A sign proclaims Death Valley National Park in California as the "homeland of the Timbisha Shoshone." Restrictions on development in Death Valley have prompted the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe to seek econoic opportunities elsewhere. Photo: 4johnny5
California | Casino Stalker

Timbisha Shoshone Tribe anticipates uphill battle with Trump team over casino

Leaders of the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe are preparing for some big battles as they pursue a casino in California.

The tribe began the land-into-trust process in the last year of the Obama administration. Some leaders believed it would move faster than normal because federal law mandates the acquisition of certain "mutually agreed upon" lands for the tribe.

But the tribe's third quarter 2017 newsletter offers an ominous update about the effort. The language was rather blunt.

"The Trump administration is not very friendly when it comes to taking land into trust gaming," the tribal council wrote in the newsletter.

The new administration is in fact proposing to add more steps to the land-into-trust process. Critics say the changes will make it all but impossible to acquire lands away from existing reservations, which is what the Timbisha Shoshone are trying to do.

"There is a lot of stuff going on and a lot of people still don’t know what is going to happen," the newsletter stated, referring to the general state of affairs in Washington, D.C.

The tribe also anticipates problems at the state level. The governor's office won't enter into Class III gaming compact negotiations "until the land is in trust," the newsletter stated.

But even if the tribe clears both the land and compact hurdles, lawsuits are possible, the newsletter adds. A group called Stand Up for California! has been repeatedly trying to derail new casinos in the state, including ones for the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and the Wilton Rancheria.

In anticipation of opposition, the tribe has been building support for the casino. The city of Ridgecrest has already signed a municipal services agreement and a letter of support is being sought from Kern County.

“They have to work out the state compact with the state of California as well as address a tribal environmental impact report with the city and the county, so we still have a little ways to go,” Ron Strand, the city's manager, said of the effort at a recent city council meeting, The Ridgecrest Independent reported. “Really it's just hinging on whether the government will take that land into trust.”

The Timbisha Shoshone Homeland Act requires the Bureau of Indian Affairs to place certain lands in trust but in the event a particular parcel in Nevada can't be acquired. That parcel was not acquired, according to the tribe.

The tribe has a reservation in Death Valley National Park but has to look elsewhere for economic opportunities due to restrictions on development within the park, a federal facility.

Ridgecrest is more than 130 miles from tribal headquarters in Death Valley.

Read More on the Story:
Council hears casino update (The Ridgecrest Daily Independent October 20, 2017)

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