Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria
Our History as a Federally Recognized Indian Tribe
A group of Rohnert Park residents opposed to the proposed development of a destination resort just west of Rohnert Park by our Tribe, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (“Tribe”), recently prepared a report arguing that Congress erred in restoring our Tribe’s federally recognized status. The group, which calls itself the Stop the 101 Casino Coalition and is led by the Reverend Chip Worthington, claims that our Tribe is not really an Indian tribe and that Congress was duped into restoring our Tribe’s federally recognized status. The group believes that Congress should have instead required the Tribe to satisfy the rigorous criteria required of Indian groups seeking federal recognition for the first time under the BIA’s federal acknowledgment process (“FAP”). Even if the Tribe had successfully navigated the FAP process, the group argues that at least the Tribe could not engage in tribal gaming on its lands without the concurrence of the Governor.
The most obvious problem with the group’s thesis is that federal recognition and federal restoration are legally distinct processes. Federal law prohibits tribes, such as ours, whose federally recognized status was terminated by Congress, from seeking recognition through the FAP. Neither Congress nor any other branch of the federal government has ever required terminated tribes to satisfy the FAP criteria and demonstrate their existence as continuously operating historic political entities from the time of non-Native settlement to the present.
On the other hand, federal gaming law treats restored tribes and newly recognized tribes in similar fashion, such that neither is required to obtain the concurrence of the Governor in order to game on their restored or newly established reservations. Thus, the group’s argument that the Tribe avoided the FAP process in order to circumvent the federal process requiring the Governor’s concurrence is incorrect and nonsensical.
The other problem with the group’s analysis is that it fails to acknowledge or recognize the crucial role which California history has played in explaining our Tribe’s ability to continuously function as a governmental entity. That unkind history led to the creation of the California rancheria system and was a key consideration in the subsequent restoration of the Graton Rancheria and other California rancherias. Thus, documents cited by the group indicating that most of our members did not reside on the Graton Rancheria and that the few who did appeared to have agreed to the termination of the Tribe’s federal trust status have been taken out of context and are largely irrelevant. Similarly, the absence of documentation showing the existence of a formal tribal government on the Graton Rancheria or the fact that, prior to the arrival of non-Natives to the area, Southern Pomos and Miwoks were separate tribes, do not discredit our status as a tribe in any manner.
See 25 U.S.C. §2719(b)(1)(B)(ii) and (iii).