Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria

Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria

The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria [ [http://www.gratonrancheria.com/index.htm Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria ] ] , formerly the Federated Coast Miwok, was officially recognized by the U.S. government on December 27, 2000, pursuant to an Act of Congress. California 6th Dfistrict Representative Lynn Woolsey introduced the Graton Rancheria Restoration Act August 6, 1998 (105th Congress, 2d Session, H.R. 4434 [ [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c105:H.R.4434.IH: Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress) ] ] later H.R. 946 [ [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/T?&report=hr677&dbname=106& Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress) ] ] ultimately H.R. 5528).

California Senator Barbara Boxer introduced S. 2633, a bill identical to H.R. 946, in the Senate May 25, 2000 [ [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d106:SN02633:@@@L&summ2=m& Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress) ] ] The bill was ultimately passed and signed by President Bill Clinton as Title XIV of Boxer's Omnibus Indian Advancement Act (Public Law No. 106-568).

Representative Woolsey's original bill would not have permitted the FIGR to have an Indian casino. Senator Boxer removed that prohibition when she included Woolsey's bill in the Omnibus Act.

The Tribe

"The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria" (“Tribe”) is a federally recognized American Indian tribe of Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo Indians. The Tribe was officially restored to federal recognition on December 27, 2000, pursuant to the Graton Rancheria Restoration Act. The Tribe has approximately 1,080 members and is governed by a seven-member Tribal Council who are elected to two-year terms by the adult tribal membership. The Tribe’s government offices are located in Rohnert Park, California. Tribal governmental programs and services include sacred sites preservation and protection, Indian housing, Indian education, membership, cultural arts, social services, and tribal health.

Early history

Prior to European contact, the residents of Marin and Sonoma Counties were bands of native Californians belonging to two linguistic and cultural groups: the Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo, living in close proximity to each other and indigenous to Marin and southern Sonoma Counties in Northern California.

Occupied at various times during more than thirty centuries, over 600 village sites have been identified in the Coast Miwok territory, stretching from Bodega Bay to the north, eastward beyond the towns of Cotati and Sonoma, and along the Point Reyes National Seashore and the shores of Tomales Bay. The year 1579 was the earliest recorded account made by the Europeans of the Coast Miwok people on the coast of Marin in the Point Reyes area, as documented in a diary by Chaplain Fletcher who was aboard Sir Frances Drake’s ship. During the Mission Period of 1779-1823, Mission San Francisco de Asís (also called "Mission Dolores"), Mission San Rafael Arcángel and Mission San Francisco Solano used Indians, including the Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo people, as a key source of labor.

The territorial lands of the Southern Pomo are in Sonoma County, south of the Russian River to the southern Santa Rosa area. The Southern Pomo were the first inhabitants of what is now the town of Sebastopol, with several smaller traditional Southern Pomo villages located southeast of Sebastopol along the Laguna de Santa Rosa. California anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber stated:

:"Batiklechawi, at Sebastapol at the head of the slough known as Laguna de Santa Rosa, was an important town, and therefore presumably the headquarters of a division [of the Southern Pomo] . Another group tentatively may be inferred as having occupied the bulk of the shores of the laguna."cite

Modern history

"The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria" (“Tribe”) originally (beginning 1992) worked toward recognition as the "Federated Coast Miwok", and prepared extensive genealogical records toward this end. In 1997, the group became aware of the Graton Rancheria, and from that point on, dropped its case for recognition as the Federated Coast Miwok, and began its quest for restoration as "The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria". Since then, it claims to be composed of individuals of both Coast Mwiok and Pomo descent.

It is stated in a 1998 memo from the Director of the Office of Tribal Services of the BIA that records in the possession of the directorate identify the several residents of the Graton Rancheria as only Pomo Indians, a general classification equivalent to Sioux in breadth. The relationship of other indivudals' families, as identified by the FIGR's own genealogical records, does not show ties to the Graton Rancheria.

In 1998, the Office of Tribal Services said with regard to the Graton Rancheria Restoration Act "We would generally support a tribe requesting restoration of Federal recognition when there is documentation to show that the group is significantly tied to the terminated tribe. We have not seen any such evidence in regards to the Graton Rancheria and therefore we cannot recommend support of this bill at this time." Memo, Director, Office of Tribal Services, Bureau of Indian Affairs, September 8, 1998, online by " [http://www.stopthecasino101.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/officeoftribalservices_notrecommendsupport_1998memo.pdf stopthecasino.com, by Stop the Casino 101 Coalition, Rohnert Park, CA] "] These memos are part of the public record.

The position of the OTS was reiterated in 1999, and read into the Congressional Record on May 16, 2000, at the House Resource Committee Hearing on the Graton Restoration Act (H.R. 946). Despite the misgivings of his own historians at the Office of Tribal Services, then-BIA Secretary Kevin Gover recommended restoration.

The Graton Rancheria was located at 10091 Occidental Road, between the towns of Sebastopol and Occidental in Sonoma County, approximately convert|17|mi|km from the City of Rohnert Park, California. Graton Rancheria was established by the United States in 1921 for the homeless Indians from the areas of Marshall, Bodega, and Tomales Bay in Marin County and of the Sebastopol area in Sonoma County. However, in 1936, because no Indians had lived on the property since its purchase, occupancy was opened to any homeless California Indian. Andrew Sears, a native of the town of Sonoma, was given a land assignment on the rancheria on March 19, 1937, thus becoming the first inhabitant of the rancheria. Prior to 1920, the convert|15.45|acre|m2|sing=on property that became the Graton Rancheria was the private property of Joseph and Louisa Corda. The property was located in Sonoma County's famous fruit and berry land, and was surrounded by productive apple orchards.

The term "rancheria" is specific to Indian tribes in California. Although the legal definition of "Indian reservation" now includes "rancheria" under Title 42 of the United States Code, Section 2992c, when the rancherias were originally established and until rather recently, no such designation existed. According to Dr. Stephen Beckham of Lewis and Clark College, a renowned expert on West Coast Indians, the rancherias were fee land , intended to provide only temporary housing where Indians and others could live tax- and rent-free. All rancherias were held in fee simple, and were not federal trust lands or reservations. In 1958, Congress enacted the California Rancheria Act, which authorized the termination of federal supervision and the Indian status of many of the rancherias in California, including the Graton Rancheria. As a consequence, the Indians of the Graton Rancheria would no longer be eligible for federal services traditionally provided to Indians because of their status as Indians.

At the time that the Rancheria Act (Public Law 85-671, 85th Congress, H.R. 2824, August 18, 1958) was introduced, there were three adult residents on the property. All three adult occupants voted to terminate the federal governments ownership. A thank you note from Frank Truvido, father of the current occupant, was written both to Congressman John Scudder and Indian Agency Supervisor Lowe. According to enrollment records, one of the rancheria residents who voted for termination was a man who was 1/4 Shasta and 3/4 White, whose father was from Cornwall England. Several of his heirs and descendants are still living near the Oregon/California border.

The Termination Act for Graton Rancheria was not finalized until 1966. In the eight years it took for the termination to become final, no one protested the action. In 1966, the United States government terminated its ownership of the Graton Rancheria and distributed the lands in fee to Frank Truvido, the only living adult Indian resident. Mr. Sears and Mr. Fred Everill, both elderly in 1958, had both died. Mr. Sears left his alloted land to Mr. Truvido, and Mr. Everill left his land to nine heirs who were both part-Shasta Indian and non-Indian.

The government made improvements of a well, septic system, and three small houses that were typical of Sonoma County rural residences at the time. Today, approximately one acre of the former Graton Rancheria remains under the ownership of a Native American – a tribal member of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. This individual had her rights as an Indian restored to her in 1976 under the decision in Knight et al v. Kleppe and Duncan Jr.

The federal termination and assimilation policy embodied in the California Rancheria Act was later repudiated by President Richard Nixon and Congress, with the implementation of the Rancheria Act ultimately deemed unlawful by the courts. Since the 1980s, approximately 30 of the 35 California tribes that were terminated under the federal termination policy have been restored to federal recognition through litigation and legislation. While it existed, no tribe, tribal organization, tribal group or tribal government ever existed on the Graton Rancheria.

Not all former rancheria land reverted to tribal organizations. In some cases, individual Indians had their individual allotments of former rancheria land placed into individual trust, thus allowing them to be exempt from local property taxes. Some took no action at all, and simply retain the lands as their private property, as did the Truvidos.

In 1984, as a result of the Tillie Hardwick case, Mr. Truvido and his daughter were given the opportunity by the court to bring a petition that would have allowed them to ask the federal government to have the remaining Graton Rancheria land taken into trust. They did not do so.

Chairman of the Tribe Greg Sarris' original stated intention in the May, 2000 HRC Hearing was to have the one acre of remaining rancheria land placed into trust. That has not happened, and the property remains privately-owned land.

The restoration process

Under the heading “Our People”, the current FIGR website says the tribe was established in 1992 as the Federated Coast Miwok, its members are both Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo people, and it is named for an acre of private property called the Graton Rancheria. Yet it claims the BIA entrusted the 1992 tribe with the 15 acre Graton "village home" in 1920 -- 72 years before the FIGR was established -- and took it away in 1958.

Prior to European contact, the residents of Marin and southern Sonoma Counties were bands of native Californians belonging to two linguistic and cultural groups: the Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo. Tribal Chairman Greg Sarris told Congress in 2000 that the then-380 members of the FIGR were the descendants of a dozen survivors of that aboriginal population.

At a May 16, 2000 hearing on H.R. 946, before the House Resources Committee [ [http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/resources/hii68434.000/hii68434_0.HTM#2 House Resources Committee, Hearing held May 16, 2000.] ] Sarris testified:

:"Let me give you a little bit of background, everybody here, about the tribe. The Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria were called by the 1920's 1930's, Coast Miwok or Southern Pomo by linguists and anthropologists. At pre-contact time, we were approximately 5,000 people of many—several dozen bands of Indians who interacted as one group. Today we have 380 enrolled members. Of those members, 380 members, we are all descendants of 12 survivors."

Kevin Gover was Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs under Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt from 1996-2001. Gover also testified at the May 16, 2000 hearing, and his prepared testimony concluded " [http://www.doi.gov/ocl/2000/hr946.htm Testimony of Kevin Gover, May 16, 2000] "]

"I am pleased to report that after careful review of the information submitted by the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria (the successor name), the documentation shows that the group is significantly tied with the terminated tribe, Graton Rancheria [sic ] the terminated tribe known as the Graton Rancheria. Therefore, we support their restoration of tribal status. As I stated earlier, the Administration supports H.R. 946 with certain amendments that I am submitting as a part of my statement."

But in fact, Gover's testimony did not demonstrate that there ever was a Graton Rancheria "tribe" to terminate; or that the FIGR had documentary evidence that it was its successor. An Act of Congress could not "restore" to the FIGR, a tribal status that had never existed.

In a September 8, 1998, Memorandum to the Director, Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs, the Office of Tribal Services of the Bureau of Indian Affairs commented on H.R. 4434. A subsequent memo dated March 26, 1999, confirmed that its comments applied to the subsequent bill H.R. 946: "Since no changes have occurred, our comments for the H.R. 4434 are applicable to the H.R. 946."

The OTS said of H.R. 4434,

:"We would generally support a tribe requesting restoration of Federal recognition when there is documentation to show that the group is significantly tied to the terminated tribe. "We have not seen any such evidence in regards to the Graton Rancheria and therefore cannot recommend support of this bill at this time." [emphasis added]

More specifically, the OTS said, re subsection (6)(b)(1)(C) of the bill:

:"This subsection states that individuals identified as Indian from the vicinity of Graton, Marshall, Bodega, Tomales, or Sebastopol, California, are to be place [sic] on the roll. This section is very broad as to who can be placed on the roll and what kind of record can be used. "As written it does not require possession of the tribal blood which would show descendency from past members of the Rancheria, or California Indian blood, which would show ties to the area, if not the Rancheria as it existed before termination. Any individual who lives in one of these vicinities, and has documents stating he or she possesses Indian blood would be eligible to be place [sic] on the Rancheria's roll." [emphasis added]

Re (6)(b)(2), the OTS commented:

"This subsection states that membership will be governed by the tribe's constitution. "We have not seen the Rancheria's constitution." Are the requirements for membership found in the Rancheria's current constitution consistent with the language of the Act?" [emphasis added]

Gover quoted from the OTS' comments, that H.R. 946 did not specify the "tribal affiliation" of the Graton Rancheria:

"Throughout the Act, there has been no mention of a specific tribal affiliation. John J. Terrell was a Special Indian Agent(sometimes titled as Inspector) assigned to locate lands for home sites for landless bands of California Indians under a series of Acts and arranged for the purchase of these lands. The first appropriation for landless California Indians was in 1906 (33 Stat. 333), with subsequent ones in 1908, 1914, 1915, yearly between 1916 and 1929, and in 1937 (House of Representatives 1953, 42). Typically, he produced a report and a list of members of the band. Presumably this is what the bill refers to. There may be more than one census made of the group at about this time. Terrell began service in 1915, but was preceded by two other agents who may have also produced records concerning the band.

Records in the possession of the directorate have identified the Graton Rancheria as a band of Pomo Indians, a general classification equivalent to Sioux in breadth. Sebastopol is an alternative name for the band and the Rancheria. The Rancheria was established in 1917.

There appears to have been two other bands in the immediate vicinity of Sebastopol, besides the Graton group that were being considered by the Special Agents (they considered more groups than eventually got land). It is not entirely clear who is being referred to in the reports. Terrell's correspondence refers to Indians at or near Marshall and Tomales Point, distinguishing them from the Indians at Bodega Bay. A 1927 report gives the population at Sebastopol (meaning the Rancheria) as 76, and distinguishes that group from those at Bodega Bay. A 1914 report identified 46 Indians at Sebastopol, and 34 at Bodega. As far as we can tell, a proposed rancheria purchase for Bedega [sic] was not completed."

And Gover's prepared testimony recommended some amendments to the text of Woolsey's bill:

"Section 6 requires the Secretary to compile a roll for the Tribe. Section 6 (b) lists the criteria for membership in the Rancheria.

This section is inconsistent with the governing document of the Constitution of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. The membership provision of the Constitution of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria ties to the terminated Graton Rancheria.

In keeping with the doctrine of self-determination, determining membership is a responsibility of the Tribe. We, therefore, recommend that Section 6 be struck and replaced with the following:


In keeping with the doctrine of self-determination, determining membership is a responsibility of the tribe. [In past recognition bills, tribes were required to submit a membership roll consisting of all individuals currently enrolled in the tribe in accordance with their governing document. The Secretary reviewed the rolls and made corrections in consultation with the tribes, if necessary. The rolls were then approved by the tribes' governing bodies. The Secretary then published notice that the rolls had been received and approved]

The membership of the Tribe shall be:

a) Those persons of California Indian descent whose names are listed on the last roll of tribal members approved by the tribes' governing bodies prior to the enactment of this act, and b) The lineal descendants of those persons on the rolls identified under subsection (a) who meet the requirements for future membership in the tribes' governing documents.

Membership rolls are somewhat unique in that there may be substantial personal information. This information may be withheld properly from any requestor under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); moreover, its release could violate the rights of individuals protected under the Privacy Act."

Thus Gover understood that the FIGR's Constitution "ties to the terminated Graton Rancheria"; he wanted the Act to read that the FIGR could determine for itself who could be a member; and he wanted the Act to state that the membership rolls could be withheld from the public.

Gover's testimony did not clarify the tribal affiliation of either the FIGR, or the supposed residents of the Graton Rancheria. He made the issue even "more" confusing, by testifying that the bill "presumably" referred to Terrell's work; and by citing "records" that "identified the Graton Rancheria as a band of Pomo Indians".

It is clear that Gover intended the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria to determine for itself who could be a member; the FIGR's Constitution was tied to the Graton Rancheria; and the FIGR website, Sarris, and Gover all generally equated Sarris' post-1992 Federated Coast Miwok and the FIGR with not only the Graton Rancheria, but the entire pre-contact population of the surrounding area.

The Graton Rancheria, 1921-1966

The “Graton” or “Sebastopol” rancheria was established in 1921, for the benefit of “Marshall and Sebastopol bands of homeless Indians”. Prior to 1921, the hilly and heavily timbered convert|15.45|acre|m2|sing=on property, consisting of 3 small tracts, was the private property of Joseph and Louisa Corda (as recorded in both a July 6, 1920 United States Department of the Interior letter, and in the records of the County of Sonoma, Book 310, page 180).

In testimony before the House Resource Committee, FIGR Chairman Sarris stated that “15.45 acres were purchased in Graton for our members. Seventy-five members moved on in 1920”. But neither the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, nor its predecessor the Federated Coast Miwok, existed in 1920; nor can Sarris and the FIGR claim to speak for the “Marshall and Sebastopol bands of homeless Indians”.

None of the early letters about the purchase mention any residents on the Corda property when the government bought it; and no one lived there during the first 16 years after the U.S. government purchased the property (1921-37). Between 1921 and its termination in 1966, there were never more than three assigned residents on the rancheria--and one of them was a Shasta Indian, from a federally recognized tribe in Siskiyou County.

Dr. Stephan Beckham of Lewis and Clark College, a renowned expert on West Coast Indians, has stated in a personal email, that:

:"There appears to be widespread misunderstanding in California about rancherias. They were federal fee lands (not reservations) where homeless Indians (and others) lived without paying taxes. The Rancheria Termination Act ended the non-taxed status and distributed the land and assets to residents. It is possible to argue that "restoration" of the rancherias was nothing more than restoring the non-tax status of the former federal fee lands."

The Archives make clear that "rancherias" were very different from "reservations". The Indian Agency’s Charles E. Kelsey was setting up rancherias whose inhabitants were not considered "wards" of the government, as were reservation Indians; they were not under the authority of an agent and the usual chain of command; nor was land distribution under the control of a tribal council. The rancherias were for "scattered" Indians, and the term "scattered" is found repeatedly in the archives.

The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1936 was enacted in order to begin restoring Native American tribes. Sacramento Indian Agency Superintendent Roy Nash wrote to Washington in 1936 to advise the Indian Agency that there were no Indians living on the “Sebastopol” (Graton) rancheria, therefore there was no one to vote on the Act.

In field notes made upon a visit to the rancheria in 1952, Agency representative Leonard Hill confirmed that "This rancheria is not organized under IRA." The official IRA voting records from that period list no Coast Miwok, Graton or Sebastopol tribes.

Sacramento Indian Agency Superintendent Roy Nash, in a June 9, 1937 letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington, stated “The purchase was intended ‘for use and occupancy by the Marshall and Sebastopol Bands of homeless California Indians’, but said bands never occupied the tract, nor has any Indian ever lived on the tract from date of purchase up to now.”

Nash asked, “Am I limited to Indians of Marshall and Sebastopol bands, or their descendants? I think decision should be that any landless Indians may be located on these unused California tracts.”

Andrew Sears, a native of the town of Sonoma, was given a land assignment on the rancheria on March 19, 1937, becoming the rancheria’s first resident. BIA Agent G.T. Nordstrom, in notes made during a June 24, 1952 visit to Graton rancheria, indicated that of those living on the rancheria, only Andrew Sears had been granted an assignment to live on the property.

Arthur Faber, an Indian Agency (BIA) employee, made application for his mother in 1945. Mrs. Laura Faber was then living in Lake County. Mrs. Faber was given an assignment in 1946, lived in a tent cabin on the property, and moved out in 1950.

A BIA document entitled “Graton Reservation (Sebastopol), dated “4-21-51”, states that there was “1 family, 3 people” living on the rancheria, gives the number of residents as “4”, and mentions only Andrew Sears as a resident.

At its peak in 1952, the property had a “House occupied by Andrew Sears... (and Fred Everill)”; a “tent occupied by Frank Truvido....”; three “small tent houses constructed by Arthur Faber for his mother....”, which according to Mrs. Faber had been unoccupied since 1950; and an “incomplete house occupied by Lawrence Bellman....” .

By 1954, the Eisenhower administration began to terminate forty-one small California federal land holdings (the “rancherias”) with the approval by vote of the occupants, and to convey them to the occupants' private ownership. In 1952, the records show that just three assignees occupied the Graton land: Frank Truvido, Fred Everill (a Karok Indian from Siskiyou County), and Andrew Sears.Lawrence Bellman by then was living in Inverness, in Marin County, and had not lived on the rancheria for more than a year. A Frank and Carrie Drake were also living in a cabin at the time, but had “no approved assignment”.

FIGR Chairman Greg Sarris, speaking to Congress on May 16, 2000, said: “In 1958 when they came by and did a census at the height of the harvest season, when no one was around, they found three families and with the Rancheria Termination Act, offered those three families or three designees, the right to buy the land, and, in essence, terminate the rancheria as trust land.... (and) without the vote or the consensus of the rest of the members.”

The December 14, 2000 edition of "The Point Reyes Light", quoted Sarris as saying that “Congress... dissolved federal recognition of the tribe in 1958 after deciding wrongly that all the Rancheria’s members were dead”.

The record does not support Sarris’ statements. In fact, there were no other “members”; and official assignees and distributees Frank Truvido, Fred Everill and Andrew Sears voted 3-0 in 1959 to terminate the Graton rancheria, supporting conveyance of the land from federal to their private ownership. The September 17, 1959 referendum and the individual ballots show each man's signature.

Frank Truvido sent a very pleasant hand-written note to a Mr. Lowe in the Sacramento office of the BIA, which the BIA stamped as “RECEIVED Nov 20 1959 Sacramento” . Mr. Truvido wrote: “Graton Rancheria 10091 Occidental Road Sebastopol Calif. Mr. Lowe. Dear Sir I have written Mr. Scudder [Hubert B. Scudder of Sebastopol was the district’s Congressman] that we are in favor of the Termination Bill, and we a hopeing that this Bill passes this January. All the members of this Rancheria signed this letter to Mr. Scudder. Thank you Mr Lowe for doing your best for us indians. Sincerely yours, Frank Truvido Graton Rancheria Sebastopol, Calif”

Many field visits were made between 1951 and 1959, at various times of the year, to determine who lived on the rancheria property. In fact, it was after a 1952 field visit that it was learned that Frank Truvido did not yet have an official assignment.

It was Frank Truvido, Andrew Sears and Fred Everill who provided the field agents with the information used to determine who was living on the rancheria. There were only three "distributees" on that land, and hardly anyone else ever lived there at all. Anecdotal evidence from Sonoma County Native Americans supports the fact that there was never any “tribe” at the Graton rancheria--and no residents but Truvido, Sears and Everill when the vote was taken.

During the seven years after the distributees voted in favor of termination, no one challenged the Termination Act process. No one challenged the votes of Truvido, Everill and Sears to terminate the government’s ownership of the rancheria, and make it their private property.

Fred Everill and Andrew Sears died in 1960, leaving only Frank Truvido and his daughter living on the property. (Gloria Armstrong, Truvido's daughter, still lives in the original cabin, on the original acre the government gave her father. Her daughter Lorelle Ross lives there with her, and is Vice-Chair of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.)

Court records show that appropriate probate hearings were conducted to locate the heirs of Mr.Everill and Mr. Sears. (Each of these men had many heirs, and the bulk of the Rancheria property went for payouts to the lawful heirs and probate costs. Some of those heirs and/or their heirs may now be among the members of the FIGR.)

Each distributee or his heirs received about one acre of land, with a neatly-built cabin that was typical in rural Sonoma County at this time. The one acre plot and cabin was their own personal property, with convert|12.45|acre|m2 remaining as "community land", to be commonly owned by all three.

They received not only the rancheria land, but also improvements such as a septic system, a well, and modern bathrooms, kitchens, etc., for the rancheria houses. This work was done free of charge to the distributees. In addition, conservator arrangements were made for Frank Truvido, who was having difficulty managing his affairs.

Each distributee or his heirs received letters in February 1965, and again in December 1965, which advised them of “...the approximate value of the property received and that the property was tax-free at the time of distribution and further that from the date of recording at the time of recording in the county records the same taxes apply to the property as apply to property generally.” The transfer of land to private ownership was completed in 1966.

Almost 100 years of Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) documents, obtained from the National Archives in San Bruno, California, make clear that there never was any Graton Rancheria “tribe”, “tribal” structure, government, or political entity during the forty-five year history of the “Graton” or “Sebastopol” rancheria (1921-66). At no time in the rancheria’s history was there any government-to-government relationship between the U.S. government and/or the State of California, and any residents of the Graton Rancheria.

The Karok/Shasta Rancheria resident

The FIGR asserts that it is the heir of, and successor to, the entire pre-contact Southern Pomo and Coast Miwok Indian population of Marin and Sonoma Counties; the Indians who were "homeless" between contact and the present; the Graton Rancheria; and the towns of Marshall, Bodega, Sebastopol, etc. But in its representations to the federal government, the FIGR’s leadership and researchers left out the name, ancestry, and tribal affiliation of Graton Rancheria Distributee Fred Everill--who was neither Southern Pomo nor Coast Miwok.

Fred Everill was one of the three distributees of the Graton Rancheria at the time of its termination. Although he identified himself as a Karok (also spelled "Karuk") Indian, and his brother Clarence Everill’s Probate Court papers identify him as a Karok Indian, the record indicates they were 1/4 Shasta, a federally-recognized tribe since 1936.

Fred Everill’s 1928 roll number is 5694. He was the brother of Charles Clarence Everill (Roll # 5693), from Hamburg, California. According to the Roll, Fred and Clarence were the sons of John Everill, a white man, and Louisa Offield, who was 1/2 Shasta. Louisa was the daughter of William Offield, a white man, and Sallie 4/4 Shasta, making Fred Everill and his brother 1/4 Shasta.

It is not unusual for people with Indian blood not to know their actual tribal affiliation. They may know they are Indian, but not which tribe; or have a mixed family history, as in the case of the Everill children. The two tribes’ territories are right next to each other, and in fact, they are currently involved in a dispute concerning a treaty.

Thus the Graton Rancheria was not exclusively for Indians of Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo descent. The three Graton Rancheria distributees and/or their spouses, the only residents according to their own testimony, were California Indians from three different tribes.

There is absolutely no mention in the record of a tribe, a tribal government or a government-to-government relationship between the few individuals who lived at the Graton Rancheria and the United States. The Office of Tribal Services stated in 1998 and 1999, re both H.R. 4434 and H.R. 946, that there was no tribe for the Graton Restoration Act to restore. The OTS did not support restoration, because there was no documentation to show that the FIGR was significantly tied to a terminated tribe.

Only the individual rights of the individual distributees were terminated. Gloria Truvido Armstrong was a minor when her father Frank Truvido voted in favor of termination. The Bureau of Indian Affairs in the 1970s restored her individual rights as an Indian, and those of other California rancheria residents who were minors at the time of the Termination Act, because they had not been able to vote.

The FIGR and gaming

At the May 16, 2000 House Resources Committee hearing, Representative Woolsey testified:

"A unique aspect of H.R. 946, however, is that it specifically contains a clause that restrictsgaming, gaming on land that is taken into trust for the tribes. This non-gaming clause is at the express request of the tribe, and is the basis for the broad and bipartisan support that this bill enjoys throughout my Congressional District.

It is also key to my support for the tribe's restoration. As most of you know, I'm privilegedto represent an area with unparalleled natural beauty. Open space, controlled growth, and quality of life are defining characteristics and values for the residents of Marin and Sanoma Counties.

Greg Sarris, and the tribes recognize and appreciate this because they live there also. Theyare also acutely aware of the growing pressure on restored Indian tribes to establish gaming as a means of economic independence.

Their sovereign decision—and I repeat, sovereign decision—to choose other means of economic vitality is out of respect for preserving the current character of the North Bay, and a commitment to our community that their quest for restoration is not to establish gaming.

And, most importantly, it is a request for their right to self-determination. As the Federalrepresentative for the area where their tribal land will be established, I'm very proud that this bill addresses their wants and needs as well as the rest of the residents of the vicinity.

Interesting enough, my office recently received a visit from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians that are located near San Bernardino, California. They operate gaming on their lands, but they were proud to learn that the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria were asserting their right to make a sovereign decision about their tribe's future."

But later at the same hearing, Assistant Secretary Gover's prepared testimony said:

"I would also like to point out that we are concerned with the language in Section 5. Land acquisition is regulated under 25 CFR Part 151. Gaming is regulated under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Section 5 (d) states that real property taken into trust shall not be exempt under Section 20 (b) of IGRA. We oppose this specific prohibition because it essentially provides that gaming cannot occur on restored land for this Rancheria unless the Tribe goes through the two-part determination process and obtains the Governor's concurrence. We see no reason to single this Tribe out for gaming restrictions. For this reason, the Administration's proposed amendments would delete section 5."

Michigan Congressman Dale Kildee commented at length on "retained sovereignty", and asked Chairman Sarris:

"I have some concerns about limiting the sovereignty in the area of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Mr. Sarris, have you—have other Indian tribes in California expressed any concern about the fact that you're willing yourself to not exercise that right under IGRA?"

Sarris replied, "There has been some concern, yes, from some tribes mentioned, but the majority of the tribes nonetheless support our move. In fact, we have letters of support from the neighboring Pomo Tribes.

Sarris explained that one of the provisions or stipulations of Proposition 1 A in California, is that tribes cannot establish gaming on newly acquired trust land, so they would not be allowed to find a larger tract of land for a gaming site:

"But more importantly for us, also part of the provision of Proposition 1 A is that non-gaming tribes can share, have profit sharing in the profits from the gaming tribes. But unless you're recognized, you cannot have access or we will not have access to the profit sharing with the gaming tribes."

Kildee continued: "Let me ask you this, because I really am anxious to recognize your sovereignty. If this legislation was silent about IGRA, would the California law still forbid you then to have gaming on that one acre of land or is that something lawyers have to sort out later?"

Sarris responded: "Well, technically no. I mean technically we could have gaming on the one acre but in fact we have made an agreement with the woman living on there that we would not do that on her one acre that she has retained. She has expressed that she did not want that in any way and only wanted her home—you know, there is a little home, her little home that she has retained there—used for historic and cultural purposes."

Kildee asked: "But that land would become your land and it would be sovereign land?

Sarris responded: "The one acre, yes, sir.

Kildee: "One acre would be sovereign land. ..."

Assistant Secretary Gover was concerned that if the FIGR renounced gaming on any future federal trust lands, other Indian groups might be required to do the same. [ [http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/resources/hii68434.000/hii68434_0.HTM#64 Hearing on H.R.946, H.R.2671, and H.R.4148 ] ]

"On the Graton Rancheria restoration, we do support the bill. I want to make that clear. We agree. This tribe was wronged when it was terminated. That wrong needs to be righted.

"Our only concern really is with the gaming provision, and it is not that we wish to force gaming onto a community that does not want it, including this tribe. If the tribe chooses not to game, more power to them. We have absolutely no objection. We support their right to make that decision.

"Our concern indeed is not even with this particular tribe. If they don't want gaming, that is fine with us. The problem is that what tends to happen in these matters, and frankly this bill is an extension of this phenomenon, is that if we put it in one restoration bill, it will be in every restoration bill, and we think that's wrong."

In an April 1999 (pre-Graton restoration) interview of FIGR Chairman Greg Sarris in the Pacific Sun, "Sarris (said) that banks have already approached tribal leaders about crafting loan packages and developing business ideas. Only environmentally sensitive options will be considered, he adds." (Gathering of the tribes, by Mike Thomas, UpFront, The Pacific Sun, April 7-13, 1999)

In a December 2003 (post-Graton restoration) Metroactive (Bohemian) article, after the FIGR moved to the Rohnert Park site, Chairman Greg Sarris said, "When recognition was restored, Sarris said publicly that the tribe wasn't planning on building a casino. The tribe explored other options, such as organic food processing, a cheese factory, and a winery, Sarris says, "all of which need capital or there is already a glut of here." "No bank was going to give us money," he continues. Enter Station Casinos, which also bankrolled a controversial casino in the Sierra foothills outside Auburn. "Any good economist will tell you we made a prudent decision. As I tell my friends, do the math." (The Graton Band's Last Stand, by R.V. Scheide, The North Bay Bohemian, December 4-10, 2003.)

The proposed casino

The National Indian Gaming Commission released the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the FIGR's proposed hotel/casino complex March 1, 2007. [ [http://www.gratoneis.com/ Graton Rancheria ] ]

Chairman Greg Sarris announced March 12, 2007, that the FIGR has offered to contribute some $61 million or more to underwrite the expenses of Sonoma County's Community Hospital, for at least the next two years. A March 13 Santa Rosa Press Democrat story said [ [http://www1.pressdemocrat.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070313/NEWS/703130302&SearchID=73274910718580 Tribe proposes deal on Sutter | PressDemocrat.com | The Press Democrat | Santa Rosa, CA ] ]

"The Graton Rancheria's proposed casino has been stalled while it undergoes federal environmental review. The controversial gaming facility was formally opposed several years ago by the county Board of Supervisors. The tribe also needs a compact from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger before it can open for business.

Sarris denied the tribe is seeking leverage to assure it gets its compact. But he acknowledged the tribe's support of the hospital could translate to permission for more slot machines." A Santa Rosa "Press Democrat" story August 17, 2006 said:

"The dream of the Graton Rancheria tribe to open a Las Vegas-style casino-resort on the western edge of Rohnert Park is encountering delays. A federal environmental study of the convert|270|acre|km2|sing=on site that was expected to be released to the public this summer won't be out until at least December.

The study is holding up the tribe's application to transfer its land into federal trust and negotiate a state gaming compact, two hurdles that industry experts said could take years to clear. 'They have a lot of mountains to climb,' said Howard Dickstein, a Sacramento attorney who represents tribes seeking casinos. 'It's obviously three to four years off.'

Tribal Chairman Greg Sarris, who has said casino construction could begin next year, refused to comment. He said the tribe has 'gone dark' on the "Press Democrat" and would not respond to inquiries.

The tribe's partner and financial backer, Station Casinos of Las Vegas, also declined to comment. Station Casinos has said construction was on track.

The environmental study begun in February 2004 is required by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Its purpose is to analyze the effects of the casino, its proposed 300-room hotel and a performing arts center on such things as wastewater disposal, ground-water depletion, winter flooding and traffic.

The study is a prerequisite for the trust application and a compact with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. A draft was prepared earlier this year and circulated among cooperating government agencies. It was returned with comments and is being processed for public viewing.

Chad Broussard, project manager for Sacramento-based Analytical Environmental Services, which is preparing the study for the tribe, could not pinpoint a single cause of the delay. However, he said the National Indian Gaming Commission has directed the company to consider 'more alternatives than most,' leading to a document that fills four thick volumes.

'Summer was never an out-and-out deadline,' Broussard said. 'It was a general estimate.' Brad Mehaffy, who is overseeing the study for the gaming commission, said a deadline of December is realistic.

When complete, the study will be released to the public for at least 60 days, during which time a hearing will be conducted to review environmental impacts and measures to resolve them, Mehaffy said. 'It is an investigation,' Mehaffy said of the study. 'You don't know what you're going to find until you go out there and look. It takes time.'

But casino experts said the delay is a sign that closer scrutiny is being given to the proliferation of casino applications across the state. And some predicted the casino opening could be postponed indefinitely."

ee also

*Advisory Council on California Indian Policy


Sources cited

(All documents listed below are from the National Archives in San Bruno, California, with the exception of Mr. Sarris' testimony before Congress, which is from the Congressional Record. None of the quotations above are copyrighted material.)

* Testimony of Greg Sarris, Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, At the Hearing Before the House Resources Committee on H.R. 946, the Graton Rancheria Restoration Act, May 16, 2000, The Congressional Record.
* Letter from E. B. Meritt, Ass’t. Commissioner, DOI, Office of Indian Affairs, to Walter W. McConihe, Supt., Round Valley School, dated July 6, 1920, AND Letter from E. B. Meritt, Ass’t. Commissioner, DOI, Office of Indian Affairs, to Walter W. McConihe,Supt., Round Valley School, dated March 19, 1921.
* Letter from E. B. Meritt, Ass’t. Commissioner, DOI, Office of Indian Affairs, to Walter W. McConihe, Supt., Round Valley School, dated July 6, 1920.
* Letter from Roy Nash, Superintendent, Sacramento Indian Agency to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, dated April 17, 1936.
* Document entitled “Tribal Organization-California Tribes”, 1936, showing IRA votes of all CA tribes voting.
* Field notes of Leonard Hill, Agency representative, dated August 21, 1952.
* Letter from Roy Nash, Superintendent, Sacramento Indian Agency to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, dated June 9, 1937.
* Letter from Roy Nash, Superintendent of the Sacramento Indian Agency to Mr. Andrew Sears, dated March 19, 1937.
* Letter from John G. Rockwell, Superintendent, Sacramento Indian Agency, to Mr. Arthur Ray Faber of Upper Lake, dated November 20, 1945.
* Letter from John G. Rockwell, Superintendent, to Mrs. Laura C. Faber of Upper Lake,CA, dated February 13, 1946.
* Field notes to “Area Director” from “Evaluating Officer”, dated August 27, 1952.
* Memo to Leonard M. Hill, Henry Harris, Jr., and Rita Singer from Harold J. Brodhead,dated March 22, 1954.
* Agency Field notes of visit to rancheria dated December 13, 1955.
* Letter from Frank Truvido to "Mr. Lowe" of the Sacramento Indian Agency, dated "Received November 20, 1959" .
* Letter dated June 21, 1961 from John W. Shipp, Project Engineer, Department of Health,Education and Welfare, to Mr. Leonard M. Hill, BIA, Sacramento,CA.
* Memorandum dated May 16, 1961, to Regional Solicitor from the Area Director, BIA.
* Graton Rancheria Completion Statement, M.G. Ripke, Acting Director, December 20, 1965.

External links

* [http://www.gratonrancheria.com/ Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria]
* [http://www.friendsoffigr.com/index.htm Friends of Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria]
* [http://www.stopthecasino101.com/ Stop the Casino 101 Coalition]
* [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/T?&report=hr677&dbname=cp106& Graton Rancheria Restoration Act]
* [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c105:H.R.4434.IH: Graton Rancheria Restoration Act (Introduced in House) H.R. 4434 August 6, 1998]
* [http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-IMPACT/2004/February/Day-12/i3044.htm Graton Rancheria Casino and Hotel Project] EPA notice

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