federal lawsuit

Napa County continues to await ruling in Wappo case

2014-06-09T11:00:00Z 2014-06-17T10:43:10Z Napa County continues to await ruling in Wappo casePETER JENSEN pjensen@napanews.com Napa Valley Register

Ten months after a federal judge took under submission a lawsuit involving a local Indian tribe’s pursuit of federal recognition, Napa County officials continue to await his ruling.

U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila held a hearing last July to listen to arguments on the Mishewal Wappo Tribe of Alexander Valley’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior, which seeks to have its federal recognition restored — a move local officials fear would be a precursor to the tribe pursuing building a casino in Napa County.

Davila’s ruling has yet to be filed, but that’s not surprising, said Napa County Counsel Minh Tran. Federal judges have no deadlines to rule on cases, and Tran said the county has spoken to people involved in a federal case in New York involving similar tribal issues where the judge took 2½ years to issue a ruling.

“That is not unusual for federal court judges to take cases under submission for this long,” Tran said. “They don’t have any deadline.”

Napa and Sonoma counties are no longer part of the lawsuit because Davila removed them in the fall of 2012, and their appeal of his ruling was denied. The only recent paperwork filed in federal court involving the Wappo’s case relates to routine noticing of the appellate court’s ruling, which was recorded last September.

The Santa Rosa-based tribe has always denied that its motivation in seeking federal recognition was solely to build a casino. The tribe says its desire is to right a historical wrong the federal government did to tribal members in the late 1950s, when it stripped them of their federal recognition — the tribe contends illegally — and to provide economic development opportunity to its members.

The tribe has called building a casino an option it could consider if it receives federal recognition, although it would face stiff opposition locally if it tried to build one in Napa County. The tribe has aboriginal claims to land in Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties, according to federal court records.

Federal recognition would mean the tribe is considered a sovereign nation, and thus allowed to exempt land it takes into trust from local land-use and zoning laws.

Wappo Tribal Chairman Scott Gabaldon hung up on a reporter last week when asked to comment on the delay in Davila’s ruling.

The Wappo sued in federal court in 2009 after years of efforts to restore their federal recognition in Congress and through the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs failed. Napa and Sonoma counties were allowed into the suit in 2010 and attempted to have it dismissed, although their motion was rejected.

The case culminated in a hearing before Davila July 25 in U.S. District Court in San Jose, with more than an hour of back-and-forth between attorneys for the tribe and the U.S. government, exchanging arguments and answering questions from Davila.

The federal government contends that it followed the letter of a Congressional act permitting the dissolution of Indian tribes in California in exchange for divvying up land among stakeholders. It also argued that the tribe waited too long to sue, and that the federal statute of limitations — typically six years — should apply in the Wappo’s case.

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(17) Comments

  1. Sickothis
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    Sickothis - June 09, 2014 12:26 pm
    Class act, that Gabaldon.
  2. tpeff
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    tpeff - June 09, 2014 1:10 pm
    Seems to me that a few people with questionable blood lines are claiming sovereign rights so they can build a casino in Napa Valley. Did not most of the Indians leave Napa in the 1880s? And the last 25, moved out 70 years ago?. Any old timers out their that are online and can comment? Any pure blood Wappo Indians out there who can comment?
  3. Cadence
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    Cadence - June 09, 2014 1:47 pm
    Maybe Gabaldon just heard the news that River Rock is defaulting on the bonds it used to build its Geyserville casino and that Dry Creek Rancheria tribe members have taken a serious cut in their monthly casino proceeds. Either he will have to outdo Graton or deal with the new idea that the casinos are apparently cannibalizing themselves.

    He may have to settle for a hotel? Dang. No wonder he hung up.
  4. Valid8everything
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    Valid8everything - June 09, 2014 2:04 pm
    I am glad that Napa and Sonoma counties were booted from the process. They have no business there at all and to think that they used taxpayer money to fight the Wappo were they had no business doing so sickens me.

    After all our ancestors did to them in the 19th century it seems especially unsightly.

    Who cares if they open a casino, sure gambling is a vice so what. Alcohol is as bad as any and this tiny little valley has nearly a thousand wineries.

    It is speculated that they may have even been one of the oldest tribes in California based on linguistics research, and they were renown for there basket weaving, there scrimshaw, and there jewelry making.

    I feel bad about what's happened to the Wappo people and i think they deserve recognition.
  5. NapaCitizen
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    NapaCitizen - June 09, 2014 8:24 pm
    The county resources spent toward attempting to prevent federal recognition is shameful. It is not enough to be thrown out of court because you have no standing.

    The issue of recognition is not one you can mess with. These are very important issues which require the acknowledgement of our past and the people who were slaughtered and cheated out of their way of life, language, children, etc.

    The Wappo will ultimately be recognized because it is the right thing to do. Only those steeped in greed and a perceived "ownership" of our Mother Earth. There is NO land issue in play. Dark Imaginings and secret agendas? Please.

    Frankly, The County, and indeed, Mike Thompson, are misguided. If I were faced with a potential sovereignty issue, I would treat Mr Gabaldon with the respect due him as a leader of his people. With the actions of the county, I would want to see the Wappo succeed. In their value system, as well as yours, since they are forced to live with it.
  6. NapaCitizen
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    NapaCitizen - June 09, 2014 8:26 pm
    Well said. Aho! The ancestors are behind us, and the past will always be accounted for.
  7. NapaCitizen
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    NapaCitizen - June 09, 2014 9:08 pm
    There is no land or casino involved in this. Educate yourselves!
  8. StillInNapa
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    StillInNapa - June 09, 2014 9:27 pm
    My ancestors fled from religious persecution and came here in peace. They didn't come here with guns blazing and their fingers crossed. They came here hoping to be welcome and be able to follow the dictates of their own consciences. If your ancestors did some evil thing, perhaps you should make restitution. I know that there were some people in the US that were unscrupulous, but most of the historical revisions are exaggerated and or lies. If the tv is your source of history, you need to understand that it is fictional entertainment, not historical truth. Nevertheless, if we came in peace or as a band of theives, we established this land and govern it, native Americans have no right to sovereignty. They have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, most of our leaders seem to also watch too much tv!
  9. Oldtimenapan
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    Oldtimenapan - June 10, 2014 7:30 am
    I agree, who cares if they build a casino. I hope they build a huge, nice one. We have wineries, limos running up and down the valley, out of control tourist stumbling from one wine bar to another in downtown. We have bottle rock craziness, what's the problem with a casino?
  10. Mickey Mouse Napa
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    Mickey Mouse Napa - June 10, 2014 9:18 am
    Another casino is just another way of emptying the pockets of the poor. They only go there for a last hope of a windfall. If you don't believe me, go to Detroit and look at all of the casinos downtown. And not one supermarket. Everybody shops at 7-11.

  11. Report Abuse
    - June 10, 2014 12:07 pm
    Hey I would suggest that history has escaped you. One of those bible touting pilgrims from the very first Jamestown settlement shot a native indian with a blunderbuss shotgun and kilt him dead. The indians costume and hunting regalia startled and scared that peaceful pilgrim. They were both hunting. That in all probability and recorded history by journal was the very first native killed by a white man.
  12. Report Abuse
    - June 10, 2014 12:09 pm
    Hey think they got some extra pocket money?
  13. Report Abuse
    - June 10, 2014 12:09 pm
    Are you thinking about moving too?
  14. Report Abuse
    - June 10, 2014 12:10 pm
    Does'nt everybody shop at 7-11 now?
  15. Valid8everything
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    Valid8everything - June 10, 2014 3:42 pm
    Stillinnapa regardless of who your ancestors are or what they are guilty of you are the benefactor (I'm assuming you are an American and Californian citizen) of many injustices that befell the aboriginals that lived here in Napa as well as closely surrounding areas.

    The facts are not presented the way you think. A person would be hard pressed to find a television program that has tackled subject of what fate befell our indigenous peoples. Nor will you find it the local school curriculums.

    Only when a student studies history in college does the ugly truth come to light.

    Rounded up and forced to work under false pretenses, when they wizened up and tried to leave they were forced to stay, when they escaped a posse would chase them down and drag them back to the mission.

    They endured many hardships like disease and starvation while their cultural ways and language were suppressed into virtual extinction.

    They made contracts that we're not honored signed treaties that were ignored and so far I am only referring to what the Spanish were guilty of.

    The first white Europeans here were guilty of much more. I haven't scratched the surface of the many horrible ways they met their untimely demise at our hands but the evidence is there and easy to find. All one must do is inquire within the library.

    I read a book that I bought of all places at the Sonoma Mission book store called "Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties" by one C. E. Menefee which began my sympathy for these people
  16. Valid8everything
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    Valid8everything - June 10, 2014 6:47 pm
    I'll bet you a bottle of wine that between the two options a poor man has better luck in a casino than in a bottle. Even if it IS the last refuge of a desperate man.
  17. BB61-Chief
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    BB61-Chief - June 23, 2014 7:36 pm
    I was born in the state of Virginia; my wife in California; neither of us had anything to do with the western expansion, nor did our ancestors, who all came over in the last century. Now, having said that, could a knowing sage out there reading this kindly inform me (and tens of millions like us) just how many thousands of years my ancestors will have to live in this nation before we too, can be legally eligible for federal recognition, so that we too, can build a casino?
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