Running out of room, tribe asks to expand

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EL CAJON, Calif. – A southern California tribe has asked the BIA to add nearly 2,000 acres to its reservation, which would triple the size of its current sovereign land, the agency said.

The Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, a tribe that has more than doubled its population over the past 20 years, has purchased the land it wants put into federal trust and the place they once thrived in, Matan.

“On our current reservation there is not much room, so we want to provide a future for our tribe,” said Sycuan Vice Chairman Ricci LaBrake. “It’s exciting that we can bring this land home and be the caretakers of it.”

The tribe plans to build a cultural center and move its pow wow grounds to the land which runs contiguous to the existing reservation.

The tribe may also build needed housing on Matan, if the request is granted, LaBrake said.

The request was received by the BIA Pacific Region in Sacramento May 12 and could take up to 18 months to render a decision, the BIA said.

“We are just doing the initial screening of the application to determine if there is anything lacking that we need,” said the BIA’s Teresa Draper. She said the request must comply with federal regulations.

The request has ruffled anti-casino advocates in San Diego County. The Stand Up For California group sent a letter to the BIA asking them to treat the request as an application to build the tribe’s second casino.

LaBrake said the tribe doesn’t plan to build a casino and would give the public some access to the land by building playing fields and maintaining existing hiking and equestrian trails.

“Our kids share public schools with the (outside) community. So as a tribe we want to do what’s best.”