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Yuba casino project controversy over artifacts discovery

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August 25, 2009

YUBA COUNTY - The discovery of Native American artifacts and human remains by work crews at a levee in south Yuba County has ignited a dispute between two tribes. The Enterprise Rancheria hope to build a casino and hotel near Sleep Train Amphitheater in south Yuba County, and Mooretown Rancheria of Oroville oppose it.

Tribal chairman of the Mooretown Rancheria, Gary Archuleta, has sent a letter to the Three Rivers Levee Improvement Authority (TRLIA) questioning why Enterprise was the only tribe contacted for the proper treatment of the artifacts.

"Did the experts approach Mechoopda, Berry Creek, and Mooretown, who also have lands in federal trust in Butte County, to determine to which of the Butte County tribes the remains should be rightfully entrusted?" he wrote.
"What criteria established that the remains you found were not from Berry Creek or Mechoopda?"

Archuleta suggested the TRLIA limited their contact to Enterprise Rancheria because Yuba County will benefit if the tribe gets approval to build their casino. "It calls into question the entire process if you indeed rely upon 'experts' from the Enterprise Rancheria in your efforts to comply with laws that require the consultation of Indian tribes in regards to disturbed sacred sites," he wrote.

A reply letter from TRLIA executive director Paul Brunner said the California Native American Heritage Commission determined Enterprise Rancheria was the most likely descendent for the human remains and artifacts found at the levee site and their decision had nothing to do with a casino proposal or how it would benefit Yuba county.

TRLIA and Enterprise Rancheria officials agreed to rebury the artifacts before the authority builds a new levee on top of it. The levee work has been started.

"I think it's pretty clear by the record that we have done all the procedures we had to do," Brunner said. "The Native American Heritage Commission made their determination, and we're following that determination."

Enterprise Rancheria's tribal chair, Glenda Nelson, said her tribal members have responded to requests for assistance with cultural sites on several occasions. "We know where our aboriginal lands are. As far as our ancestors go, we were taking care of them long before any of these other issues came up."

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