Column: Agua Caliente Band asserts rights under new chairman

A view of the Agua Caliente Reservation in southern California. Photo from Facebook

Jeff Grubbe, the chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in California, explains why the tribe is litigating some important issues in federal court:
Grubbe has gone to court to protect the exercise of those sovereign rights in two cases, a move that can only be made with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (hence indicating no objections from the federal government):

1. Against the region’s two water authorities over the misuse and pollution of the underground aquifer that supplies local drinking water; correspondence on the issue dates back to 1996.

2. Against the County of Riverside, which imposes real estate taxes on people and businesses living on Indian land; while not exercising its own right to tax this real estate, the Tribe is suing for the right to participate in decisions regarding the distribution of those revenues.

He says he is doing it for the Tribe and its future. “We are not driven by profit alone or the next quarterly earning (NB: the Tribal council does present monthly financial reports to its members). We have been here for thousands of years and we will be here in the future. The casino compacts (with California) end in 2030, but we will still be here.“ Cultivating sustainable relations with the community-at-large and with employees is therefore important.

“We lost 60% of our revenues during the recession,” Grubbe confides. “But we made no layoffs and we did not cut anyone’s pay. It would’ve been easy just to cut 20% of the staff but we knew it was not the right thing to do. Instead the Tribal members took a cut in their monthly allowance (from casino revenues).”

He is also fervent about protecting the environment and maintaining the pristine quality of the lush Indian Canyons, a popular Palm Springs tourist venue which is also under the Tribe’s stewardship. “We will never develop or do anything commercial up there,” he avers. “This is the heart and soul of the reservation.”

Get the Story:
Shellie Karabell: Leadership Advice from the Tribal Council (Forbes 10/26)


Related Stories:
Agua Caliente Band and DOJ submit briefs in water rights case (10/23)
DOJ supports Agua Caliente Band in litigation over water rights (05/14)
Agua Caliente Band waiting for next step in water rights suit (09/10)
Law Article: Agua Caliente Band seeking to quantify water rights (9/6)
Opinion: Agua Caliente Band sparks costly water rights fight (8/28)
Larry Olinger: Agua Caliente Band tried to resolve water issues (07/30)
Agencies seek dismissal of Agua Caliente Band water lawsuit (07/09)
Agua Caliente Band faces pressure to withdraw water lawsuit (06/05)
Editorial: Agua Caliente Band stirs a great water rights debate (6/3)
Opinion: Agua Caliente Band seeks to profit from water suit (5/27)
Jeff Grubbe: Agua Caliente Band takes action to protect water (05/20)
Agua Caliente Band sues agencies to safeguard water rights (5/15)

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