Mechoopda Tribe aims to work with county on delayed casino

Chairman Dennis Ramirez is seen being photographed at the community center of the Mechoopda Tribe in Chico, California. Photo by Mechoopda Tribe

Despite having the legitimacy of his people questioned, Chairman Dennis Ramirez of the Mechoopda Tribe wants to mend fences and move forward with a long-delayed gaming project.

Ramirez was upset when Butte County, in a bid to stop the casino, claimed the tribe was not real. But he told The Chico News-Review that he wants to work with local officials instead of fighting.

"We’re looking at economic development," Ramirez told the paper. "We’re looking at childcare. We’re looking at health care, at housing, something to take care of our elders, put people to work."

The county, however, doesn't seem to want to come to the table. The board of supervisors is meeting next Tuesday to consider whether to appeal a federal judge's decision that backed the tribe's land-into-trust application.

"I know they take great offense to that, but it’s a reality," county counsel Bruce Alpert told the paper, referring to the county's claim that the tribe isn't legitimate.

The tribe has been pursuing the casino for more than a decade. The facility would take up about 91 acres of a 625-acre site along Highway 149, about halfway between the city of Chico and the city of Oroville.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the land-into-trust application for the site in January 2014. The county claimed the decision was "arbitrary and capricious" but Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. ruled otherwise on July 15.

An appeals would go to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision from that court in July 2010 forced the BIA to take another look at the land-into-trust application.

Get the Story:
Tribe on top (The Chico News-Review 7/21)

District Court Decision:
Butte County v. Chaudhuri (July 15, 2016)

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Butte County v. Hogen (July 13, 2010)

Federal Register Notice:
Land Acquisitions; Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria of California (February 27, 2014)

National Indian Gaming Commission Indian Lands Opinions:
January 24, 2014 | March 14, 2003

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