Sunday, June 23, 2002

I'm a tribe of one! Ellen Nakashima reports in the Washington Post on the incredibly convoluted story of the California battle
for control of the Buena Vista Rancheria tribe of Me-Wuk Indians. One faction has three members. The other has one.

The Buena Vista Rancheria is a tribe so tiny that the federal government once almost knocked it off the tribal register, but the struggle has attracted high-powered lawyers and lobbyists, allegations of influence-peddling, an FBI investigation and an inspector general's probe. Last month, the No. 2 official at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who had been drawn into the controversy, was fired.

At issue is a 67-acre plot of land that belongs to the rancheria, a California Indian term denoting a tribal entity. Right now, the land is occupied by cattle, a double-wide trailer and a forlorn cemetery.

One faction wants to keep it the way it is. The other has signed an agreement to build a $150 million, 200,000-square-foot casino. Now the Interior Department has to determine who has the right to organize a tribal government on the land.
If I used Grecian Formula, I would look more like an Indian. And I sure could use the revenue from a casino on the back 40! Lawyers and lobbyists, please contact me immediately. And bring a signing bonus.