Opinion: Groups spread false information to attack Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians

The Capitol Weekly recently published another commentary attacking the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.  

The latest assault concerns 1,400 acres the tribe owns in Santa Barbara County and wants to place into federal trust. The goal is to build homes for tribal families on land under the jurisdiction of the tribal government.

It’s that simple.

But this hasn’t stopped a small group of individuals – who use different organizational names depending on what suits them best at the moment – from spreading misinformation.
These are the same people who for years have opposed the tribe placing 6.9 acres next to the reservation into trust. The tribe wants to build a museum, cultural center and park on the land.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the “fee to trust” transfer. But the fate of the land has been tied up in court because the opponents have been able to use the legal system to create one delay after another.

These individuals are at it again distorting the tribe’s goals for the 1,400 acres, known locally as Camp Four. The tribe purchased the land last year from the late Fess Parker.

Here’s a simple way to judge the credibility of these opposition groups. They lured people to an August meeting with advertising that claimed the tribe was going to build a second casino. The promotional material depicted a casino on the scale of one of the largest casinos in the United States. The organizers repeatedly had said their main concern was about another casino.

The tribe has no plans to build a casino at Camp 4. More importantly, it’s illegal. Federal law makes it almost impossible for a tribe to build a casino on land acquired after 1988. Furthermore, the tribe is willing to include language in any legislation on the “fee to trust” transfer to prohibit a casino on the property.

The tribe has made this clear, so now the opposition groups are attacking the tribe itself and betraying some of the statements they made just months ago.

What’s also becoming clear is that county residents and business owners are fed up with the hostility and bait-and-switch tactics of these opponents.

The Chumash in September held a town-hall meeting to explain the facts. Individuals from across our county have told us they are frustrated that a handful of people are claiming to speak for the community, when they do not.

To that end, the tribe and its supporters have started to collect signatures and letters of support.

This has so riled up the opposition groups that they have resorted to attacking the democratic idea of collecting signatures and to arguing that any such support for the tribe can’t be valid. The groups don’t want to admit that the Chumash have support in the Santa Ynez Valley and across the county.

Likewise, they have attacked the Santa Ynez Chumash as being nonexistent, despite the tribe’s status as a federally-recognized Indian tribe.

 But the tribe and its supporters aren’t going away.

The commentary also was used as an appeal for donations. Who is Preservation of Los Olivos (POLO), the group behind the recent commentary?  

The founding member of POLO, when he was on its board, opposed building a tribally-owned hotel next to the Chumash Casino. But then he turned around and made a couple million dollars selling land to a developer in Los Olivos to tear down a historic building for a new 80-room hotel.

POLO opposes extending a liquor license from the casino’s fine-dining restaurant to the buffet next door in the same building. But POLO sits back and watches just about every available commercial space in the town of Los Olivos – which they are supposed to be “preserving” – being turned into a wine-tasting room because some of their children are members of the Los Olivos Business Organization.

POLO says it opposes gambling. But many of its members raise and race horses for gambling purposes.

You get the hypocrisy.

The Santa Ynez Chumash Indians exist and will continue to do the right thing to provide housing for their members. The present small reservation lies in and around a creek bed.

There’s no more room to build homes for tribal members and their families. Please show your support at

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