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Opponent Denied Intervention in Clients’ Homeland Restoration Case

22 Oct 20

By Peebles Kidder

Sacramento, CALIF. (October 1, 2020): A tribal homeland restoration case moves forward without the involvement of a wealthy opponent. This past week, the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians lawsuit challenging the  U.S. Department of the Interior‘s rejection of its request for an Indian lands opinion cleared an important obstacle: a federal judge refused to let the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, owner and operator of the Cache Creek Casino, enter the case as a defendant, saying “Yocha Dehe hadn’t shown a potential threat to its own business justified its intervention.” 

In May 2019, Scotts Valley Band filed its original complaint, asserting that its January 2016 request of the Secretary of the Interior for an Indian lands opinion satisfied the “restored lands” requirements of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and that an opinion in favor of the Tribe was required. 

In relation to the request for an Indian lands opinion, the Scotts Valley Band has also requested that the Secretary of the Interior take an undeveloped 128-acre parcel of land in the City of Vallejo into trust status for the benefit of the Tribe.  The Tribe, which presently has no reservation land, seeks to reestablish its homeland and build a tribal community with housing, a unified governmental headquarters, and economic development ventures including a casino-resort. An ardent opponent, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, attempted to intervene in the suit, claiming that the proposed Scotts Valley homeland restoration project would “intercept Bay Area patrons approximately 60 miles before they would otherwise reach” potentially affecting Yocha Dehe gaming revenues and market share. 

Patrick R. Bergin of Peebles Kidder Bergin & Robinson LLP, attorney for the Scotts Valley Band, said the ruling will allow the tribe to move forward with its claims “without the distraction of non-federal defendants.”

“This case concerns discrete issues under the Administrative Procedure Act and the intervention of another defendant could have brought unrelated and irrelevant matters before the court,” said Bergin. “The case is about restoring a portion of homeland to one of the last landless federally-recognized Indian tribes in the nation,” said Bergin. “If this land is entrusted for the Scotts Valley Band, the Tribe will finally be able to effectively plan and provide for future generations of its member families.”

About the Organization: The Tribe’s ancestors were among the eight bands of Pomo Indians who signed a treaty with the United States in 1851.  The treaty ceded to the United States the lands between Clear Lake and San Pablo Bay, including the Vallejo Property.  The U.S. Senate refused to ratify the treaty, however.  The United States did not establish the reservation near Clear Lake for the Pomo bands which the treaty contemplated.  The Tribe was landless until 1911 when the United States acquired a very small parcel for the Tribe.  The Tribe became landless again when it was unlawfully terminated in 1965.  The Tribe’s status was restored in 1991, but to date, none of its lands have been restored to it.

The Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians is represented by Patrick R. Bergin and Tim Hennessy of Peebles Kidder Bergin & Robinson LLP and Arlinda F. Locklear. The case is Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians v. U.S. Department of the Interior, case number 1:19-cv-01544, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.