Casino Opponents Prepare to Challenge Department of Interior in Court

Stop the Casino 101 Coalition will file a complaint against the Department of the Interior for how it took the Indian land into trust.


Opponents of the casino planned by The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria near Rohnert Park are fine tuning a legal challenge to be filed against the Department of Interior.

Station Casinos wants to develop the casino-resort on Wildfred Avenue, just west of the city. The idea has been a source of contention in Sonoma County for more than nine years.

In May, a group called Stop the Casino 101 Coalition filed a lawsuit against Gov. Jerry Brown, alleging Brown had no right to sign a compact with the tribe. The group maintains that jurisdiction for the land was never ceded back to the federal government after California became a state. In other words, although the tribe may own the land, they don't actually hold sovereignty to it,according to the litigation.

Attorney Michael Healy, who represents the group, told Patch that he will file a similar complaint in federal court, alleging that the Department of Interior did not properly take the land into trust, meaning that California land use laws still apply.

Marilee Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the coalition said that even through "the federal government may hold title, it does not hold trust to the land."

Stop the Casino is led by Rohnert Park Assembly Pastor Chip Worthington. It's a secular organization that includes residents from throughout Sonoma County,  Montgomery said.

She said the basis for the group's litigation is that when California became a state, the federal government ceded jurisdiction over all land in the state to the state government. The underlying issue is whether the state has ceded jurisdiction back to the federal government and whether, in turn, the federal government has properly taken the land into trust.

Some Indian Law experts say the lawsuit may delay the casino but is unlikely to stop it.

Greg Sarris, chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, did not respond to calls regarding the lawsuit.

Montgomery says thousands of people have lent their support to the opposition effort through donations and other means. Her primary concerns are over environmental issues, such as traffic and air pollution, she said.

Click here to read the environmental impact statement on the casino. 

What do you think of the complaint against the Department of the Interior? Are you concerned about the casino's impacts on Rohnert Park and the surrounding area?

Jacques September 13, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Our transportation system in Sonoma county is inadequate to handle the estimated increase in traffic. Is this what we voted for when we passed Prop 1B and Measure M to improve and widen 101? Little did we know that millions of our tax dollars would be spent to facilitate handling casino traffic into Rohnert Park.
Guy Thompson September 13, 2012 at 02:14 PM
How does Las Vegas Blvd handle all the traffic in Vegas? Pretty well actually. Traffic jams such as Jacques complains of have not actually occurred anywhere the casinos have actually been built. And who is building special roads for the casino? Jacques has erected a straw man to knock down.
Doug Strickland September 13, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Las Vegas has a six lane expressway running through the middle for one. And if you've ever been to Vegas you'ld notice that as soon as there is traffic, its a jam. To the extent that they have a separate road system for casino deliveries running along the backside of the casinos (on the strip). Jacques makes a good point - but I don't think for the right reason. The Rohnert Park Municipal Code provides requirements for improving the surrounding roads, sidewalks, lighting, etc. But public transportation is not part of that. And it should be. And Sonoma County Public Transit is woeful. Simply abhorrent. I recommend - rather URGE the country supervisors and SCTA members to actually try to get somewhere on the bus. Not just take a ceremonial tour, but find out what it actually takes to get to and from a job on a regular basis. SCTA: http://bit.ly/TOw2xe
G Man September 13, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Rohnert Park already handles the traffic for the casino (River Rock) And everyday we watch it pass right through.
Cassandra Lista September 13, 2012 at 08:04 PM
I'm sorry to see prime groundwater recharge area paved over and groundwater over-drafted for such frivolous use. So, as a neighbor in the immediate vicinity of the Casino-Resort I am profoundly concerned about =any= development in that area. I wish the lawsuit well and success but I am not hopeful. I have nothing but good wishes for Native Americans. I hope that Native Americans 25% or more (by DNA verification) get FREE education thru college, university and professional school. I'd like to see Native Americans live in good homes. I'd like to see Native American languages preserved and passed on. I'd like to see Native Americans as accountants, bankers, doctors, lawyers, artists, writers, whatever they =want= to be rather than just laborers and housemaids. But, I'm not sure that the FIGR Casino-Resort is going to help with that...
don September 13, 2012 at 09:15 PM
What the stop the casino folks are doing with interior has been tried before without success. Its an old story. To Cassandra; There are a lot of Native Americans who feel the casinos are not the answer to the social ills of the various Native American tribes through out the country. However, they have provided some improvement with some of the social issues of the tribes, so right know, casinos are a partial answer. Until the formula that is used to determine how the Native American Housing and Self Determination Act (NAHASDA) funds are allocated to the Native American tribes is changed so as to be more equitable for the smaller tribes, like here in California, the casinos are the only other answer.
Gene Ricky Shaw September 13, 2012 at 09:52 PM
No, you're completely wrong. LV Blvd only has casinos on it. Hwy 101 is the ONLY route of traffic for vehicles in Sonoma County. Yes, there are back roads, but they only handle a small portion of traffic. If the casino gets built, 101 will be almost unusable. If the tribe wants to build their own road from San Francisco to the casino, let them do it. Otherwise, move the casino to a different location.
Gene Ricky Shaw September 13, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Really? I see traffic jams on 101 all the time! This casino will smoke River Rock in size. They're promoting this casino to people in SF. If you shave off 40 minutes off of a ride to a much bigger casino, do you think there will be more traffic? Station Casinos sure thinks so.
Gene Ricky Shaw September 13, 2012 at 09:54 PM
It's not going to, it's just going to make a few members rich while sending a $200 /month check to everyone else.
Gene Ricky Shaw September 13, 2012 at 09:57 PM
don - Casinos are *NEVER* the answer. They make a few tribe members rich while the rest of the tribe either gets nothing or very little. There are a number of funds and scholarships for Native Americans, not to mention policies that also help them get into college during the application process. All that casinos do is bring greed to a few and very little help to the rest. It just creates more dependency while tainting what it means to be of Indian descent. It's a dirty deal all the way around.
don September 14, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Gene, Your info is from where? Are you a Native American? Where is the DD?
robert aherne September 14, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Ask yourself, "Why would touchy feely governor Jerry Brown approve such an obvious environmental monstrosity when he didn't have to." The Tribe and Stations Casino will not pay any State or local taxes. What does he gain by screwing we who live here? Money to his political funds? This is what you get when you elect a one party state. There is zero accountability. Robert Aherne
LP September 14, 2012 at 03:50 AM
What I find interesting is that Greg Sarris is seldom commenting on anything. As the leader of a group you think he'd do more to promote his interests. Instead he's like a politician, he waits to give a breif update and then you don't hear again from him for awhile. I'm sorry, there's just something about him that doesn't seem trustworthy (maybe it was that whole I won't build a casino thing he said when getting tribal status).
June September 14, 2012 at 05:13 PM
LOL do you really think that the traffic is going to be that bad that you all have to freak out over something that is going to happen! Like it or not change in this world happens, either adapt or go live in a secluded area in the mountains or on a boat in the middle of the ocean. Thats what happens when you live in the Bay Area DUH!! Buildings go up, people get jobs, communities get paid, its called progress
Big Ole Ndn September 14, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Are these "101" group people on crack? "ceded land" back to the Feds by the State? Before California Indian Land was "ceded" to the Feds by way of illegal treaties, the land was still Indian. So in essence, shouldn't the California Indians get all there land back by using this logic?
Dan Fleming September 17, 2012 at 04:23 PM
LP, are you kidding me? The PressDemocrat has only writen negative articles about Greg Sarris and the tribe. Why would he talk to "ANY" Press?


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