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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

From the LA Times, 10/25/01:

Gaming Issue Muddies Regional Tribe's Pursuit of Recognition

Rights: Gabrielino Indians seek sovereign status and federal aid, but critics fear what they really want is a casino.


Ask Anthony Morales why he wants the federal government to recognize the Gabrielino Indians, and the tribal chairman speaks of social justice.

Granting sovereign status to the Gabrielino-Tongva Nation would acknowledge that perhaps as many as 2,000 residents of Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties are descended from natives of the L.A. Basin, whose lands once stretched from the Channel Islands to Laguna Beach to the San Gabriel Mountains.

Sovereign status would secure federal health care and education assistance for area Native Americans and allow Gabrielinos to seek tribal lands to develop a headquarters, housing for their people or business ventures. "I think we're overdue," said Morales, 53, of San Gabriel, who is asking Congress to give the Gabrielinos tribal recognition. "There's archeological research and notes that put us here thousands of years ago—our tribe, our ancestors. And we're still here. After so many years, how can they say we don't exist?"

Many elected officials aren't buying Morales' pitch, however. Despite his assurances otherwise, they said they believe the end game is a casino.

Although Rep. Hilda Solis (D-El Monte) has sponsored legislation to grant Gabrielinos tribal status, allowing them to bypass a complex review by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, several campaigns already are underway to quash that effort.

The outcry has been loudest in Ventura County, where a failed casino bid in Oxnard earlier this year by an out-of-area tribe galvanized gaming opponents.

Citing similar gambling concerns, city council members in Camarillo and Thousand Oaks have spoken against Solis' bill.

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted earlier this month to oppose the legislation, and Dist. Atty. Michael Bradbury recently wrote a skeptical letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton on the issue.

"The gaming industry considers the counties of Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura as a large untapped market," the letter said. "The proposed legislation would open up each county for the 'Nation' to purchase land for 'the reservation,' which would open up the door for a casino."

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley is wary of the legislation for the same reason, spokesman Joe Scott said.

Morales said his group has already rejected overtures from casino groups looking for a tribe to pair up with. "We have no gaming in mind whatsoever," he said. "No gaming means no gaming."

He points out that the city of San Gabriel and the California Legislature have formally recognized the group, and he therefore sees no reason the federal government shouldn't do the same.

Ron Andrade, executive director of the Los Angeles City-County Native American Indian Commission, said politicians' distrust of the Gabrielinos smacks of racism.

"Their opinion is, 'If Indians come to Ventura County, there goes the neighborhood,' " he said.

Solis said she opposes gaming because it can harm poor and minority communities. She said she sponsored the legislation only after Gabrielinos assured her that they would not pursue gaming rights.

She might advocate a no-gaming memorandum of understanding to be signed by tribal officials if it would help clinch passage of the bill, she said, but added, "Right now, we don't even have a hearing set."

Opposition to the Gabrielinos' bid exists within gaming and Native American circles as well. Critics include the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, which operates a casino north of Santa Barbara.

"I don't think the issue is whether they'd be a gaming tribe or a non-gaming tribe," Chairman Vincent Armenta said. "It's not fair for every tribe that's trying to get recognition [through the Bureau of Indian Affairs] to have tribes trying to bypass it. I'm not to say whether they're a legitimate tribe or not. By going through the process, there's more scrutiny."

Solis' bill has been assigned to the House Committee on Resources, although she concedes that it has little chance of a hearing this year. It is one of four bills seeking federal recognition for nine tribes across the United States. The committee has not scheduled hearings for any of the bills.

Solis sits on the Resources Committee, as do seven other California representatives, including Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley). None of the seven has co-sponsored her bill, although one committee member, Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), has signed on. The bill has an additional four co-sponsors outside the committee, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and Rep. Michael M. Honda (D-San Jose).

Even if the bill got a hearing, it would probably face an uphill battle. The federal government recognizes 561 tribes nationally, but since the 1970s only 33 tribes have been granted sovereign status through Congress.

In recent years, prospects have been even slimmer for those using the Bureau of Indian Affairs process, in which prospective tribes must meet seven standards, including proof that the group has remained a community in modern times. None of those standards need be met for a tribe to be recognized by Congress.

Although a tribe needs federal recognition to pursue gaming, simply obtaining that status does not guarantee gaming rights. Because of a moratorium now in place in California, a newly recognized tribe couldn't pursue a casino right now even if it wanted to.

Recognition could leave the door open to that someday, however. And it would allow a tribe to receive funds as one of California's non-gaming entities under a state policy that requires tribes with casinos to share their proceeds.

Tim Turner, an attorney for the Gabrielinos, said those funds are the only form of gaming money the group would accept.

Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times

Rob's comment
The stereotype here is the common belief that Indians are after the money—that they don't have a genuine interest in reestablishing their tribe. Even though there's documented evidence their ancestors lived here centuries ago. Even though they sought recognition long before gaming was authorized.

Related links
The facts about tribal sovereignty
The facts about Indian gaming

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