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Mike Sisco, Chairman's Corner: Time for all tribes to honor concept of 'Sacred Word'

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Keeping your word, this is a concept sacred to the American Indian people, and a concept ignored in hundreds of treaties and agreements between our people and other governments in the past.

This past must be recognized, but we cannot let the past poison government-to-government processes today. A new day and a new century have dawned, and this new time must be met with the knowledge that today's tribes and the other governments we deal with must work equitably with each other for the benefit of all.

This sacred concept must be kept in mind now as the tribes and the state of California move forward to implement Prop. 1A and Indian gaming in California. To many people, Prop 1A was just another political issue, but to the people of my tribe, this historic victory represented a promise between the Indian people and the people of California.

Now is the time for both sides to work together to make certain our words are kept, and this important promise between our people be fulfilled.

My tribe depends on Indian gaming to fund our government, and to provide for our people. We do not take this precious resource lightly. After decades of neglect by the federal government and impoverishment, the people of my tribe are just now beginning to see the prosperity and promise the rest of America takes for granted, and many Indian nations have yet to experience. We will defend our sovereignty and our ability to pursue gaming vehemently, but we believe cooperation, and a commitment to honor this agreement is essential as both sides move toward the implementation of the promise of Prop. 1A.

We do not lack challenges as we move through this process. The current tribal-state compacts were hastily negotiated and are filled with ambiguities that could split both the tribes and the state apart. This cannot be allowed to happen. Every tribe has the right to speak for itself, and under no circumstances should the state or other tribes attempt to dictate the terms or conditions in our dealings with the state or each other.

Each tribe has the inherent right of self-government and all must respect this right. We are not children, and we will not be appeased through pretty words, or false promises. We all have the right to self-determination, and this right cannot and will not be compromised by anyone. This is the time for statesmanship, not political gamesmanship.

My tribe in conjunction with several other California Indian Nations have invoked the meet and confer process within the current tribal-state compact and are now just beginning talks with the newly confirmed California Gambling Regulatory Board. All of us feel it is important to ensure every California tribe that wishes to utilize Indian gaming on their land be given the opportunity to do so, under rules fair and equitable to all.

The current compacts are replete with problems, but none of these problems is so serious it cannot be overcome through working together to find real solutions.

A variety of other issues, including making sure these operations are done right, not fast, to make certain the environment is protected, and proper regulatory mechanisms are in place are justifiable issues of concern to all. Within Prop 1A is an inherent agreement between the tribes and the state to make certain Indian gaming is properly regulated, primarily at the tribal level, with limited state oversight to ensure the legitimacy of tribal governmental gaming.

In addition to these issues, fixing the botched licensing process, allowing fair treatment to all tribes, and finding the best way to fulfill the promise of revenue sharing to the impoverished non-gaming tribes should be completed as soon as possible through the negotiation process spelled out in the current compact. It is important that all sides keep their word, and the problems that have already presented themselves with this compact be rectified as soon as possible.

It is my tribe's hope that all of us will enter this process with open minds and open hearts, and the knowledge that when we give our word, that it represents a sacred promise between our people, and the people of California. All of us will live here together, and now is the time for all of us to work together to make Indian gaming work for the tribes, and for California.