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SAN DIEGO - The federal government rejected an application last week from the Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians to build a large casino on the Viejas reservation near Alpine. The Viejas were to share in the profits.
The Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians signed an Indian gaming compact with Governor Schwarzenegger in 2004 to build the casino with unlimited slot machines. At that time the governor was promoting the idea of clustering new casinos onto reservations with existing casinos. This encouraged the Viejas and Ewiiaapaayp to form their joint venture as an alternative to Ewiiaapaayp's original plan to build a casino on the site of a nearby health clinic.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs immediately warned of conflict with federal law, which requires a tribe to control or own the land for their proposed casino. Attorneys for both tribes have spent the past three years seeking a legal solution.
However, to the surprise of the Viejas, the Ewiiaapaayp submitted their application to the U.S. Department of the Interior last week to ratify their compact. The next day it was rejected. Acting deputy assistant secretary George Skibine wrote: "Indian lands described in the (compact) are not now Indian lands of the tribe, and thus cannot be the subject of a compact between the tribe and the state."
Many close to the situation expected the tribe to hold their application until next year when a new administration would appoint a new staff at the Interior Department.
Will Micklin, chief executive officer of the Ewiiaapaayp, said the joint venture "remains an option. Disapproval of the compact doesn't mean we can't do the joint project. It just means the language in the compact was flawed."
Viejas spokesman Bob Scheid said "The Bureau of Indian Affairs has made it clear that this is not a good time to be pushing these issues. So it surprises us that Ewiiaapaayp would go and do this on their own. Why not just hang in there until there is a change in administrations?"
For more information about these tribes:
Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians
P.O. Box 2250
4054 Willows Road
Alpine, CA 91903-2250
Office: (619) 445-6315
Fax: (619) 445-9126
Web site: www.LeaningRock.org
Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians
Viejas Tribal Office
1 Viejas Grade Road
Alpine, California 91901
Office: (619) 445-3810
Fax: (619) 445-5337
Web site: www.viejasbandofkumeyaay.org
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