Tribes Outraged at Governor Davis’ Refusal to Sign ’99 Tribal-State Gaming Compacts

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Tribes Outraged at Governor Davis’ Refusal to Sign ’99 Tribal-State Gaming Compacts

July 25, 2003

California tribal leaders are outraged at Gov. Gray Davis’ refusal to sign tribal-state gaming compacts for tribal governments that are identical to compacts approved in 1999 and early 2000 by the governor and state Legislators.

The Yurok Tribe of Eureka and the Torres-Martinez Band of Cahuilla Indians of Thermal and others have submitted to Davis’ office tribal-state compacts identical to those approved for 61 other tribal governments. The tribes have been waiting for as long as four years for the governor’s signature.

But a representative from Davis’ office on Thursday told the California Nations Indian Gaming Association that Davis would not sign these compacts.

The move prevents the tribes from operating gaming on Indian lands as approved by the state Legislature, 64 percent of the voters in a March 2000 referendum and by the U. S. Department of Interior.

“It’s outrageous that the governor would ignore the mandate of legislators and a vast majority of voters in this state,” CNIGA Chairwoman Brenda Soulliere said.

CNIGA, an association of 56 federally recognized tribes, voted unanimously to condemn Davis’s refusal to sign the pending compacts. The vote followed an appearance at a CNIGA meeting at the Mooretown Rancheria in Oroville by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, Barry Goode, legal affairs secretary for Gov. Davis, and other Davis staff members. Reynoso is heading a three-member compact renegotiating team for the governor.

“I’m extremely disappointed that there has not been a good faith effort on the part of the administration” to resolve the issue, Yurok Tribal Chairwoman Sue Masten said Friday.

Ninety percent of the tribe’s 4,564 tribal members on the rural reservation are living at or below the poverty level and 70 percent are unemployed. Seventy-five percent of the reservation is without basic services such as electricity and telephone.

“I was hoping the governor would live up to his end of the bargain and negotiate in good faith” as required under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, Masten said.

Fifty-three federally recognized tribal governments in California currently operate gaming on Indian lands. Tribal governments in California are, in fact, the state’s fastest growing business enterprise, generating 38,700 jobs, a 14.8 percent increase in the year ending June 2003, according to the state Employment Development Department.

”I don’t understand why the governor would hinder economic growth in the state when it needs it the most,” Soulliere said.

Native Americans are using government revenues from gaming to strengthen tribal governments and build tribal economies. Such was the intent of IGRA.

“This is a classic case of bad faith, a clear violation of IGRA,” Soulliere said. “Sixty-one tribes have already agreed to the compact being sought by Yurok and Torres Martinez.”

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