San Manuel looks to diversify

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Seeking to diversify from a gaming-based economy, the
San Manuel Band of Mission Indians plan to open a Hampton Inn and Suites
franchise in a tribal shopping development.

The development, known as San Manuel Village, will combine retail and
commercial office space. Additionally, the tribe hopes to add restaurants
and markets to the area. The development is located in the town of
Highland, near the tribe's reservation.

Hampton Inn and Suites is the first nationally recognized name to agree to
a franchise license agreement at the location.

San Manuel Village sits just a few miles east of the tribe's reservation in
San Bernardino County. The area around the planned development is booming
and is one of the fastest growing areas in California as a result of
spillover from the nearby Los Angeles basin.

The location has an added advantage of being on the road to Big Bear. Big
Bear is a resort community and is one of the few spots in dry southern
California with ski resorts and pine forests that attract tourists
year-round.

San Manuel Chairman Deron Marquez said that while tourists coming to and
from Big Bear will certainly be among the intended clientele for the new
hotel, he also cites business travelers as another demographic.

Since the town of Highland, which includes the growing development of East
Highland, has created a larger population base, Marquez contended that
there is a growing market for diversified shopping and other enterprises in
the area.

Though Marquez stressed that he wanted something unique, it is not clear as
of yet whether that goal will be achievable. He said that while he wanted
to create a "boardwalk kind of atmosphere where people don't just drive up,
eat and leave," the tribe still has to decide what is in its best business
interests in choosing the yet-to-be-determined tenants.

This, said Marquez, could include chain stores and restaurants or even a
big box-type retail store.

"We're not against having a chain here," said Marquez.

Often times when tribes make deals with outside business interests, there
is usually some kind of waiver of sovereign immunity. Seattle-based
attorney Gabriel Galanda, whose practice includes Indian law, said that
even off-reservation properties owned by a tribe are still governed by
tribal sovereignty as has been established by the U.S. Supreme Court.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court's recent City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian
Nation of New York decision involving the Oneida Nation, owners of Indian
Country Today, ruled against the tribe and said that it must pay taxes on
off-reservation property.

However, in this case the San Manuel Band incorporated as a separate entity
with the state of California. Essentially this means that the tribe will
still pay local and state taxes and will not operate under tribally
sovereign status.

San Manuel follows other southern California tribes who have expanded their
economic bases by diversifying away from gaming and employing chains. For
example, in the past few years the Morongo Band of Mission Indians have
opened a retail strip of several high-end outlet stores as well as a travel
rest area that features chain restaurants and a gas station.

In northern California, the now ubiquitous green sign that adorns the front
of Starbucks Coffee now looms over a corner of the United Auburn Indian
Community's Thunder Valley Casino near Sacramento. Starbucks also recently
inked a deal with the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians for its Fantasy
Springs Casino that will open this summer.