Jamul Indian Village working within the spirit of IGRA
In light of the volatile issue of off-reservation gaming, often referred to
as "reservation shopping," the Jamul Indian Village endorses many of the
concepts behind Rep. Richard Pombo's draft legislation requiring approval
by local voters for all off-reservation land-into-trust acquisitions for
We are pleased to learn that senior officials with the BIA recently quashed
rumors of a total moratorium on land-into-trust acquisitions. However, we
share Pombo's well-placed concern about tribes attempting to acquire lands
for gaming many miles from their existing reservations, sometimes as far
away as different states.
In our opinion, these tribes are violating the spirit of the Indian Gaming
Regulatory Act by seeking these lands. This is not what Congress had in
mind, it is certainly not what local governments had in mind and it is
surely not what the voters of California had in mind when they passed by
large majorities Propositions 5 and 1A.
While we support the sovereign right of tribal governments to secure
brighter economic futures for their people, such pursuits certainly cannot
come at the expense of federal law, the rights of local governments, the
intent of voters and the sovereignty of other tribes.
The Jamul Indian Village goes on record as believing that the existing
regulations contained within IGRA regarding off-reservation land-into-trust
gaming are adequate with a few exceptions, principally the lack of
administrative processes and regulatory definitions to define for tribes
exactly what the limits of off-reservation land-into-trust applications are
in regards to gaming.
The Jamul Indian Village reservation is only six acres in size. Needless to
say, our reservation is one of the smallest in the nation and certainly the
smallest in San Diego County; less than 1 percent of the next-smallest
reservation in the county, which has 640 acres. With only six acres
comprising our reservation, we don't have the land to house all of our
tribal members, most whom are forced to live off-reservation. It goes
without saying that six acres also inhibits the ability to provide our
members with a decent standard of tribal government services, one of the
aims of IGRA.
In order to ensure a secure economic future for our tribe, we are building
a casino on the existing six acres of land we currently have in trust.
Conditions on our current reservation are far from ideal. Until a few years
ago, electricity was non-existent and running water was a luxury. Housing
is well below acceptable standards.
More than six years ago, our tribe began the fee-to-trust application
process to acquire 81 acres contiguous to our existing reservation to
establish a land base that would allow the tribal government to properly
provide the housing and services our tribal members so desperately need,
while still adhering strictly to IGRA and placing all gaming on the six
acres we had in 1988. It is unfortunate that many other tribes did not seek
to keep to the spirit of IGRA and instead decided to test the limits of
federal law. I feel that if this had not been the case, discussions to
amend IGRA would never have occurred.
Our local county supervisor, Dianne Jacob, has been a consistent opponent
of our project, refusing to sit down and discuss our project after many
efforts by our tribe to engage her in constructive dialogue. She dismisses
our right to build, calls into question our sovereignty, our federal
recognition and the existence of our reservation.
Even more hurtful to us, she told us that we should move away from our
ancestral lands to Viejas and open a casino on their land. IGRA requires
that gaming be confined to historic reservation lands of federally
recognized tribes. Jacob, while opposing reservation shopping, seeks to
consolidate the gaming of several different tribes on the lands of an
existing gaming tribe, an exercise in reservation shopping of an
extraordinary magnitude. The supervisor can't have it both ways. Of course,
she wishes to, as her opposition to our proposed casino arises from the
fact that our reservation is near her sprawling estate - the ultimate
expression of NIMBYism (not in my back yard).
The supervisor raises as a danger of Indian gaming the impacts on local
roads and public services. The Jamul Indian Village is committed to working
with the county and the local community. We are on record as offering the
county three times the amount of money any other tribe has offered to
mitigate impacts. As we have for the past several years, the tribe will
continue working closely with Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol and
the San Diego County Sheriff's Department to address impacts from our
project. We also have a standing offer to negotiate a formal mitigation
agreement with the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
We realize that not every tribe has been so willing to work with local
governments and agencies. We have offered to fund and build a much-needed
fire station, mitigate impacts on our local roadways, and in every other
respect assist the nearby community - all of which have been openly or
covertly rebuffed and opposed by the supervisor.
Let no one be fooled - the Jamul Indian Village is the good guy. Our
treatment by the supervisor underscores the reasons why America's Founding
Fathers established an exclusive government-to-government relationship with
the Indian nations, knowing that local governments would always seek to
deny the existence of Indian ancestral lands in their midst.
I wish to emphasize once again our support for the inherent right of all
tribal governments to properly care for their members. This inherent right,
however, does not include reservation shopping for purposes of gaining a
better market for gaming. Gaming should take place on lands in which tribes
have historic roots.
Off-reservation gaming schemes have cast a long, dark shadow over the
Indian gaming industry, something that has become indisputably the single
most effective means of economic development for American Indian tribes
Leon Acebedo is chairman of the Jamul Indian Village, a Kumeyaay nation.