 documents; the other group is based in Butte Valley, with the name of Shasta Indian Nation in 501 c 3 California status.
Leaders of the Shasta Indian Nation told the Pioneer Press that they have no knowledge of a Shasta Gold Casino proposal.
It should also be known that the first group tends to also include the word “nation” in its title.
Last year, two other Indian Tribes, the Karuk Tribe of California and the Alturas Indian Rancheria, were reservation shopping hoping to establish a casino along Interstate-5 near or in Yreka at the top of the state. The Siskiyou area is recognized as Shasta territory, according to Native American Commission and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Both of those Tribes were stopped by the National Indian Gaming Commission and the State of California, which are in charge of requiring each tribe to follow the Congressional 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act rules.
But Indian Gaming is big business in capital letters. There is a lot of money to be made by gaming management companies, Tribes and even communities in partnership – it is a multi-billion dollar industry.
So last fall, because of local controversy involving tribal groups and gaming attorneys talking with different local agencies, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors asked that any Tribes considering a casino in the county speak directly to the board. This was to facilitate communications and stop back-room deals.
On Dec. 13, 2005, Gary Lake, vice chairman of the Shasta Tribe, addressed the county supervisors at the beginning of their regular meeting. He said that his group, which he referred to as “Shasta Nation Tribe” was working on “economic development opportunities” within the county and he added that they had been pursuing these opportunities “for sometime.”
Vice chairman Lake identified two areas that were coming to “fruition rapidly” and asked for the support of the county supervisors. The first area was in a destination resort. It would have a substantial total cost of $250 million, but would provide educational opportunities, fisheries, hotel and convention center, summer recreation, tribal headquarters, working village – “all this clean entertainment,” he said.
Then he briefly explained the second area, beginning with, “I am very honored to announce” a medical training facility was in the works. But he did not elaborate on what kind of medical training facility it would be.
Lake then asked the supervisors for their ideas, which would be worthy for the Shasta to operate and closed his comments. The 2005 Chairman, LaVada Erickson, was impressed that Lake kept his comments within the three-minute time period.
But Lake failed to mention to the supervisors that two months previous, in October of 2005, he and Tom Hice, listed as the “financial advisor” had sent out a “contract proposal” for Hornbrook, LLC in cooperation with the Shasta Nation, Inc. The proposal was indeed for a destination resort, but a “Shasta Gold Casino” plays a prominent enticement roll for potential investors.
A limited partnership company and Native American Consulting firm referred to as OrCal C&D “is seeking an investment of $10 million to purchase I-5 interchange land in Hornbrook, California for a casino and resort project approved by the Shasta Nation Tribe.”
According to the seven page contract proposal, investors are encouraged to invest in $500,000 increments or more and the basic project needs at least $10 million to begin.
Interestingly, the contract proposal provides a flow chart listing the current assets “cash in bank - $10,002,000” in October 2005. It also provides “fixed assets” of five separate land properties (in acres.) The first one is for 41 acres worth $435,000 on the November 2005 timeline.
After checking on the “shastagold.com” website, which advertises the casino property, the Pioneer Press visited the Siskiyou County Assessor’s office and found three parcels that were purchased July 7, 2005 by Aumine LP at P.O. Box 817, Gold Hill, Oregon 97525. The three parcels equal 41 acres with a $451 document tax paid to transfer the deed, which indicates it sold for approximately $410,000. When the Pioneer Press tried to obtain a phone number last week, none was listed.
The property is adjacent to I-5 and also R Ranch. Another neighbor told the Pioneer Press that there have been rumors for years of a truck stop or casino being built on the property, located near an on ramp and off ramp of I-5. But the neighbor added that there is no water available and so far no owner has been able to develop the property, because of that fact. This leaves one to wonder: Where would water come from for a resort or casino?
Yet the most intriguing part of the flow chart is on the March 2006 list, where it is estimated the Tribe will receive federal “recognition” within one month. But it did not happen in April; and it did not occur in May 2006.
On the December 2005 chart, Lake and Hice list “Federal Recognition Process” by employing lobbyists while Congress is in session, “trips to Washington D.C.” then “Engage Washington D.C. Legal” and finally “constant letter barrage to BIA.”
The Pioneer Press checked on the status of the Shasta Tribe with the Office of Indian Affairs in Washington D.C. Several times during the previous year, the Pioneer Press heard Lake say that his group was on the “fast track” for federal recognition.
According to Nedra Darling, director of public affairs for the Office of Indian Affairs, neither Shasta group is on the “ready active status” list.
In fact, it had been 11 years since her office had heard from the Shasta Tribe -- until last Thursday, June 1, 2006. Previously, the last communication regarding the Shasta Tribe’s “incomplete petition” for federal recognition was Aug. 21, 1995. But on June 1, 2006, the group had sent a letter asking that the information described within should be applied to the “incomplete petition.”
But Darling said that will take some time to determine if the information fulfills any of the “incomplete” status. This is a “regulatory process.”
Darling explained that she knows of no “fast track” to obtaining federal recognition. There are at least 19 Tribes ahead of the Shasta, which are being reviewed by a team of anthropologists, historians and genealogists. The team is only able to complete the examination of approximately four Tribes each year.
“This is a very tedious process,” said Darling, explaining that even after achieving “ready active status” there would still be at least a two-year process to wade through.
Yet, when looking at the contract proposal, Lake may have been expecting Congress to pass a bill that would immediately establish the Tribe with recognition. But there is little in the wind of such an unusual bill being passed by the many members of Congress.
Currently, there is no communication with Herger’s office by the Shasta Tribe. According to Dave Meurer, Herger’s field representative, Herger has sent a letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs asking which Shasta group is viewed as the “legitimate group” or “governing body” and has abided by the rules set up for communications from the U.S. government to official or unofficial Tribes.
When Lake returned a phone call to the Pioneer Press last week, he first said that the contract proposal was “confidential” information and asked how this reporter obtained it. Recently, Lake has praised the Pioneer Press for its coverage of Indian affairs. But during the phone call, he refused to be quoted “on the record,” without talking with council first.
Yet Lake and Hice are the names listed as “contact” on the Hornbrook LLC contract proposal.
This reporter found the casino proposal through a simple “Google” search. When reading the proposal, the “shastagold.com” property website was ready for a click of the mouse – and the sentence was followed by the “(User) Shasta (Password) Tribe” information to go into the site.
It opened by using a capital “T” in Tribe. The site touted web cams and photos, taken as early as 2004, of various angles on the property. R Ranch was shown as a neighbor, along with I-5 on a map. Uniquely, the mouse pointer was followed with the letters “Shasta Gold” adding a touch of class.
After talking with Lake on June 2, 2006, this reporter could no longer get into the site using “Tribe” as the password. But, the Hornbrook LLC contract proposal is still easily located through “Google.” Lake did send an email on June 3, to the Pioneer Press saying he was “very concerned that this site had been hacked or illegally breached thus giving ‘anyone’ access to it...”
But making money is definitely part of the proposal, which seemed to be actively looking for investors.
In the “Executive Summary” of the contract proposal, Lake and Hice write: “5. Upon federal recognition, the “Development and Operating” contract will be sold to the highest bidder for $30 million or more. An investment decision may be made to keep the ‘right’ depending on profitability.” By the end of the purchases, the resort will own approximately 450 acres.
In the “Technical Summary” Lake and Hice explain that in “the unlikely event the Shasta’s are not able to achieve federal recognition within one year” the investment group will have an option to purchase OrCal’s equity interest in Hornbrook, LLD for $1,000. “This innovative alternative to foreclosure gives the entire real estate project to Investgroup with a minimum amount of trouble,” it claims.
The Pioneer Press then spoke with Siskiyou County District Attorney, Kirk Andrus, about the situation, asking the definition of “fraud.”
It is as follows: Intentional deception resulting in injury to another. Fraud usually consists of a misrepresentation, concealment or nondisclosure of a material fact.
“It is very broad,” said D.A. Andrus.
Whether any investors have plunked down monies is not yet known by the Pioneer Press. But one thing is for sure – the Shasta Tribe does not have federal recognition, nor is it close to obtaining the status, according to government agencies and entities. So it is years away from establishing a casino.
Cheryl Schmit, of Stand Up for California, said that the U.S. government must be extremely careful in designating federal recognition, because of the eventual expense to the tax payer.
“Gary Lake would need to demonstrate that his Tribal government exercises social, economic and political influence that is wide spread over an entire group and community,” said Schmit, “not just a few activists."
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