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 economic opportunities elsewhere in the state. Photo: Judy Baxter

Timbisha Shoshone Tribe faces hurdles in Washington for casino bid

As predicted, the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe is running into obstacles as it pursues an off-reservation casino in California.

Tribal leaders and local supporters met with Trump administration officials in Washington, D.C., last week to discuss the project, The Ridgecrest Daily Independent reported. But they didn't gain much clarity on a critical land issue and were told they would have to clear a different hurdle in order to open the casino.

The tribe believes the land-into-trust process should move faster because federal law mandates the acquisition of certain "mutually agreed upon" lands. But Jim Cason, a top official at the Department of the Interior, wouldn't commit to processing the tribe's application as mandatory, the paper reported.

The tribe also was told that any management contract for the casino has to be cleared by the National Indian Gaming Commission, as required by federal law. That means an environmental analysis that the tribe hoped to avoid with a mandatory land-into-trust application would have to be conducted anyway.

The tribe already knew that the project was going to encounter hurdles at the federal level. A newsletter last year warned citizens of the long road head.

"The Trump administration is not very friendly when it comes to taking land into trust [for] gaming," the tribal council wrote in the third quarter 2017 newsletter.

"The person that is going to be making the decision is Jim Cason," the newsletter said.

The Timbisha Shoshone Homeland Act requires the Bureau of Indian Affairs to place certain lands in trust 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 in California but has to look elsewhere for economic opportunities due to restrictions on development within the park, a federal facility.

The location of the proposed casino in the city of Ridgecrest is more than 130 miles from tribal headquarters in Death Valley.

Read More on the Story:
Timbisha Shoshone casino update: NEPA required for gaming contract (The Ridgecrest Daily Independent April 11, 2018)

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