Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Karuk Tribe Emergence

By Dennis J. Whittlesey

With a new stunning administrative victory in hand, the Karuk Tribe of California is already planning its path to the economic opportunities fueled by casino revenues that many tribes have enjoyed for years but which were denied to it.

The Karuk Tribe has long been known throughout Indian Country for its stable and effective tribal government and leadership as well as its leadership in such matters as the effort to achieve the removal of dams on the Klamath River, directly resulting in the execution two years ago of the landmark Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement.

The tribal presence in the city of Yreka is both long-standing and prominent, featuring both a major tribal housing development on more than 200 acres of land in trust status and a health clinic that generously opened its doors to non-tribal members living in the area.

But Yreka as a gaming location was not available due to a determination in 2004 by the National Indian Gaming Commission that the Tribe could not use any of its Yreka land for gaming because it was accepted into trust status after enactment of the federal Indian gaming law and the Tribe did not qualify for any of the exceptions allowing gaming on "after acquired lands."

The Tribe subsequently decided to pursue overturning the negative ruling, a strategy that included retaining prior outside tribal legal counsel and an ethnohistory expert to develop the legal and factual case for revisiting the 2004 NIGC determination. Recently, the long Karuk effort resulted in the April 9 reversal, which in turn opens the door to what will be a very active tribal effort to develop the gaming facility that has eluded the Tribe for so long.

Last month, the Tribe met with both City and Siskiyou County officials to discuss its plans for development. If the past is prologue, the tribal success in moving forward is a foregone conclusion. To read more about the Karuk Tribe, check out the latest edition of Gaming Legal News.