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June 27, 2022

Miwok leader speaks: We will continue to move forward on casino

I am Silvia Burley, the chairperson of the California Valley
Miwok Tribe. I serve as the administrative head of a sovereign
nation whose rights, privileges and immunities have been developed
over the course of several hundred years of interaction between the
Native people of this country and the people of European, African
and Asian descent who now make up the majority of the population of
this great country.
I am Silvia Burley, the chairperson of the California Valley Miwok Tribe. I serve as the administrative head of a sovereign nation whose rights, privileges and immunities have been developed over the course of several hundred years of interaction between the Native people of this country and the people of European, African and Asian descent who now make up the majority of the population of this great country.

As we all know, the Native people in this state, as elsewhere, have not always enjoyed the best treatment. The size of our tribe is directly related to past policies that resulted in the death and displacement of the Native people of California from their lands. We believe our efforts to reestablish this tribe are part of an American success story that is continuing and growing.

I had hoped to weigh in on the discussion of our proposed tribal gaming and entertainment project through a formal process that involved government–to-government discussions with the leadership in San Benito County and the surrounding area. Local leaders last fall called for an intergovernmental group comprising members of the Board of Supervisors and City Councils in San Benito County to lead the negotiation process for the county. In December, the county supervisors passed a formal resolution proposing a regional study to address the broader potential impact of our proposal. As part of that resolution the supervisors called on other government agencies not to take any action on our proposal until the facts were in.

We supported those proposals. We believed we would be given time to develop information on the project, just like anyone else proposing to make a major investment in the local economy. Instead, our repeated requests to appoint the negotiating team for the county and the cities have been ignored. Several supervisors say they cannot even remember the December resolution.

Rather than issuing an invitation to enter government-to-government discussions, the county board now apparently intends to cut off all debate and go on record in opposition to the proposed project.

To date, the Tribe has made no firm decision whether to go forward with this project. Before that decision can be made, the Tribal Council had asked for more information on the economic feasibility of the project and its potential impact on human health and the environment. Once the Tribe obtained enough information to make a credible plan, we intended to present our proposal to the local political community and business leadership in order to initiate a fair and open discussion of its merits. That’s the way other major development plans are handled.

Unfortunately, it seems that several supervisors have now chosen to cut off debate before the facts are in – and before there is even a proposal before them for action. Has this ever been done to any other development in San Benito County?

I want to state for the record, the Tribe and our investment partners will continue to move forward. We will engage those people, organizations and entities who wish to engage us in a reasoned and professional discussion. We will seek to enter firm agreements with those entities who wish to enter a partnership with the Tribe in developing this project. We will provide long-term revenue sharing and impact mitigation payments to those political entities that want to enter long-term legal commitments for services and support. We will engage those local entities that wish to provide input on how best to develop the project and alleviate its impacts. We will seek to enter agreements with those local police, fire and emergency services that will result in the increase in manpower and purchasing of additional assets that will benefit everyone in the community. We will also seek to work with local educational entities to increase their resources and develop joint programs to provide training for our employees.

The tribe will also implement a program that provides employment preferences to local residents so that we can ensure that the people who live here will have first choice of these new opportunities before we look for employees from outside the area.

The Board of Supervisors is free to take whatever position it wants. However, the board should understand that cutting off debate now may diminish its input as the project continues to evolve. We hope that other political entities will enter formal discussions to ensure that the benefits of this project are shared with their constituents and that the potential impacts of this development are clearly identified and addressed.

Most of all, we look forward to a fair and impartial process, working in partnership with those who wish to move forward in a reasoned and professional manner.

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