A collection of Timbisha Shoshone baskets. Photo: Dustin Blakey

Timbisha Shoshone Tribe off-reservation casino remains the talk of the town

Two years after proposing an off-reservation casino in southern California, the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe appears no closer to its goal.

The tribe believes its land-into-trust application must be approved as mandated by the Timbisha Shoshone Homeland Act. But the Bureau of Indian Affairs failed to take action during the Obama administration and the Trump team hasn't done much to advance the ball.

"Typically, we're talking years?" a key lawmaker asked at a hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

"Correct," a senior BIA official responded.

Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Hearing on Tribal Homelands April 25, 2018

Meanwhile, the tribe continues to dominate discussion in the community where the casino would be located. It's all anyone can talk about at meetings of the city council, even when the issue is not officially on the agenda, The Ridgecrest Daily Independent reported.

"I am going to stay out of the negativity as much as I can," Chairman George Gholson said at the last meeting on April 28, the paper reported.

The tribe's reservation is based within Death Valley National Park. Restrictions in federal law prohibit development there.

The Timbisha Shoshone Homeland Act of 2000, which addressed the tribe's water rights, includes a provision mandating the acquisition of certain "mutually agreed upon" lands. The Trump administration has yet to agree if the site in Ridgecrest, which is more than 130 miles from tribal headquarters in Death Valley, qualifies.

“It is all premature until the Secretary of the Interior makes the decision to take the land into trust," a city council member said at the last meeting, The Daily Independent reported. "The decision is in the hands of the gentleman in the Department of the Interior. Period.”

Residents on both sides of the issue don't seem to think so. Supporters and opponents are sending letters to Jim Cason, the official at the Department of the Interior deemed to be responsible for making a decision. He is not the Secretary but instead holds the title of Associate Deputy Secretary, a position that did not require Senate confirmation.

Tribal and city officials have met with Cason in Washington, D.C., and they said he directed BIA staff to continue processing the land-into-trust application. The BIA is under no obligation to make a decision by any time-frame.

Read More on the Story:
Casino proponents stage letter drive, cite numbers (The Ridgecrest Daily Independent April 26, 2018)
Casino dominates public comment at council meeting (The Ridgecrest Daily Independent April 20, 2018)
Follow the money: Casino looked to as economic driver for city (The Ridgecrest Daily Independent April 12, 2018)
City asks for 14 day extension on casino-related FOIA request (The Ridgecrest Daily Independent March 31, 2018)

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