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Mendocino County Today: May 10, 2012

TUESDAY’S ugly evictions at Lake County’s Robinson Rancheria, Lake County, are being described by the Robinson Tribal Council as simply a matter of five households of deadbeats not paying minimal monthly rent of $175. In fact, the dispute seems hydra-headed, beginning with tribal council elections lost by the evictees and going back to the formation of the Northcoast’s reservations. Tuesday’s evictions began with the election of the present tribal leadership whose winners soon declared the families opposed to them to be non-tribal members.

THERE IS NO question that the evictees, among them a number of small children and a dead woman, are Indians, and that’s where a lot of these terrible arguments, exacerbated by casino money, begin, with claims by dominant tribal councils declaring that this or that Indian cannot legitimately claim membership in this or that tribe because his or her ancestors had not lived in the area.

HISTORICALLY CONSIDERED, Tuesday’s Robinson reservation deracination, you might call it, negates an old agreement that homeless Indians could always claim a home on the new reservations, many of which formed in the fairly recent past. But since the advent of casino income, the question of who belongs and who doesn’t belong to this or that tribe, has been suspiciously arbitrary, often coming down to ancient feuds between families lately expressed in bitter tribal elections.

THE ROBINSON REZ lies astride Highway 20 between Nice and Upper Lake. Reservation housing is located near the casino, both of which are visible from the highway. The casino seems to do a big business.

THE NEWLY HOMELESS at Robinson said they’d first been kicked out of the tribe and now they’ve been removed from their homes of many years. Currently, there are 477 members of the Robinson tribe, of whom 166 live in reservation land.

TONIA RAMOS, speaking for the evicted, among them her mother, said the families had been removed from the rez simply because the present tribal council desires more casino income for themselves and their supporters.

IN ANOTHER TUESDAY catastrophe, the destructive Artesa timber-to-vineyard conversion near Annapolis, the largest in state history, has won state approval. It will convert 324 acres of second-growth forest and meadow to wine grapes and vineyard support structures. Artesa is owned by a Spanish conglomerate called Grupo Codorniu with offices in Napa.

A LARGER, even more destructive wine grape and McMansion project is proposed for the same neighborhood. It’s the work of CalPERS, the state pension fund. Cynically called Preservation Ranch, the CalPERS monstrosity would level 1,769 acres of meadow and forest for vineyard and home development spread over 19,652 acres.


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