Indian Tribes Want to sign Gambling Agreements With The State

SACRAMENTO – Thirty-five California Indian tribes want to sign gambling agreements with the state, on top of the 61 tribes that currently have state pacts to operate casinos, Gov. Gray Davis’ administration said Friday.

Davis wants to include all 96 tribes in ongoing negotiations over conditions under which the tribes operate casinos.

Tribes, however, expressed outrage that he will not first sign compacts with the 35 tribes identical to the compacts he signed with 61 other tribes in 1999 and early 2000.

Davis isn’t denying the 35 compacts, but neither will he sign what he considers to be antiquated agreements while negotiations are underway to alter those deals, said Davis spokeswoman Amber Pasricha.

Some of the tribes that missed out on the first round have been waiting since May 1999 for Davis to consider their applications.

Davis representatives informed the California Nations Indian Gaming Association on Thursday that he will not sign compacts with the Yurok tribe of Klamath, and the Torres-Martinez Band of Cahuilla Indians of Thermal while negotiations continue with all the tribes.

The same decision applies to the rest of the 35 tribes that want compacts, Pasricha said.

“There are certain things in (the 1999 compacts) that need to be changed,” Pasricha said. “There are misunderstandings, there are incongruities, there are things that came up in the last four years that need to be addressed.”

A key dispute is over Davis’ insistence that the gambling tribes increase their contributions to the state to help offset California’s $38 billion budget deficit.

The tribal gaming association, which includes 58 federally recognized tribes, voted unanimously Thursday to condemn Davis’s refusal to sign the pending compacts.

The vote came during an association meeting at the Mooretown Rancheria in Oroville attended by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, who heads Davis’ three-member compact renegotiating team, and Barry Goode, Davis’ legal affairs secretary.

Association Chairwoman Brenda Soulliere accused Davis of thwarting the will of Californians who approved tribal gaming in a March 2000 referendum, and hindering the state’s economic growth. Sue Masten, chairwoman of the 4,564-member Yurok tribe, accused Davis of failing to negotiate in good faith.

The Yuroks say casino revenue is needed to assist the 90 percent of its members who have income below the federal poverty level, and the 70 percent who are unemployed. It said 75 percent of the isolated reservation along the banks of the Klamath River lacks electricity and telephones.

The Torres-Martinez is a poor tribe of nearly 600 members with a 13,200-acre reservation. Members of the band are in a dispute with regional officials over a 4,000 resident Mojave Desert trailer park village with open sewage ponds, faulty wiring and a junkyard.

The tribe wants to build its casino along Interstate 10 east of Indio.

Also Friday, Davis appointed his first tribal liaison, filling a position created by executive order in 1977 but vacant through all of Davis’ four-and-a-half years in office.

He appointed Marilyn Delgado to direct the Office of the American Indian Coordinator. Delgado, 45, of Sacramento, is a member of the Hayfork Band of Wintu Indians, Nor-Rel-Muk Nation. She has been tribal liaison for the state Department of Social Services since her appointment by Davis in January 2001.