Nelson Pinola: Bay Area casino threatens sovereignty

"The Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians, a Mendocino County Pomo tribe like ours, is attempting to obtain land in trust for gaming at Point Molate, Contra Costa County, in the heart of the urban San Francisco Bay Area. While the tribe's non-Indian developers clearly see dollar signs at Point Molate, that site is 120 miles away from the tribe's ancestral homelands, their former rancheria, and their existing tribal trust lands in Mendocino County. We Pomo people know very well that Contra Costa County is not within our aboriginal territory. It has always been the home of Miwok, Ohlone and other native peoples, while the lands of our Pomo people have always been in the areas now called Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake County.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act prohibits gaming on land taken into trust by the United States for a tribe after 1988 unless the tribe meets one of the exceptions to that rule, which has so far been rare. In this case, the Tribe is trying to use the "restored-lands exception." Federal regulations say that in order for a tribe to qualify for that exception, it must have a "significant historical connection" to the land it wants as a casino site. Guidiville has no historical or cultural connection whatsoever to Point Molate, and it must not be allowed to proceed with its casino plans there.

If one tribe with no historical connection to its proposed casino site is permitted to use the restored-lands exception, others are sure to follow - to Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego and any other location that looks profitable. That would be contrary to the law, the best interests of the great majority of gaming tribes whose casinos are on their rural reservations, as ours must be, and the essential basis of tribal sovereignty: connection to our ancestral homelands. It would also violate the trust the voters of California placed in us when they amended the California Constitution to permit tribal casinos."

Get the Story:
Nelson Pinola: Stop the distortion of gambling rules (The San Francisco Chronicle 1/24)

Earlier Story:
Manchester-Point Arena Band opposes Bay Area casino (1/20)