24 Aug – 20 Sept, ’06
Vol. 4 Issue 9
By Kathryn Bowen
I wonder if I am reading the same commentaries and letters to the editor as some people responding in last months Valley Journal about the Chumash Tribe. Some of these letters insinuate objections of the community to the Chumash expansion plans have to do with how much money the Chumash Tribe make and how these objections must be out of jealousy or envy of their success.
I would like to say that not one letter/commentary I have ever read had to do with being ‘envious’ of how much money the Chumash Tribe make. The point has ALWAYS been about ‘tribal expansion through annexation’, using the NEED of the Chumash Tribe to have this land placed into federal trust status and the concern over the impacts of a largely unregulated gaming operation in the middle of a rural community.
First, I am not sure some people understand the implications of tribally annexed land. It is secession of land from California! It is land that is actually seceded from our state. I question even if our county supervisors understand this distinction because they seem very willing to hand it over to the Federal Government without much public debate.
Second, how much money the Chumash Tribe make is only relevant when you consider that the Tribe, with their enormous advertising budgets, can neutralize local news media including our local radio stations, local papers, television and others.
Why is it that major national papers are covering significant issues concerning tribal expansion through annexation and other problematic issues related to tribal sovereignty, but our own local news media won’t report it? These are issues that involve the future of this Valley simply because there is a sovereign tribe expanding its ‘territory’ in the middle of a small rural town and our own local news media doesn’t want to explore this issue?
Regardless of what side of the fence one sits on in regards to tribal issues, isn’t it the news media’s job to present issues to the public and let the public decide what they think or believe?
That’s when money becomes relevant because one has to pause and ask why? Could it be the millions of dollars in advertising revenue they receive from the Chumash Tribe every year? One has to wonder.
Money is relevant when it becomes an aphrodisiac to the county, the local community and the local news media. When money flows from a non-transparent source and neutralizes valid criticism is when something is terribly wrong.
Relevant when: the Chumash use the Special Distribution Fund (SDF) as a carrot in front of the county’s nose and as a PR ploy with the community. The distribution of these funds is up to the tribes’ discretion as to who and when they will distribute a state MANDATED amount of money to based on their profits. If the relationship sours with the county, the tribe simply designates the money to the state not to the tax-paying community that is subsidizing the impacts of their enterprise.
Relevant when: Indian “nations” are allowed to rely on services and infrastructure provided by the hosting community, but the community in turn cannot impose its regulatory system or property taxes for reimbursement because it is perceived as impeding on their sovereignty.
Relevant when: Indian tribes can pay $70 million dollars to lobbyist Jack Abramoff to fight off other Indian tribes from being able to sign compacts with their states because wealthy tribes don’t want the competition. I thought there were laws AGAINST monopolies in this country.
Relevant when: a bill, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), intentioned to lift Native Americans out of poverty, but instead allows the majority of Native American’s that were to benefit from a now $23 billion Indian Gaming Industry to receive nothing.
This has nothing to do with envy but a lot to do with big gaming dollars creating a national steam roller as hundreds of tribes become armed with largely untaxed and unregulated cash machines (ie. casinos) and buy up surrounding lands, politicians, the media and even Congress and place privately purchased lands into federal trust to expand their ‘sovereign enterprises’ with backers like MGM, Harrah’s, and others… all under the veil of Tribal Sovereignty.
This is an issue of accountability, fairness, transparency and the flagrant abuse of a flawed federal process not jealousy or envy.