Late last month, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians filed an application with the Pacific Regional Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to place 1,390 acres of land into federal trust.
The land, commonly known as Camp 4, is part of the tribe’s traditional territory. Placing it into federal trust would allow the land to be part of the tribe’s existing reservation and under the jurisdiction of tribal government.
“More than two years ago we submitted a Draft Cooperative Agreement to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors hoping to negotiate a payment in lieu of property taxes for our Camp 4 land,” said Vincent Armenta, Tribal Chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “After repeated attempts to enter into a discussion, the Third District Supervisor refused to meet with us and left us with no other alternative than to file a federal trust application with the BIA.”
Chairman Armenta said that the Draft Cooperative Agreement included an offer of more than a million dollars per year to the County. “Essentially, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors walked away from more than a million dollars a year in revenue for the County and will probably spend more than a million dollars fighting our trust application with the BIA.”
The tribe’s leadership team – the Business Committee – had hoped to negotiate with the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to create an effective agreement to mitigate any potential impacts of the tribe’s Camp 4 land. The tribe has consistently been cooperative with local government and service providers and believed that it could work with the County.
When the tribe purchased Camp 4 in 2010, one of the primary goals was to build housing for tribal members and their families. The current reservation has a residential capability of approximately 26 acres and an economic development capability of approximately 16 acres. The remaining 99 acres is creek corridor and sloped areas which are difficult to impossible to develop. Therefore, the size of the usable portion of the Santa Ynez Reservation amounts to approximately 50 acres, much of which has already been developed.
“Currently, only about 17% of our tribal members and lineal descendents live on our reservation,” said Chairman Armenta. “This federal trust land application is an integral part of accommodating current and future generations of Santa Ynez Chumash and creating a meaningful opportunity for tribal members and their families to a part of a tribal community revitalization effort that rebuilds tribal culture, customs and traditions.”
Placing the Camp 4 property into federal trust would also allow the tribe to exercise its self-determination and sovereignty over the property. “Land is often considered to be the single most important economic resource of a Native American tribe,” said Chairman Armenta. “Once the lands are placed under the jurisdiction of the federal and tribal governments, the tribal right to govern the lands becomes predominant.”
The inherent right to govern its own lands is one of the most essential powers of any tribal government. Chairman Armenta said that there is a great need for the land to be taken into trust so that the tribe may consolidate its land base and solidify its jurisdiction over the property owned by it.
“At one time, the land of the Chumash people stretched from Malibu to Paso Robles,” said Chairman Armenta. “Today, the tribe has a small parcel of land in the flood plain of Santa Ynez Valley and we have run out of room for our growing tribal family. We hope that someday soon, we can start building homes on Camp 4 for our tribal members and their families.”
The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians owns and operates several businesses in Santa Barbara County, including the Chumash Casino Resort, Hotel Corque, Root 246, the Hadsten House and two gas stations.