According to the public record testimonies of Senator Dianne Feinstein, Lytton Tribal Chairwoman Margie Mejia, Senator Daniel Inouye and Congressman George Miller, the Lytton tribe never had the right to build a casino in Sonoma County — or violate the Sonoma County General Plan.
So why did the County of Sonoma, in March, approve a 200,000-case winery and sprawling 200-room event center complex in direct violation of General Plan rules?
Senator Dianne Feinstein: “The Tribe was wrongfully terminated in 1961 and it took until 1991 for a court to restore the Tribe to its rightful Federal status, but the decision didn’t grant the Tribe any land and it forbade them from engaging in activities prohibited under the Sonoma County general use plan. Effectively, the court prohibited the Tribe from gaming in Sonoma County.”
Lytton Tribal Chairwoman Margie Meija: “In fact, Sonoma County, where most of our ancestral lands are located today, forced a provision in the final court stipulation. The provision forbids the Tribe from acquiring and using any land within the county for any purpose not included in the Sonoma County General Use Plan. Our neighboring tribes have not had to deal with such restrictions. While we were thrilled to have our status restored, we continued to face a severe challenge in establishing our tribal economy.”
Congressman George Miller: “The Lyttons have a special circumstance that I believe distinguishes them from most other tribes in California that necessitated congressional action. In 1991, the Federal court settlement that restored the Lyttons tribal status and that of numerous other California tribes included one unusual provision pertaining only to Lyttons. The court order restoring Lytton’s tribal status contained the unique limitation that precluded the Secretary of the Interior from taking lands in Sonoma County, the Lyttons ancestral lands, into trust for the benefit of the Lytton Band for any use inconsistent with the Sonoma County general plan. In effect, the limitation denied the Lyttons any rights to use their ancestral land for gaming.”
Congressman George Miller: “The Lyttons are the only tribe in California, perhaps the only tribe in the United States, that as a condition of restoration of tribal status, was expressly deprived the opportunity to exercise rights under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act on its ancestral lands.”
Senator Daniel Inouye: “The county of Sonoma intervened in that lawsuit and as a condition of the county’s consent to a forthcoming settlement of the legal action,certain conditions were imposed which precluded the tribe from initiating economic development activities on the tribe’s traditional lands.”
Lytton Tribal Chairwoman Margie Meija: “The 1991 restoration agreement while barring us from operating a gaming facility in Sonoma County did not foreclose our right to find another community that might welcome us as partners.”