Sunday, July 31, 2011

San Bernardino County tribes oppose Los Coyotes casino proposal in Barstow -

San Bernardino County tribes oppose Los Coyotes casino proposal in Barstow -

By JIM STEINBERG, Staff Writer
Created: 07/30/2011 08:18:04 PM PDT

BARSTOW - San Bernardino County's two Indian tribes - both of which operate casinos - oppose a north San Diego County-based Indian tribe's plan to open a $160million casino here.

The San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians oppose the proposed casino and 100-room hotel advancing through the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs approval process.

On Wednesday night, the BIA held a public hearing on the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians' plans for the casino near two outlet malls south of downtown Barstow.

The project has been in the works for 10 years.

Jacob Coin, a tribal spokesman, said in an interview Thursday that the San Manuels have long opposed the project and would continue to make their opposition known.

"The tribe is of the mind that this is an encroachment on their ancestral lands," he said. Los Coyotes "have no historical ties to the (Barstow) area."

Charles F. Wood, chairman of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, based on the San Bernardino County side of Lake Havasu, said at the public hearing that his tribe opposes the casino for the same reason.

In 1999, during the statewide campaign to allow California tribes to have Nevada-style gambling on their land, the campaign's organizers selected Los Coyotes tribal member Francine Kupsch to illustrate that many California Indians were experiencing poverty, and to promote the desire for casinos as a path to Indian self-reliance.

Today the tribe is still without a casino and has electricity only about a mile past its border.

Meanwhile, the San Manuel reservation has many large homes, more than 3,000 slot machines, 130 table games and a 2,500-seat bingo hall.

The Chemehuevi tribe owns Havasu Landing Resort & Casino at Havasu Lake, Calif., across the Colorado River from Lake Havasu, Ariz.

With just 243 slots in its casino, the Chemehuevi "are not considered a gaming tribe," Shirley Smith, vice chairwoman of the tribe, said Friday.

In an interview Wednesday night after the public hearing, Wood said the Chemehuevi would be resubmitting a proposal to build a casino in Barstow, a goal the tribe let lapse.

Ten years ago, both Los Coyotes and the Chemehuevi were proposing casinos for Barstow.

Due to changes in BIA regulations, the Chemehuevi proposal was terminated, as was the one for Los Coyotes.

But the Los Coyotes group refiled under the new guidelines.

On Friday, Smith reconfirmed that the Chemehuevi would again try for a casino in Barstow.

"We do plan to pursue it," she said, but declined to say when that application might be refiled.

Coin said that because the San Manuels and the Chemehuevi historically crossed paths in the Barstow area, the San Manuels have never opposed Chemehuevi efforts to build a casino in Barstow.

"For the San Manuals, this is not a gaming issue. It is strictly and nothing but protection of ancestral lands," he said.

To win approval for its casino, Los Coyotes must persuade the federal government to put a 23-acre casino site in a public trust, effectively creating a Los Coyotes reservation.

Said Coin: "The tribe (Los Coyotes) have no aboriginal connections to the lands. But this would create a brand new reservation (site), just for the purpose of building a casino."

Los Coyotes tribal Chairman Shane Chapparosa said that historically his tribe hunted and traded on the same lands as did the Serranos (San Manuels) and Chemehuevi.

A research firm hired by the financial backers of the Los Coyotes project, Detroit-based BarWest Gaming Inc., says that "the city of Barstow is not located within the aboriginal territory of any modern tribe."

The area was inhabited by a tribe known as the Vanyume, "a linguistic sub-group" of the Serrano Indians, but a different group than the ancestors of the modern San Manuels, says a 2005 report by Historical Research Associates Inc. in Missoula, Mont.

The Vanyume "effectively became extinct by 1900," the report said.

"Several tribes that have survived into the modern era, however, were neighbors of the Vanyume, including Los Coyotoes, Chemehuevi and San Manuels, the report said.

Tom Shields, a spokesman for Bar West, said a historical link to the area of the proposed casino would not be a factor in the federal government's decision.


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