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Let Indian casinos get established before asking for more money

The Valley Roadrunner, January 21, 2004

By Leo D. Calac

An editorial in the S.D. Union Tribune with the headline “Fair Share – State deserves some Indian Casino Revenue” state the California casinos should be sending a portion of its revenues to the State General Fund like Connecticut’s Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes do.

These tribes purportedly send 25% of their slot machine revenue to the State whereas the California casinos send nothing to California’s General fund. They send money to the State but it goes to those Indian reservations that, largely due to their poor locations, do not have casinos and to a fund that takes care of problems arising as a result of the construction and placement of the casinos.

First, let’s compare the available funds for such purposes. How many Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans are there to share in the rich markets of New York and Connecticut in comparison to those Indians in California? I’m sure they no longer have debts to pay off on their initial investments like many of us here in California. We are brand new businesses with tremendous investments in facilities for which we owe to the banks and other financial institutions.

Because casinos are not a public entity the amount of revenue and net profits are unknown to the public. A figure of $5 billion has been thrown around from some time and now it has been raised to $6 billion by Copley News Service.

A lot of us are not receiving huge amounts of money because the available profits for distribution have to be used for paying off debts, for improvements on the poor reservation lands that have been set-aside for us. These lands were set-aside in the 1800s. At this time we lived in the lush parts of San Diego County where there was sufficient game, fish and natural foods to enjoy a good living.

One of my grandmothers during the 1700s lived in an Indian village on what is now Camp Pendleton and the man she married lived in a village where Rancho Gajome in Vista is now located, but the American farmer wanted this rich land so we were moved back into the hills which was the least desirable and told to make a living.

An editorial in the San Diego Union dated September 7, 1873 said it all about the attitude toward finding a home for the Indians. It stated: “The land is for the people who can cultivate it and become producers, adding to the prosperity of the commonwealth, and the Indians must go.”

It also stated that a proposed reservation at San Pasqual (Wild Animal park) would be a failure. It would be a gross outrage upon the farmers of that section. In a final self-righteous blast the editor stated that not only should the Indians be kept off land currently occupied by whites but that the Indians should be forbidden from any land likely to be so occupied by whites within the next 20 years.

Around this time the Barona Indians were moved off the San Diego River which they had occupied for centuries because the Americans needed a reservoir to feed their occupied city of San Diego.

The Rincon, Pala, Pauma, La Jolla and San Pasqual tribes had the San Luis Rey River taken away from them because Escondido needed the water. The San Pasqual band lived in the San Pasqual Valley where the Wild Animal Park is now and enjoyed that rich farm land but they were moved on to not one, but several parcels of hilly, rocky land surrounding the Bates Nut Farm in Valley Center.

Another move that is really funny because it backfired is the case of the San Manual Indians who were pushed onto a rocky hill north of San Bernardino one square mile in area, but it turned out that I-15 passes right by it. They now enjoy a very lucrative casino with built-in traffic to feed it.

Back to the 1800s: How were the Indians supposed to make a living with the land the Americans didn’t want and land with no water? They had to depend on government handouts and learn the white man’s way of making a living.

Most had to get off the reservations because there was not way to make a living on such land.

Now they have found a way and it is thought that before they can hardly get their new business established they should be pumping tax money into the State coffers. Let’s look back one more time into history and see what the State did to the Indian that many of these editorial writers don't know about. When the U.S. defeated Mexico and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 was drawn up, the Indian occupants of the land were to be reimbursed for the land on which they lived. Did this happen? No, gold was discovered in California and those treaties were pigeonholed for almost 100 years before the California legislature would be forced to bring them out and the Indian allowed to sue.

We asked for $1.25 an acre and got 47 cents. The number of acres involved times 47 cents came to $17 million but after the General Accounting Office came up with their list of the cost of every sack of wheat, plows, shovels, flour, etc. supposedly given to the California Indian since 1852. They came up with a payment of $5 million. Do you want to hear about my folks being forced into government schools at the age of 5 and 6 and my mother never being able to see her mother again? She was picked up by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Police near Alturas, CA, at age 5, taken to Carson City, Nevada, for elementary schooling, then to Sherman Institute in Riverside for her high school years where she met Dad and where I was born.

Is justification taking place? Why doesn’t the press cool it? Get off our backs and let us pay our bills and have some enjoyment for our good fortune for a little while. Even while we are attempting to do this we are pumping millions of dollars into the current economy. What other businesses have come into California and in a matter of two or three years are providing employment to thousands of people, mostly non-Indians, are purchasing millions of dollars of supplies, buildings and equipment, donating millions of dollars to local charities, adding to the number of hotel rooms, and providing entertainment for the tourism industry?

We are going to help counties improve road to casinos, but even these needs have been overblown. When Rincon and San Pasqual Casinos were closed during the San Diego County fires I didn’t see any decrease in traffic after the roads were reopened and the casinos remained closed. There are just lots of people living in these areas and they are causing the heavy traffic.

When we reach the level of per capita payments of the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegans, I for one would certainly not object to giving the State General Fun 25% of the slot machine revenue as our editor friend suggests.

Mr. Calac is a member of the Rincon Band.