Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Urges Support On 6.9 Acres
SANTA YNEZ, Calif., July 10, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Led by Tribal Chairman Vincent Armenta, members of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians today attended the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting to urge the Board to support the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) recent decision to place the tribe’s 6.9 acres into federal trust.
After more than two hours of public comments from community members, the Board voted against appealing the BIA’s decision.
Nearly 12 years ago the tribe petitioned the BIA to accept its 6.9 acres across the street from the Chumash reservation into trust and in 2005 the BIA approved the tribe’s application. Less than a month after that first approval, local tribal opponent groups filed an administrative appeal of the BIA’s decision which started a seven-year process of remands, dismissals and appeals. This has delayed the tribe’s plan to build a cultural center and museum.
“At the core of the tribal opponents’ lawsuit against the BIA is the Carcieri argument which required the BIA to determine whether our tribe was under federal jurisdiction in 1934,” said Chairman Armenta. “Questioning the validity of our tribe when substantial historical documentation exists is not only ridiculous, it’s insulting.”
Chairman Armenta had harsh words for Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, who insisted that the Board hold a public meeting on the issue of appealing the BIA’s decision.
“By holding this discussion and playing to those tribal opponents, you are questioning the existence of our tribe,” Chairman Armenta said. “How dare you?”
Other members of the tribe’s leadership team, the Business Committee, also spoke during the public comment period of the meeting.
“I have been involved in tribal politics for nearly two decades and have seen many attempts by other governments to try to dismiss our tribe,” said Vice Chairman Richard Gomez.
“It’s unfortunate that, even today, there are people who want to deny us the opportunity to regain a small part of our ancestral land for a museum,” said Secretary/Treasurer Kenneth Kahn. “We simply are asking to build our tribal museum on land under the stewardship of our tribal government.”
“This museum and cultural center on our own land will allow us to tell our own story,” said Business Committee member Gary Pace.
“We just can’t seem to get a Third District Supervisor who understands that building a solid government-to-government relationship with the tribe would benefit the entire community,” said Business Committee member David Dominguez.
Last month the tribe received a “Notice of Decision” letter from the Pacific Regional Office of the BIA confirming that the BIA had accepted the 6.9 acres into trust.
“The BIA’s decision brings to a close a 12-year process during which time local tribal opponents have made it clear that they will do everything in their power to oppose us, including spreading misinformation about the proposed use of the land and questioning the validity of our tribe,” said Sam Cohen, legal and government affairs liaison for the tribe. “We anticipate the tribal opponents will now begin working to convince community leaders to appeal this decision and again block our efforts to build a museum and cultural center; a project that would benefit the entire community.”
The museum project fits into the current zoning for the land under the community plan. The museum, cultural center and park would be tax exempt even under the county’s own rules. Adding the 6.9 acres to the reservation would place the land under the local control of the tribal government and under federal government’s environmental and other regulations.
The tribe believes that a museum and cultural center on the Chumash should be on land that is under the jurisdiction of the tribal government and is asking for basic fairness.
The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians owns and operates several business enterprises, including the Chumash Casino Resort on the tribe’s reservation, Hotel Corque, Root 246 and Hadsten House in Solvang and two gas stations in Santa Ynez.
SOURCE Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians