I mean, we're not against the Indians


root - Posted on 28 October 2002

The Cache Creek Indian Bingo and Casino Expansion is opposed by farmers in the area

by Michael Vizcarra/PNN media Intern

My left arm is on fire. I can barely breathe because the air is so
heavy and hot. Beads of perspiration appear on my forehead. I try not to
worry about my arm. I should have put on sunscreen earlier. It sucks not
having air conditioning in my car, but there’s a breeze blowing through my
open windows. At least the scenery is beautiful up here in the Capay Valley
of Yolo County. The curving two-lane road, the rolling green hills, the
farms and farm animals, the quiet towns, all bring back memories. I’m on
Highway 16 just off of Highway 505. I used to drive through this valley at
least once a year every summer to go river rafting. But one familiar site
that I always passed and never paid much attention to is the Cache Creek
Indian Bingo and Casino, a big structure located smack dab in the middle of
these small towns and farmland. I never had much concern for the casino,
until now.

The Cache Creek Indian Bingo and Casino is expanding. In fact,
they are planning to increase the size of the existing casino by almost 500%
(from 113,000 sq. ft. to 530,278 sq. ft.), transforming it into a major
destination resort. This has raised more than a few eyebrows from local
farmers within the Capay Valley, who are trying to do whatever they can to
stop the expansion before their concerns are dealt with.

Let me back up a second to give a little background to the area.
The original residents of the Capay region were the Wintun tribe and other
related tribes living along the valley’s waterways. In the early 1800s with
the introduction of white settlers, the Patwin Indians (as the entire group
of tribes were called by the U.S. government) were nearly wiped out by the
diseases brought on by the settlers. Things didn’t get any better when the
Gold Rush hit. The gold miners took their lands and enslaved, infected,
starved and massacred the Native Americans around the area. This treatment
continued well into the late 1880s when even the state of California paid a
bounty for Indian scalps.

By the 1920s the Federal government had established rancherias for
surviving tribes and part of the Wintun tribe was placed in Rumsey, a small
town in the Capay Valley. In 1942 the Tribe moved to a 56-acre site just 15
miles north of Rumsey. They were able to purchase a 118-acre site and made
that into a trust parcel (meaning they put the land “in trust” to the
Federal government, which is necessary in order to have gambling). The site
is also where most of the homes and business enterprises for the Tribe are
located. Shortly after the completion of the Casino in 1985, the Rumsey
Band were finally able to reunite their scattered members and bring them
back home.

I spoke with Frank Rose, a hay farmer in the Capay Valley and
advocate for the farmers against the expansion. He says the main concern of
the farmers is the amount of traffic the expansion is going to bring into
the valley. “The two-lane highway [Hwy. 16] is the lifeline for farmers,” he
says. And since the valley is heavily populated with agriculture, the
increased flow into the valley would hinder the movement of farm equipment
and produce shipments. He also states that the proposed expansion (outlined
in a document called the Environmental Evaluation (EE) prepared by the
Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians and their consultants) makes no showing of
compliance with the Federal Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, or Endangered
Species Act, which are among the Federal laws that apply to tribal lands.
He says the farmers want the Governor to stop the expansion until their
concerns are mitigated. The farmers also want the Tribe to do an evaluation
that is accurate.

“I mean, we’re not against Indians,” Mr. Rose says, “We voted for
them to have a community center down the road, but this is too much. What
more do they want?”

Does this sound like NIMBYism to you?

I also spoke with Mr. Howard Dickstein, the lawyer for the Tribe.
He says the accusations that the EE relies on inaccurate assumptions and
baseline data are “vague criticisms and inaccurate”. “None of the State
Agencies had concerns, only the county [Yolo], which is politically driven,”
he says. “But the County Land Use Ordinance and Regulations do not apply to
Indian Tribes.” Mr. Dickstein also said the Tribe is having meetings with
Yolo County supervisors and would consider additional mitigation. They
would study the concerns and would act in good faith. “But the tribe will
not subject economic self-sufficiency to a veto by Yolo County or any
individuals,” states Mr. Dickstein.

I think Mr. Dickstein has a great point. It boils down to being
self-sufficient. Before the Casino, many of the Tribal members earned a
living working as farm laborers and many were receiving public assistance.
Now, all tribal members contribute and are compensated for helping run
Rumsey Rancheria and none are receiving any outside assistance. Where Mr.
Rose said the two-lane highway is the lifeline of the farmers. Well, Mr.
Rose, the Casino is the lifeline of the Rumsey Band. Not only does the
Casino provide self-sufficiency for the Tribe, but also it provides year
round jobs for more than 1,500 people. They contribute annually to support
regional needs in education, community health, arts and humanities,
environment, community development and social services.

It’s weird when I hear the words, “It’s not fair,” coming from the
mouths of these farmers, especially when they’re referring to a group who
has brought themselves up from economic hardship to a better way of life.
But these are the words I continue to hear. Mr. Rose has only been in the
valley for four years. Four years! I can only speculate how long the
Native Americans have been in the Capay Valley, but I’m definite it’s longer
than four years. The farming industry is the most subsidized industry in
the nation. I don’t think I hear many people saying, “That’s not fair”.
The next time I drive through this valley I will expect to see the familiar
sites of farmland and small towns. But I will also hope and expect to see a
bigger Cache Creek Indian Bingo and Casino Resort.

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