Statement by Chairwoman Soulliere Following Meeting with Candidates in the Recall Election

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Statement by Chairwoman Soulliere Following Meeting with Candidates in the Recall Election

August 28, 2003

When Jedediah Smith and his trappers forged the Trinity River near what is now Eureka in 1828, they encountered the Hupa Indians, a community of hunters and fishermen in who lived in a beautiful valley by the same name, the Hoopa Valley.

Radio carbon dating on fire pits in ancient villages later determined the Hupa people have lived in that valley for more than 10,000 years. They still do. For generations they have lived there as a community. A government. A nation.

The same is true of other California Indians. The Pomo. The Kumeyaay. The Cahuilla. The Luiseno. The Yurok. Karok. Wintu. Yana. Pit River. Maidu. Me-Wuk. We have all lived in this country, in this state, for thousands of years. As governments. As nations.

Today the California Nations Indian Gaming Association was honored to host three men who wish to be governor of this state. As an association of tribal governments, we as a matter of policy do not endorse candidates for public office.

I can say, however, as chairwoman of CNIGA and a member of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, that California tribes should only support elected officials who acknowledge that we are, indeed, sovereign governments. We are, indeed, nations.

Indian tribes in California are not special interest groups. We are not businesses. We are not corporations. We are not powerful political forces indiscriminately wielding our will on non-Indians.

We are governments. We are nations. This is our home.

I can say that tribes in this state should only support public officials who acknowledge the right of tribes to engage in gaming on Indian lands.

I can say that tribes in this state should only support public officials who acknowledge that tribal gaming is government gaming, generating government revenues that, by law, are being used to provide for government services and economic development on Indian lands. They are not profits destined for the pockets of corporate shareholders. They are government revenues.

Tribal government gaming revenues are as much a resource to Indians as the land, water, air, minerals. The tall timber that grow in the Hoopa Valley.

I can say that tribes should support public officials who acknowledge that only if Indians are allowed to function as strong governments can there be economic prosperity for all, Indians and non-Indians alike.

Tribal governments today employ more than 40,000 people. Ninety percent of the workers are non-Indians. It’s no coincidence that this has only happened in the last decade, as tribes exercised their sovereign rights as governments and developed gaming on Indian lands.

I can say that tribes should only support public officials who acknowledge, as we do, that Indians and non-Indians have an opportunity today to forge a historic, government-to-government relationship based on mutual respect and cooperation.

In most communities, this spirit of cooperation and mutual respect between tribal and local governments is already taking place.

Some may not think so from reading newspapers or watching television or listening to the radio, but there are good stories taking place in Indian Country and communities surrounding California’s reservations and rancherias.

After generations of poverty and neglect, tribal government gaming has brought hope to Indian Country. After generations of living as invisible people, Indians are now being seen. We are now being heard.

And I can say, as chairman of CNIGA, that tribes in California should only support those elected officials who will listen.

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