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Delay On Vote To Revise Reservation Expansion Policy Draws Criticism From Tribal Leaders

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A decades-old policy that places a number of barriers to the region's tribes in acquiring land will be revisited next month by the County Board of Supervisors.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The San Diego board of supervisors recently delayed voting on a proposal that would lift a number of barriers to the region's tribes and expanding their reservations. If repealed the decades old restrictions would phase out restrictions and obtaining liquor licenses and would set up a tribal liaison to foster communication between the County and each of the regions. 18 tribal governments, though, a new vote is set for May 5th. The decision to delay a ruling on the policy has been met with sharp criticism by tribal leadership who see the outdated restrictions as part of a larger legacy of racism and discrimination in County law. Joining me to discuss the proposal is chairman Bo Massetti of the Reen Khan band of the Louis ano Indians chairman. Massetti welcome.

Speaker 2: 00:48 Good morning. Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1: 00:51 Can you begin by telling us what the repeal of this decades old policy hopes to achieve?

Speaker 2: 00:57 Yes. We need to clarify the way the policy that was implemented in 1994 basically said that the County would oppose all, either trust or lamb that tried to go into purchase or want to purchase the County will oppose those, uh, for gaming purposes that has evolved into the San Diego County board of supervisors, opposing all lands. A tribe may be able to purchase back though, we're buying our own land back. I want to make that clearer, you know, so it became a blanket opposition, opposing, any lambs of tribe may purchase, uh, in our case all the last week purchased with the exception of one are in the very middle of our reservation.

Speaker 1: 01:46 How will these changes benefit the native community in the region?

Speaker 2: 01:50 What does proposals, uh, provided by a supervisor? Desmond would do would repeal the blanket opposition and would say, okay, let's look at a land purchase by a tribe on a case by case basis, not just a blanket, no, and opposition, you know, I want to make it clear to not many tribes of 18 in San Diego County, have the economic base or opportunity to buy back their own land. So this is not going to be a mass purchase by tribes of a bunch of land. It's just aren't going to happen.

Speaker 1: 02:22 What was your response to the delay in voting on this?

Speaker 2: 02:25 Well, my response is a slap in the face to the tribes and San Diego County. And I say that because, uh, no one called from the board or staff that had questions had they had any questions would have been glad to answer that. If you'll notice. Also during the board hearing, there was no opposition at all

Speaker 1: 02:43 Component of the policy. In question here stems from a blanket policy the County has had in place for over 20 years, which blocks tribal fee to trust applications. How has that made it more difficult for tribes to add land to their respective reservations? It adds in

Speaker 2: 03:00 The public comment period and timeframe, which is required under federal law. Some of these applications, when we buy a, let's say we buy a piece of land for us. It's within our reservation boundaries. What we've been trying to get back our own land. The process is that first of all, one man has to be free and clear a clear title so they can not be any kind of cloud on the title. When we get the piece of property to that point, then we can petition the federal government to take this land into trust status on behalf of the tribe, the way it works, the title goes to the United States government and it reads it or the beneficial use in this case of the written contract, the process, how long does it take? It can take up to 12 years. I can give you examples of 12 years to do this. It does not happen. 30, 60 days, 90 days. It takes years to get a piece of property to be actually put back under tribal jurisdiction.

Speaker 1: 03:53 What extent do you think this policy is rooted in larger racist and discriminatory policies involving the region's trial?

Speaker 2: 04:01 Originally, when this was put into, into place in 1994, it was a big concern. Old Indians are going to have these casinos all over the place that traffic, everything that criminal, the crime, Oh, while the stuff's going to happen. The County going to have to pick up more time with the deputy sheriffs, the fire, all of these various scare tactics, which were basically unknown, but they were utilized. Actually, if you look at what has happened, just the opposite has happened. The tribes far exceed anybody's expectation in terms of what we donate to various community organizations, the services we provide our tribe along with San Pasqual tribe just, uh, started our own ambulance service because we have lack of ambulances in a rural area for emergency responses. So that'd be open to the general public to at no cost, the taxpayers don't call. So it's just what has happened is the reverse of what was data to happen.

Speaker 1: 04:53 Do you feel that come the time of the new vote next month, that this policy will be ultimately repealed?

Speaker 2: 05:00 If it's not, it's a racial and political move. If it's not revealed,

Speaker 1: 05:05 Let me ask you this. I mean, just ultimately, you know, you, we keep bringing up the fact that, you know, you all are trying to buy back your land. How do you feel about that?

Speaker 2: 05:15 I think it's ludicrous, but it's reality. I have strong feelings about that, you know, give our land back. Well, we are going to be, that's not going to happen. You know, so we have, we have to, and that's exactly what we're doing. I want to give you an example of the biggest parcel our tribe has purchased, which was about 320 acres to the very East of our reservation between them all your reservation and our Eastern reservation boundary 320 acres. It's the mouth of the assembler SRE river, which is traditionally a culturally very important to the Luiseno people. We bought that land back.

Speaker 1: 05:50 I've been speaking to chairman BOMA, Zeti of the Rent-A-Car band of the Louis Daniel Indians chairman. Thank you so much for joining us.

Speaker 2: 05:58 Well, thank you for your time. Appreciate it.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.