Wednesday, February 10 , 2016, 10:00 am | Fair 64º

Chumash Land Acquisitions Rally Valley Residents Over Annexation Plans

Board of Supervisors awaits Bureau of Indian Affairs response to one appeal while considering another for 1,400-acre Camp 4 property

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

Santa Barbara County officials and residents are locked in a waiting game to see whether land acquisition requests made by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians will actually take effect.

At the forefront, the county Board of Supervisors awaits an outcome to its Sept. 11 appeal to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs asking the bureau to vacate its decision to grant the Chumash tribe 11,500 acres via a Tribal Consolidation and Acquisition Area Plan application.

That uncertainty became further muddied when the BIA recently deemed complete the tribe’s fee-to-trust application for Camp 4, a 1,400-acre swath of agricultural land near the 138-acre reservation that would reportedly be used for tribal housing.

The fee-to-trust process effectively removes the land from the county’s tax rolls and from the oversight of the county planning processes.

Officials are now scrambling to get the word out to residents, who either deeply care about the issue or aren’t privy to the details, so they can contribute input.

A complete Camp 4 application began a 30-day clock for comment on an environmental assessment, with a deadline of Oct. 7, said Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, who represents the Santa Ynez Valley.

Farr said supervisors are set to consider whether to appeal the fee-to-trust application during an Oct. 15 meeting, although county officials have submitted a request for more time and to delay the discussion until November.

Far less is known about the TCA process, which supervisors said they appealed because the Bureau of Indian Affairs gave approval without public notice and because of a lack of proof to support the tribe’s land claims.

The Tribal Consolidation and Acquisition Area Plan essentially gives a kind of pre-approval for annexation within its designated boundaries, according to Farr. Without it, the tribe would have to make an individual case to federal officials for each acquisition.

What power the county appeal has over a subsequent BIA ruling on the TCA remains to be seen, since this is the first time one has been approved in California.

Farr said the Camp 4 ruling was particularly surprising, since supervisors asked in their official appeal that all fee-to-trust applications within the TCA boundaries be suspended.

“We really have no model out there,” she said. “I think this seems to be, unfortunately, symptomatic of perhaps other things going on in the BIA. You’d expect a clear process that you can understand and follow. We seem to have either no process or, if there is a process, it doesn’t seem to be followed.”

A staff member for the Pacific Regional Office Bureau of Indian Affairs, which approved the TCA last summer, said Friday that the office could not discuss the approval or how the TCA process works because of the pending appeal.

Repeated attempts to reach a federal BIA spokesperson for explanation of the process were also unsuccessful.

Sam Cohen, government and legal specialist with the Chumash, said he could not shed light on the appeal process, but he reiterated that the tribe didn't file the TCA to get around an approval process more easily.

“We would like to get the support of the county,” Cohen said, noting that additional land is desperately needed to house tribal families.

“We’re pretty confident that the Indian Affairs is going to approve our fee-to-trust acquisition for tribal housing. The Chumash are hopeful that the county will negotiate with the tribe for a cooperative agreement so we can make this a win-win project. We’re working within our process to take the land into trust as fast as possible.”

Susan Jordan, director of the California Coastal Protection Network, said she has done extensive research on the issue of land acquisition and fears the TCA decision will set a precedent throughout the state.

She urged Gov. Jerry Brown to authorize the state Attorney General’s Office to support the county's action and to file the state’s own appeal, although no such action has yet been taken.

"We’re certainly aware of the issue and continue to engage with all parties to help resolve this dispute," said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown.

Both Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., have sent a joint letter to the BIA in an effort to get some answers about the TCA process. Neither has taken a side in the matter.

Farr said several community groups have filed their own similar appeals to the BIA regarding the TCA approval.

Both Farr and Cohen encouraged county residents to make their opinions known in letters and comments of support.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

» on 09.30.13 @ 07:50 AM

“Sam Cohen,... reiterated that the tribe didn’t file the TCA to get around an approval process more easily.”

The above is one of the most disingenuous remarks of the entire process.  So who did, there is a complete issue of “standing.”

There is the issue of the Pacific Regional Office of the BIA personnel being so tightly bound with money and reservations (particularly this one) as to make the process completely compromised.  The Washington BIA has a unfortunate long history of ignoring local concerns (here and else where).  The BIA created international hard feelings when this local reservation was found to have funded a gaming issue with a trans border tribe in violation of Canadian process.

Does anyone think it is an accident of the BIA ruling with - “A complete Camp 4 application began a 30-day clock for comment on an environmental assessment, with a deadline of Oct. 7,....”? This is still September.  If you do I have a bridge to sell you.

Then there is that pesky little acknowledgement by Armenta a few years back.  He answered a direct question on the issue of gaming rights and land to trust promise prohibiting the tribe from doing exactly what it is doing.  Funny how Mr. Cohen never seems to address that issue.

» on 09.30.13 @ 07:52 AM

231 years ago Europeans arrive and establish the Santa Barbara presidio. Making claim to the lands. They cause economic and cultural genocide and the chumash are never the same. Mexico arrives and divides the spoils and then the Americans come. They take without hesitation, create laws like the 1853 vagrant act which surmount to slavery. The 1851 lands commission signs 18 treaties with California Indians which is never ratified by congress only to be stuffed in a drawer for over 50 years. When the Spanish first arrived the Presidio had governance over five missions the largest area of populated natives. In the late 1800’s the files suit to get back lands they lost and are awarded parcels in Santa Ynez. And they deed the land back to the chumash. A small parcel in comparison to the span of land they once ruled. At the same time in Santa Barbara off cienagitas chumash had a federal agent and money disbursed monthly. A few years go by and silently the village is relocated and the federal agent is dismissed. It was the only federally recognized chumash group at the time.
In the 1920-30 lawsuits are filed for the lost treaties. California Indians are awarded 15million but are charged 12million for past supplies of blankets and food. The 5million is divided amongst descendants. Later lawsuits are filed and by the 1960’s and 70’s disbursement checks are issued that amount to 250-400$ per person.

Now a small band of chumash have followed the federal laws to get back what once was theirs. Even after 200years of being swindled,cheated, robbed, murdered, genocide they are able to get back what once was theirs the local community can only cry foul like little children who don’t want to share the sandbox. The past sins of our fathers are our burden to bear.

The NIMBY folks may one day wake up and find themselves surrounded by Chumash owned property much like the US implemented with the DAWS act. I sure hope they do so they can get a taste of what it was like 100years ago. 

The only.cry the NIMBY have is the development wouldn’t be under planning review. Yet, if you look at the past examples of development by the Santa Ynez band they have used Eco friendly material and scaled designs to fit within the environment.

All the NIMBY need do is trust that development will be reasonable. So far all that the SY Chumash can trust on is a bratty child in the sandbox to kick sand everywhere cause it doesn’t want to share.

» on 09.30.13 @ 08:35 AM

The Santa Ynez band of mixed Indian descendants and those who have been admitted to the “tribe” as members, whether “part Indian” or not, do not need land for housing. Making $50,000 a month or more each, the 136 members already have expensive homes or could easily have the most expensive homes in the valley. For the over 12 years they have owned several parcels of land across the street from their gambling casino and hotel, which they are also seeking to place into trust, claiming it was just to build a “cultural museum”.  They could have built that cultural museum years ago but haven’t because the representations of this tribal government are, to put it politely, completely false and disingenuous. No application has ever been made to the County to build a “cultural museum” on the land they own there. The tribal land consolidation area was established by unlawful collusion between this tribal government and the corrupt offices of the Sacramento division of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  This band, occupying the land where the hotel and casino now is located, were given the right to occupy and use that land at the turn of the last century by the Catholic Church following a lawsuit in which all of that tract of land of many thousands of acres was determined to belong exclusively to the church and the claims made by the five families living there, that the entire massive tract of land was theirs, was soundly defeated. Even though the Church prevailed in the lawsuit, they did not want to evict or eject these Indians camped there and made and agreement to allow them to stay there and use that part of the College tract as if it were their own, even providing housing and irrigation systems for them. This currentl band of “Santa Ynez Indians” has NO historical or legal claims to the College tract beyond those facts. The Tribal Consolidation area, which includes the 1,400 acre Camp 4 property, was established so that they could claim a lesser standard of proof needed to bring the 1,400 acre parcel of Camp 4 property they bought, into trust by claiming it is needed for “housing” because that is the category of land into trust most favored by the federal govnernment. Because it has now been unlawfully designated a “Tribal Land Consolidation Area” they can bring parcels of land from inside the 11,500 acre boundary into trust using a much less and lower standard to be applied by the federal government. If it were not improperly designated as a land consolidation area and was a proposed fee to trust transfer of an “off-reservation” tract of land, the tribe would have to show economic necessity. They would have to include in any fee to trust application a business plan and demonstrate clearly that the transfer would not have any detrimental effect on the state and local government and the adjacent community. It would be impossible for this wealthy bunch of 136 “tribal members” to ever show economic necessity while they are raking in hundreds of millions of dollars a year in gambling losses and still receive millions in federal welfare and grant money every year, not because they need it but just for being acknowledged (lawfully or not) as a federal “Indian tribe”. Land transferred into trust and any housing or any businesses operated there are immune from the many taxes needed to pay for all the public services and infrastructure that they use and which must be furnished to the land owners (the “tribe”) and all businesses there. That tax loss must be paid for and made up by the non-Indian taxpayers. Anything that occurs to persons on that land whether visiting residents there, making a contract with the “tribe” or patronizing businesses there, they cannot sue no matter how badly they are injured, cheated or damaged because as a result of a long line of outdated case law, a “tribe” and it’s businesses are immune from lawsuits. This latest action by the current tribal government is a disgrace and is indicative of the greedy, selfish mmentality there is amongst the current tribal government and it demonstrates just how far they will go to accomplish their scandalous expansion efforts in the Valley including accusations of racism, envy and other vitriolic insults.

» on 09.30.13 @ 10:01 AM

Picket & a mass boycott—They will fold fast..follow the money $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

» on 09.30.13 @ 01:18 PM

What’s wrong with leap-frogging from the “reservation,” east across 154, to add land that’s been in food and fiber for two centuries, for another casino, another big hotel, and spec housing?

I’m sure that the Great Spirit told the enrolled tribe members
that their destiny and wealth was in keeping with the ancient
Chumash tradition of organized, legal gambling. Right?

Never hear the gambling millionaires quote Black Elk anymore,
do you?

» on 09.30.13 @ 01:56 PM

The group of people operatig a casino at Santa Ynez are not Chumash and only began calling themselves that about 9 years ago around the same time the current tribal chairman announced that “they’re land” (traditional Chumash lands) extended from Monterey to Malibu. The county residents are justified in objecting to anyone allowed to own land and operate businesses without paying taxes for all the public services and infrastructure they use daily at non-Indian taxpayers expense and without complying with the humdreds of laws everyone else has to comply with, including being sued when you do something wrong. There is abolutely no justification for the legal immunity of any Indian tribe owning and operetaing businesses open to the public and hiring largely non-Indian employees, particularly these many California tribes with one or two or perhaps a handful of members operating casinos and other large business enterprises. This was pointed out in the 1998 Supreme Court case of Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma v. Manufacturing Technologies, Inc. (523 U.S. 752).  Even though this outdated Indian immunity doctrine was created by a series of court decisions not federal statutory law, a majority of the court left it up to Congress to eliminate that legal anachronism and that was over 12 years ago.  The versions of the history of the Santa Ynez band and the land the have been occupying at Santa Ynez has been distorted and misrepresented recently by the current tribal government and no amount of sympathy for what happended to real Indians centuries ago justifies the current attempts by persons who never had a bad thing done to them except make millions in gambling profits, to claim everyone else who never did anything to an Indian in their life, is somehow obligated to a life of continuing atonement which justifies accusations of racism, envy and NIMBYism to hide the truth about what is going on.

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