"'Restored land' tribes are not 'reservation shopping' as Feinstein wrongfully stated. Reservation shopping applies to tribes with existing reservations that shop for new lands to develop a more profitable casino site. There currently are no active 'reservation shopping' proposals in the Bay Area. Feinstein claimed that 'restored lands' projects in urban areas, like our tribe's proposal for Point Molate, defy California and federal law. That is simply untrue."
If you aren't familiar with the troubled history (to put it mildly) of federal-tribal relations, you might not understand Chairwoman Sanchez's point. The Guidiville Band was one of the federally recognized tribes that was "terminated" during the Termination Era of federal Indian policy. In the 1950s, the federal government set out to dismantle tribal communities and, perhaps more to the point, the federal programs that supported them. The idea was to make tribal members subject to the same laws as every other American, and to end their status as wards of the U.S. To many, this sounded like a good idea at the time -- and perhaps to some, it may sound like a good idea today. It's not. Termination policy is assimilation policy, meant to destroy tribal governments and tribal culture. The Termination Era made things worse, contributing to declining socioeconomic health of tribal communities and tribal people throughout the U.S. The need to address the legacies of termination was part of the reason Congress passed the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in the first place -- to support strong tribal governments and to promote tribal economic development and self-sufficiency.
More directly, Congress "restored" tribes that were formally terminated during the Termination Era, meaning that the tribes' status as federally recognized tribes was restored. The Guidiville Band was one of those. As part of the restoration process, Congress also needed to restore the tribal lands to the terminated tribes. IGRA expressly excepts "restored lands" from the general prohibition against gaming on newly acquired lands, stating that the prohibition "will not apply when . . . lands are taken into trust as part of . . . the restoration of lands for an Indian tribe that is restored to Federal recognition." That's in section 2719(b)(iii), if you're looking for it.
That context further helps to explain the inaccuracy of a term like "reservation shopping." While context may not help with snappy soundbites, we should expect more from Congress generally, and particularly in fulfilling our nation's trust responsibility to American Indian tribes.
Read Chairwoman Sanchez's response in the Contra Costa Times here.