The Timbisha Shoshone Tribe is based in Death Valley in California. Photo: Kristi Cole-Smith‎

Timbisha Shoshone Tribe faces attack from anti-Indian gaming group

Despite winning local support for a casino in California, the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe is battling a new rival, one that has tied up gaming projects with litigation and political campaigns.

Stand Up for California! has asked the Trump administration to “review, reconsider, and withdraw” an agreement the tribe reached with the city of Ridgecrest, The Ridgecrest Daily Independent reported. The group, though, has no connection to the region, Chairman George Gholson told the paper.

“It's sad someone from another city can come in and stop a casino,” Gholson told the paper. “I wonder what the voters think about an outside entity taking away jobs and money from the city?”

Stand Up is a shadowy group run out of a post office box in the small town of Penryn (population: 831). Yet it has managed to hold up casino projects for the Wilton Rancheria, the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and the Enterprise Rancheria, just to name some recent examples.

In the case of the Wilton Rancheria, the tribe prevailed after a federal judge just last week backed the land-into-trust application for a casino in northern California. Stand Up is already planning an appeal, The Elk Grove News reported.

The North Fork Rancheria's land-into-trust application also survived a legal challenge. "Enough is enough!" a federal appeals court judge wrote in February, rejecting Stand Up's demands in the case as "unnecessary" and "impossible."

But even if Stand Up's win record isn't so great, responding to the attacks can be costly and time-consuming for tribes. The Enterprise Rancheria has said it has lost out on millions of dollars in economic opportunity because of the group's efforts.

"It’s time to stand up to the bullying tactics of Stand Up," Charles Banks-Altekruse, a consultant who has worked with the North Fork Rancheria and other tribes, wrote on Indianz.Com last year.

Gholson, the Timbisha Shoshone chairman, told The Daily Independent that the group is sometimes funded by rival tribes and Wall Street interests. The Table Mountain Rancheria and a bondholder in the casino owned by the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians once spent millions of dollars to derail the North Fork casino through a ballot initiative.

The Picayune Rancheria, the United Auburn Indian Community and the Colusa Indian Community, also have participated in lawsuits in which Stand Up challenged new gaming developments.

At this point, Stand Up has not filed suit with respect to the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe. But the group is rehashing the same argument it lost in the Wilton Rancheria case -- that an official at the Bureau of Indian Affairs wasn't authorized to approve an agreement for the forthcoming casino.

Mayor Peggy Breeden declined to comment to The Daily Independent when asked about the issue. But she may get a chance to talk to the Trump administration directly -- an item on the city council agenda on Wednesday evening calls for her to go to Washington, D.C., to express "support of the casino project in Ridgecrest."

Read More on the Story:
Challenge issued on casino land acquisition memo (The Ridgecrest Daily Independent March 7, 2018)
Casino talk: Council to discuss tribal request for Mayor to go to DC (The Ridgecrest Daily Independent March 6, 2018)

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