Editorial: Graton Rancheria casino plan takes toll on public trust

"Sonoma County may never know the full story of how a Las Vegas-style casino ended up being proposed near Rohnert Park. Given the bankruptcy of Station Casinos, the backers of the proposal, we may not know for some time how this story will end, either.

But this latest chapter, played out last week by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, was written long ago. It was written when the simple word “shall” was included where a “may” would have sufficed.

Last week, the Bureau of Indian Affairs officially took into trust a 254-acre parcel of land near Rohnert Park for the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

This was destined with the passage of HR 946, the original congressional legislation, authored by Rep. Lynn Woolsey in 2000 to restore federal recognition of Coast Miwok Indians, as represented by the Graton tribe.

Woolsey’s bill originally prohibited the construction of a casino. But at some point, the wording was changed, and it gave the tribe gaming rights. Furthermore, it became part of legislation by Sen. Barbara Boxer that made clear that, upon application by the tribe, the U.S. interior secretary “shall accept into trust for the benefit of the tribe any real property located in Marin or Sonoma County.”

Because of that, particularly the inclusion of the word “shall,” much of the legal maneuvering up to now has been mere prologue. Casino opponents may argue the point, but this was bound to happen."

Get the Story:
Editorial: In trust (The Santa Rosa Press Democrat 10/6)

Earlier Stories:
Appeals court rejects lawsuit over Graton Rancheria casino (6/7)
Opinion: Allow public vote on Graton Rancheria casino (2/25)
Editorial: Apologize for attack on leader's ancestry (2/22)
Coast Miwok Tribe stands by ancestry of chairman (2/18)
Anti-casino group challenges tribal chair's ancestry (2/11)
Opinion: Indian gaming policy shuts out critics (9/18)
Graton Chairman: Indian gaming bill was unfair (9/15)
Anti-tribal gaming bill slowly dying in California (9/3)
Referendum sought on Graton Rancheria casino (9/3)
BIA delays action on Graton Rancheria casino bid (7/6)
Appeal weighed in Graton Rancheria casino suit (4/30)
Judge dismisses lawsuit over Graton Rancheria casino (4/23)