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News from the West Coast

Challenge to gaming compacts on Feb. 5 ballot

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California voters will decide Feb. 5 whether to overturn gaming compacts with four southern California tribal governments.

Ratified by the state Legislature in June, the compacts were signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.

The compacts allow the tribes to add a total of 17,000 more slot machines; in exchange, the tribes agreed to pay the state a larger share of gaming revenue.

Jack Gribbon, state political director of a hotel and casino workers union, led the challenge, saying in several newspapers that the compacts don't include labor protections included in other compacts.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced Nov. 19 that enough signatures had been obtained to qualify the referendum for the state's presidential primary ballot. To qualify a referendum - a voter challenge to a law - for the ballot, the proponent must submit petition signatures of 433,971 registered voters to county election officials within 90 days from the date the bill is enacted.

Agua Caliente, Morongo, Pechanga and the Sycuan Band have allocated $20 million to fight the ballot measures, The Sacramento Bee reported.

Trust acquisition clears way for community development

AUBURN, Calif. - The BIA has approved a request by the United Auburn Indian Community to hold in trust 1,100 acres of land on which the Maidu and Miwok will build homes, a school and other community buildings.

The 20-page ''Finding of No Significant Impact for the Proposed United Auburn Indian Community of the Auburn Rancheria 1,100-Acre Residential Development Project'' was signed Oct. 2 by the acting director of the BIA's Pacific Region.

The land is in the rolling Sierra foothills of northwest Placer County and consists of ''gently sloping annual grasslands, oak savanna and wetlands,'' according to a tribal report. Community design ''will interact harmoniously with the surrounding environment. Large expanses of open space will be preserved and natural drainages will be incorporated into a trail system that will weave its way though our community.''

All told, the UAIC will build 110 single-family homes, a tribal administrative center, community center, school, infirmary and day care center. Other uses include a picnic pavilion, RV area and storage, equestrian center, corporation yard and maintenance building, groundwater wells, a water treatment facility and storage tank, a wastewater treatment facility and about eight miles of private roads.

The UAIC regained federal recognition in 1994, 27 years after the federal government broke off relations during the termination era. Today, the tribe provides community development, economic development, education and environmental protection services. The tribe also owns the 200,000-square-foot Thunder Valley Casino.

Since 2004, UAIC's Community Giving Program has gifted $4.6 million to local nonprofits supporting needs in arts, community development, education, environment, health and social services.

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Tubatulabal leader to speak at Montreal conference

KERNVILLE, Calif. - Donna Miranda-Begay, chairman of the Tubatulabals of Kern Valley, will be a guest speaker at the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association conference in Montreal, Canada, in February.

Miranda-Begay will speak on ''Native American Women in Financial Leadership Roles.''

''This will truly be an international experience for me,'' Miranda-Begay said. ''[The association] expects about 700 people attending this conference.''

Miranda-Begay is president and CEO of NAVA Tech, a consulting firm specializing in economic development and information technology. She is a member of the State Rehabilitation Council and ran for the state Assembly in 2004. She is working on a doctorate in transformational leadership and organization.

The Tubatulabals, which have a limited relationship with the federal government but are seeking full recognition, have a government office and Pakanapul language program in Mountain Mesa. These offices support tribal members in Bakersfield, Kern Valley, Ridgecrest and other parts of California.

Inter-Tribal Council hosts delegation from China

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The Inter-Tribal Council of California was expected to host a delegation of 16 Chinese state and private organization leaders on Nov. 26.

The delegation planned the with Inter-Tribal Council officials to learn more about how federal, state and tribal governments work together.

Scheduled to meet with the delegation were Connie Reitman-Solas, Pomo, executive director of the Inter-Tribal Council; Matt Franklin, chairman, Ione Band of Miwoks; Earl Green, Elk Valley Rancheria, state mental health tribal liaison; Olin Jones, Chickasaw, director of the state attorney general's Office of Native American Affairs; and Mark LeBeau, Pit River Nation, policy analyst of the California Rural Indian Health Board.

The Inter-Tribal Council of California is a statewide association of more than 50 federally recognized tribes and tribal nonprofits. It was formed in 1963 to enhance the cultural, economic, education, health and social status of all American Indians in California.

The council advocates and implements policies, programs and projects ''to strengthen sovereignty and improve the health and well-being of our tribal communities,'' according to its Web site.

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at