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News from Southern California

Sheriff investigates alleged racial incident

THERMAL, Calif. – The Riverside County Sheriff is investigating whether deputies made inappropriate racial remarks to a Native teenager, a sheriff official said.

“They haven’t concluded if it happened or not,” said Riverside Sheriff Det. Jerry R. Franchville on the status of the investigation.

Michael Malone, 19, alleged deputies taunted him by saying, “Yee-haw, boys, we caught us an Injun,” while being detained in nearby Temecula in August. The deputies were also alleged to have derogatorily referenced the ongoing conflict between their department and the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians over criminal jurisdiction on their reservation and violence that has left three Sobobas dead in shootouts with deputies.

Franchville said deputies encountered Malone, a tribal member of Torres Martinez Band of Cahuilla Indians, when responding to a call from bail bonds establishment complaining of a suspicious person banging on its windows with a stick. Malone was subsequently detained, Franchville said. He was not arrested.

Malone’s allegations became public Aug. 11 during an open forum on Public Law 280 at the Soboba Reservation in San Jacinto where about 200 Indians, tribal officials and people gathered.

Franchville said Malone did not file a complaint and the investigation into the allegations was initiated by sheriffs after hearing about Malone’s statements.

Malone could not be reached for comment.

Tribe erects art memorializing campfire game

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – The Native traditional game, peon (pronounced pay-OWN) has been immortalized in a 16-foot granite sculpture display at the Agua Caliente Resort and Casino, said their Press Secretary Nancy Conrad.

The sculpture display prominently situated in front of the Coachella Valley’s newest hotel was unveiled July 14 and depicts two towering animistic hunter-like figures flanking four silhouettes centered on a campfire.

Artist Doug Hyde, of American Indian descent, is known locally in the Coachella Valley for two other public sculptures but also has a display at the Heard Museum in Phoenix and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., Conrad said.

“We’re very pleased to be able to bring Doug’s art to yet another location in the valley,” said Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Chairman Richard M. Milanovich in a press release. “We think this is a fitting way to tie our cultural history to today’s games going on in the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa,” he added.

A plaque honoring Agua Caliente ancestors, the intensity of their strength and spirit among existing tribal members and the significance of the game abut the display.

The popular game of chance, played by the Cahuilla and other Native people, is typically played by two teams around a campfire. Players put on their poker faces and conceal coyote bones or sticks in their hands while the opposite team guesses which hand the bones are held in as spectators take bets.

Amended gaming compact pays out

TEMECULA, Calif. – An agreement to amend a gaming compact two years ago is paying off for the deficit burdened state of California.

A payment worth $30.8 million under the terms of the amended compact to California was made by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians July 30, the tribe said in a press release.

The Riverside County’s tribe disbursement, the first of the year, covers a quarter of a year’s payment and partial quarter from when the amendment was first enacted, said Pechanga Spokesman Jacob Mejia.

Pechanga has also made a quarterly payment of $500,000 into the Revenue Sharing Trust Fund that supports non-gaming tribes throughout the state, the tribe said.

July’s payment is greater than the entire amount Pechanga paid to the state for all of 2007 under its original compact, the tribe said. Furthermore, the funds paid out to non-gaming tribes are nearly twice the annual amount that Pechanga had previously paid, the tribe said.

“I am sure that the voters of California are happy to hear that they got exactly what they voted for: more state revenue without raising taxes,” said Pechanga Chairman Mark Macarro. “The state now has the flexibility to use this additional funding for education, public safety, health care, and other vital public services.”

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Pechanga Band reached the deal to amend the tribe’s compact in 2006. The agreement, although contested by competing gaming interests and a labor union but ultimately approved decisively by California voters, gave the Pechanga more slot machines and guaranteed the state an annual payment of $42.5 million on the Pechanga’s existing 2,000 slot machines. Under the agreement, up to 25 percent of profits on the additional machines are slated for the state, the tribe said.

California is currently experiencing a $15 billion-plus deficit.