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The Madera Tribune

Chowchilla tribal chair opposes pacts

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webmaster | 03/29/13

We, the members of the Chowchilla Tribe of Yokuts have the rightful claim to the ancestral land on which the North Fork Rancheria plans to build a casino near Highway 99. As mentioned in historical documents of California and American Indian history, the Chowchilla Tribe of Yokuts existed in the San Joaquin Valley prior to any white settlers arriving here. Unlike many tribes in California that are not considered recognized, the Chowchilla Indians are a federally recognized California tribe and have never been removed from that status.

For the North Fork Band of Mono Indians to attempt to lay claim to regions historically attributed to the Chowchilla Indians is contrary to every written document. The North Fork tribe has ancestral and archeological rights to its current location in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range above 3000 feet. They are seeking to move their location 40 miles to the west and on the valley floor, which is historically Chowchilla Tribe of Yokuts territory. Their move would cause an environmental damage to the land that once housed Chowchilla Indian’s sites and villages.

A few miles north of the proposed casino site, mammoth bones which our ancestors killed for food and used to make tools used for hunting were unearthed in a landfill. Allowing the North Fork Band to rest on lands that once were our hunting and gathering sites is not only is violation of the Tillie-Hardwick Act of 1987, but sacrilegious to our ancestors. The Chowchilla Tribe of Yokuts tribal range and influences are documented throughout U.S. Government research documents, linguistic studies, and numerous Indian reference books. Our tribe stands firm on the fact the land that North Fork Rancheria is attempting to claim is historically the Chowchilla Tribes ancestral territory.

In a determination made by the Secretary of Interior on November 18, 2005, it states that “if the land is within the State in which is located — the reservation of such Indian tribe or the last recognized reservation of such Indian tribe (iii) the initial reservation of an Indian tribe acknowledge by the Secretary under Federal acknowledgment process if, as determined by the Secretary, the Indian tribe has temporal, cultural, and geographic nexus to the land, or (iii) the restoration of lands for tribe that is restored to federal recognition if, as determined by the Secretary, the Indian tribe has temporal, cultural, and geographic nexus to the land.

The facts are on record that the North Fork Rancheria is located 40 miles from the land purchased for the purpose of gaming. Although the state and county have entered into compacts or MOU’s, those decisions have been driven by financial consideration and not by the tribe’s legal or historical interests. It is our right to contest this wrongful action in your presence, public view and the federal court system. We continue to be the forgotten stepchild in this game of chance. We have the facts and the right to contradict every item featured in North Forks’ request for Trust acquisition. We stand with fists outwards and arms folded firm in our resolve to fight this matter before you everyone that will hear of the BlAs’ stand to avoid the existence of the Chowchilla Tribe of Yokuts right to the land in question.

We oppose any decision that permits the expansion and intrusion of any tribe to acquire off-reservation land in order to conduct gaming. Indian tribes in California have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in building their gaming facilities on reservation and Rancheria land. The revenues have expanded their infrastructures and supported their tribal communities. All gaming revenues have been used on tribal land determined as reservations or Rancherias by the Reorganization Act.

A definition in the CFR 25 Part 151 applies to all tribes, (3) (b) & (c), lands are within primary geographic, social, historical and temporal nexus of the tribe; proposed gaming would not be detrimental to surrounding community; and nearby tribes concur (tribes within 75 miles).

Over the centuries our aboriginal and historical land has been taken by the federal and state governments to allow others to take or steal for their good, not for the tribe’s good. Our land as documented in state and BIA records has been stolen from us and our recognition along with it. If North Fork is allowed to build their casino on our ancestral and historical land, we will have again been victimized by the agency entrusted to protect us. Why then should we ever believe that the United States government is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people - particularly our people.

Jerry Brown
Chair, Chowchilla Tribe of Yokuts


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