At one time, the Chumash Indians didn’t have to think about what belonged to them and what didn’t. Boundaries were artificial and determined by history and power.
Then, the Americans came along.
Concentrated into reservations, their areas of “ownership” were clearly defined into jurisdictional boundaries that were considered that of sovereign nations. Those reservations generally became places of poverty and despair.
That is, until gambling came along. Now, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians are rich enough to provide handsomely for the members of their tribe…even those with tenuous links. They are also rich enough to have entered into an agreement with the owner of a piece of land in the Santa Ynez Valley two miles from the main reservation to build housing (143 homes) and other services for their tribe. Their plans do not include a second casino.
Local activists don’t want the property to be developed…and certainly not as the tribe is planning to do, inasmuch as it impinges their own property values. Part of the issue is that the property, as part of a “sovereign nation,” would not be subject to property taxes or, allegedly, any zoning rules. To help resolve the financial issue, the tribe has offered to give the County, as a grant, approximately twelve times the value now collected each year.
As for the zoning rules, that can be handled by rational negotiation.
The sad part of all this is how we non-Native Americans are looking in at the “candy store” of casinos and watching huge volumes of income going to a very few people. Seemingly, we abhor the concept of gambling in our midst while we go and pull the arms of the slot machines. How foolish and self-delusional we are.
I have nothing against the gains that have been made by the Chumash and other tribes in California who have taken advantage of their gambling option. However, it is we who have let them have it as their exclusive domain. Why? Guilt? Religious belief? Protection of the local bingo night?
No matter, it is really, really, really, really stupid.
For decades now, we have scrimped on vital services and innovative projects because we are unwilling to gain access to a revenue stream that already exists and shows no sign of letting up, no matter how much gnashing of teeth we express. One of these days, we’ll just have to get over it. But, sadly, that day seems to be way off in the future.
In the meantime, we argue over which of our seniors, or our handicapped, or our mentally impaired, or our veterans, or our children will have to go without. It is obscene.
Someone in our Executive or Legislative branches needs to get the cojones to present the facts to the people of California. My guess is, if presented fairly and honestly, this farce will come to an end.
If we don’t get that chance, it is our own damned fault.