Wednesday, February 2, 2011

2011-02-02 "Napa cities tossed out of Wappo suit" by JAMES NOONAN from "Napa Valley Register"
Three cities in Napa County have been barred from intervening in an Indian tribe’s request for federal recognition, a move critics fear would allow casinos to take root in the Napa Valley.
U.S. District County Judge James Ware denied motions filed by American Canyon, St. Helena and the city of Napa last week to block the Mishewal Wappo tribe’s attempt to regain ancestral territory, which includes portions of Napa, Lake and Sonoma counties.
In their motions to intervene, the cities said recognition of the tribe could result in a loss of land and threaten existing water rights. They said their interests were not adequately represented by the federal or county government defendants.
Napa and Sonoma counties remain as intervenor defendants, with the U.S. Department of Interior the primary defendant. Lake County ended its involvement in December after reaching a settlement agreement with the tribe.
In his decision against the cities, Ware said the claim that the Wappo’s ancestral lands would be nearby or within their jurisdiction was based upon “mere speculation” and that the cities therefore lacked the necessary “protectable interest” to involve themselves in the case.
The cities may intervene at a later date if the tribe were to begin seeking lands within its boundaries, Ware said.
The Wappo tribe, which previously held 54 acres of land in Sonoma County, was one of more than 40 tribes that had their sovereignty terminated in 1959 by the federal government, according to court documents.
To date, only 12 of those tribes — including the Mishewal Wappo — have yet to regain their formal federal recognition.
If recognized as sovereign, the tribe would be free from the regulatory requirements imposed by cities or counties — including taxation and zoning restrictions — allowing for development in areas such as the county’s Agricultural Preserve.
The Wappo tribe, which is landless, previously has said that it would make no decisions on future development plans — including those for a possible casino — until federal recognition is restored.

2010-12-10 "American Canyon seeks to join Wappo suit over tribal status" by MICHAEL WATERSON from "Napa Valley Register"
The City of American Canyon wants a seat at the table when the federal government decides if the Mishewal Wappo tribe of Alexander Valley in Sonoma County should be given tribal status.
The tribe is in U.S. District Court seeking recognition as a federal tribe with “all rights and entitlements,” according to a city press release. Tribal recognition would potentially allow the tribe to establish a casino within its ancestral territory, which included Napa County.
The American Canyon council voted to join in the case to protect its interests after meeting in closed session Wednesday.
“The designation of the Mishewal Wappo as a sovereign nation would grant to the tribe the ability to take, for fair market value, city water rights that we currently use to serve the residents of American Canyon, the airport area and our water service area up to the Su’skol ridge,” Mayor Leon Garcia said in a press release.
“We have to protect the city’s interests. The only way to do that is to join in the court action,” Garcia said.
The Mishewal Wappo tribe is currently landless.
Napa County is already an intervenor-defendant in the tribe’s case against the U.S. Department of the Interior as is Sonoma County. Last month, officials in Lake County signed an agreement with the tribe removing that county from the case.
Once recognized as sovereign, the tribe would not be subject to city regulatory review, taxation or other police power such as zoning and would be free to establish enterprises, housing and more, city officials said.
“There are three primary areas of concern,” said American Canyon City Attorney Bill Ross said. “Water and contractual water, land use — we want to maintain our planned land use — and public safety.”
In its motion to intervene filed last spring, Sonoma County said the Wappo want to build a casino. Sonoma County already faces the prospect of a casino near Rohnert Park proposed by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.
Assistant Napa County Counsel Minh Tran said Napa County was aware of American Canyon’s position, but couldn’t comment further.
“It’s our policy not to comment on pending litigation of our own, much less other jurisdictions,” Tran said.
“All the (county) cities are aware of it,” St. Helena City Manager Mary Neilan said Friday. The case would be discussed at a future city council meeting, she said.
The city of Napa has not made a decision regarding its position on the suit. “It’s on our radar,” said Napa City Attorney Michael Barrett. “We’re still looking into it. We’ve made no decision.”
Barrett said the issue may come before Napa City Council in January.

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