Friday, 06 October 2006 00:12

Ione Band of Miwok Receives Decision On Land Determination

Major DevelopmentIn a major development for the Ione Band of Miwok’s proposed casino, according to a letter obtained by TSPN, a determination regarding the land status for the Ione Band of Miwok Indians has been issued by James Cason, Associate Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior.The September 26th letter is based on an opinion from the United States Department of the Interior Associate Solicitor from the Division of Indian Affairs, Carl J. Artman regarding the Ione Band’s request for a determination if gaming can occur on the land they hope to develop near Plymouth.

Carl J. ArtmanArtman was appointed in early August by President Bush to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs. In a letter written by Deputy Secretary of the Interior James Cason to the tribe, Cason states “The solicitor has reviewed your request and determined that the lands do qualify as Indian Lands.” The Ione Band asked for the land determination in September of 2004 for their proposed casino in the Plymouth area. At that time the Department of the Interior had not yet solidified what elements that would or could give a determination of land use to tribe’s throughout the nation under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Those guidelines were established and finalized by the National Indian Gaming Commission in May of this year. At that time, using the newly established criteria, the Ione Band’s request was evaluated by Department of the Interior legal staff and the opinion was generated. According to Solicitor Artman’s opinion, in general, tribes that receive land not determined to be tribal lands are prohibited from conducting gaming on those lands, unless an exception provided for in the Nation Indian Gaming Act, under the May 2006 regulations exists. Those exceptions are that the gaming activities to be conducted on the land would benefit the tribe and the Governor approves. The lands are taken into trust as part of a land claim settlement. Or that the lands are restoration lands, once considered Indian Land for a tribe that is being, or has been, restored to recognition by the Federal Government. According to this memorandum of opinion the tribe must show that the land is an area that has a historical significance to the tribe. The six page opinion written by lawyer Artman states that the land located near Plymouth does qualify for a status as Indian lands because the tribe can show there is an area of historical significance near the land. This is in the form of a tribal burial ground and the site of a signing of a treaty. Also cited as significant in the development of this opinion is that many of the tribal members live in proximity to the parcel and that the tribe has used public facilities in the town of Plymouth for tribal meetings.

James CasonThe Ione Band of Mi-woks qualifies as a restored tribe because of legal wrangling that occurred over the tribe for much of the 20th century. The opinion states that the tribe has been recognized through out its history citing a document from 1916, a 1972 memo, and a decision in 1994 that directed the Bureau of Indian Affairs to deal with the Ione as a recognized tribe. This determination as an Indian Land status now opens the door for a compact negotiation with the state of California. According to Tribal Chairperson Matt Franklin “The Ione Band of Miwok Indians is very pleased with the recent determination, where lands in Plymouth have been confirmed as “Indian lands”, from the office of the solicitor in Washington DC. The tribe has followed the process set by congress and due process has been achieved. We feel proud that our people can come back to our homeland and continue towards economic self sufficiency.”

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The Six Page Opinion The Six Page Opinion Tribal Chairperson Matt Franklin