Property owners protest against modern day
western land grabs by Indian tribes
Land Grab: Lloyd Fields explains how the
Morongo Indian Tribe blockaded the only public
road leading to his 41-acre property.
Watch a video from the event
(Riverside County, Calif. June 17, 2011) Pleading for help from their elected officials, more than 100 property owners rallied at the Riverside County Courthouse yesterday to expose how Native American tribes are infringing upon private property rights in their quest for more casino land.
Homeowners protesting tribal actions at the event described how access to their land has been – or will be – cut off by actions of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the Soboba Tribe of Luiseno Indians, and the Colorado River Indian Tribes, and how their property has been vandalized.
Using his own black-and-white land grab case as an example, Lloyd Fields, whose family has owned land in Banning for 50 years, started the event by declaring how the Morongo Indian Tribe has blocked the only public road leading to his 41-acre property in Banning.
“Morongo blockaded a public road – a public road – within the City of Banning to force me to sell at pennies on the dollar so they can expand their casino empire,” Fields said at the event. “The road Morongo blocked is named after my father – adding insult to injury.”
Morongo’s handling of Fields is not an isolated incident but a growing trend across California. Indian tribes have become more brash as their political clout has grown. Collectively, Indian Casino tribes rank #1 in the nation in political contributions and are apparently using this influence to expand their land bases at the expense of their unfortunate neighbors.
Fields has experienced this first-hand: “Morongo and other casino tribes are the ‘untouchables’ of the 21st century. Political power and legal immunities recognized by the Federal government make for a dangerous combination – one I don’t know if I can overcome,” he said.
About 20 miles southwest of Banning, the Soboba Tribe is pushing hard to acquire an additional 600 acres of land for a second casino near the City of San Jacinto. This acquisition will create three islands of non-Indian citizens living inside Indian trust land.
Jerry Uecker from Save Our Communities – the group of residents who would be impacted by the Soboba casino expansion – said at the press conference: “We urge our City of San Jacinto, the Riverside County Supervisors and Governor Brown to oppose this acquisition on the grounds it will be detrimental to the health and safety of the citizens of our communities.”
In Riverside County, these modern day land grabs extend to the Colorado River.
Members of the Blythe Boat Club and the West Bank Homeowners Association shared harrowing tales of how The Colorado River Indian Tribes is attempting a land grab of prime pieces of real estate along the River by asserting authority and jurisdiction of tribal laws over the land of non-Indian citizens.
“The Blythe Boat Club has held a deed to its land since 1948 and paid its property taxes faithfully to the County of Riverside. Why is the County of Riverside not defending the rights of taxpaying citizens,” said the club’s representative, Toni Hawley.
Fields summarized the group’s unified cry by stating: “We’re pleading to elected officials at all levels in Banning, Riverside County, the State of California and the Federal government to stand up to Indian Casino tribes, and stand up for local property owners by stopping these unjust land grabs.”
The event was organized by Cheryl Schmit with Stand Up for California, a statewide organization with a focus on gambling issues affecting California, including tribal gaming, card clubs and the state lottery.
“We seek justice to situations that citizens seem to be caught in the middle of,” Schmit said. “These are policy issues that we need solutions to.”
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