February 11, 2010
SACRAMENTO - Friends of Amador County, an anti-casino group, filed a suit in the California Eastern District federal court in Sacramento asking a judge to overturn federal approvals granted to the Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians for 67 acres near Ione where the tribe plans to build a casino. The casino project will cost $150 million to build and will operate table games and 950 slot machines.
The new lawsuit alleges the land does not qualify as tribal land, and the federal government acted illegally in granting approval.
Jerry Cassesi, president of Friends of Amador County, said the federal archives show the inhabitants of Buena Vista Rancheria were never a tribe with a common language and history. Instead they were the scattered remnants of many tribes rather than local Me-Wuks.
The tribe issued a statement today that read "The allegations of the lawsuit appear to mirror those of the lawsuit filed by the County of Amador against the Interior Department, which was dismissed by the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. We expect the same result for this lawsuit."
In 2005 an attorney with the National Indian Gaming Commission issued an opinion that Me-Wuks had lived on the site since at least 1817 and that the land is suitable for a tribal casino. The tribe received federal recognition in 1985.
Construction of the Buena Vista Casino was to start last summer but the tribe has still not been issued a federal sewage discharge permit.
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