At the urging of Barstow’s Mayor Joe Gomez, Chemehuevi tribal Chairman Charles Wood and Spokeswoman Francine Kupsch with the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno met March 10 at Quigley’s Restaurant in an attempt to clear the air between their tribes.
In the past, there had been tension between the proponents of the two casino projects, particularly over Measure H, a ballot measure voted down by Barstow voters in 2006, which would have created a casino zone encompassing the area where the Chemehuevi planned to build their casino but not the site of the Los Coyotes project.
The March 10 meeting was the first formal meeting that had ever taken place between the leaders of the tribes.
“I think the meeting went very well, and it was long overdue,” Wood said.
He said he would anticipate future meetings between the tribes. Although he and Kupsch agreed to work cooperatively in the future, Wood said he does not anticipate the tribes forming a joint venture on the casino project.
Kupsch said that after discussing the histories of their respective tribes and the struggles they had faced in the past, the leaders had a better understanding of each other’s situations. The possibility of forming a joint venture did not come up during the meeting, she said.
Gomez said he asked the tribal leaders about a month ago if they would be willing to meet, in hopes that they could find ways to support — or at least not interfere with — each other.
“I think it should have been done a long time ago,” he said. “I think we would have had a better opportunity to get a casino if they had met from the very beginning and got their input from the very beginning.”
Gomez said that he and the two leaders took part on their own time and at their own expense and that after introducing the tribal leaders and making sure they felt comfortable together, he left the meeting.
Both tribes previously applied to the U.S. Department of the Interior to have land in Barstow held in federal trust to be used for off-reservation gaming. The Department of the Interior rejected both applications in January 2008 because of new federal standards requiring off-reservation Indian casinos to be within commuting distance of the reservation. Only the Los Coyotes have so far filed an amended application.
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