Open letter to Don Young

RE: Congressional Hearing, Aug. 2, 2012,

“Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Oversight

Hearing on “Indian lands: exploring resolutions to disputes

concerning Indian tribes, state, and local governments, and

private landowners over land use and development.”

Santa Ynez Band of Mission Indians, fee-to-trust,

1,400 acres, 6.9 acres

Dear Congressman Young,

My name is Kathy Cleary. I am the president of Preservation of Los Olivos, P.O.L.O., representing approximately 1,000 citizens and private property owners in the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara County.

P.O.L.O. would like to respond to the hearing of Aug. 2, 2012.

Since P.O.L.O. was not invited to participate in the hearing, as a point of information, P.O.L.O.’s litigation against the federal government on the 6.9 acres occurred because our tribal neighbors, the Santa Ynez Band of Mission Indians, asserted unlimited rights over water and to reacquire aboriginal territory, with no restrictions on development, that would set precedent for additional land expansion and completely disrupt our valley and Santa Barbara County.

P.O.L.O. has no control over the length of time that this litigation has taken; in fact the BIA initially lost documents, and recently took almost 2 years to answer briefs filed in 2010. Characterizing the 12 long years as the fault of our volunteer citizen group is an attempt to demonize citizens who were subject to the BIA time frame, and who have jobs and families to support and care for.

Regarding the testimonies, Chairman Armenta testified to your subcommittee that there is a cemetery on the 6.9 acres. This is the first time we have heard of protection of a cemetery. No cemetery is mentioned in any of the National Environmental Policy Act documentation for the 6.9 acres and has never been brought up in any of the litigation.

P.O.L.O. has no argument against a museum honoring the Chumash Culture or protection of a cemetery, if there was a way to guarantee that the lands would be used for those purposes.

In fact, the 6.9 acres is located directly across the street from the Chumash Casino and therefore has high commercial value.

Had the Santa Ynez Band moved forward in the established Santa Barbara County process to operate a museum and cemetery, P.O.L.O. would not have objected. As evidence of this, P.O.L.O. has made no objections to the gas station/car wash convenience store the Santa Ynez Band is developing because they are following the Santa Barbara County process.

The concern to our community is the removal of land from local and state jurisdiction and taxation, and the United States Constitution. The Santa Ynez Band, and tribal governments across this great country, assert their sovereignty as their right to unrestricted development, with no regard to the impacted non-Indian community or the county.

Characterizing the gravity of fee-to-trust as about housing, or a museum, is irresponsible. It is hard for P.O.L.O. to believe that the honorable members of this committee have not studied the United States Supreme Court Decisions Sherill, Carcieri, Hawaii and Patchak, and do not understand that withdrawing fee lands from state jurisdiction to be placed into a federal “trust” interferes with the property rights and interests of others in the community.

Legislators choosing to ignore this, and blindly backing tribal interests, has led to non-Indians fighting back to protect our rights. If Congress would revise federal Indian policy to balance the interests of Indian tribes with the interests of local citizens, then we would not be forced into the courts to protect our rights.

Regarding the testimonies in this hearing, Chairman Armenta stated that:

“This 1,400 acre parcel … the tribe actually at one point was on title to the land. It was owned by the Archdiocese on behalf of the tribe, sued in 1906.”

P.O.L.O.’s research does not support this assertion. The Colegio land grant was owned by the Catholic Church which assisted both the United States and State of California in litigation in state court around 1906 to designate and protect the land rights of specific individual Indians that were under the tutelage of the Santa Ynez Mission. None of these Chumash Indians left any heirs.

Chairman Armenta’s statement in oral testimony, in combination with his written testimony that his tribe’s aboriginal territory extended from Morro Bay to Malibu, sets the stage for future land claims by not only the Santa Ynez Band in the area, but any other tribal entity with any historical connection to the land. This entire area is very populated.

Is Congress seeking to disrupt every private property right title in Central/Southern California by reconsidering how the Spanish/Mexican land grants were conferred by the federal and state courts by considering legislation to give the Band land it was never entitled to?

P.O.L.O. asks that the members of this subcommittee do careful fact-checking on Chairman Armenta’s statements before sponsoring any legislation. Going forward with legislation to divest and alter title to a confirmed land grant would cloud property titles throughout California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Texas and Colorado.

P.O.L.O. would also like to know: Is your subcommittee ever going to hold a hearing to discuss the fact that once land is in trust for a tribal government it is no longer under the United States Constitution?

Given the fact that people of Indian heritage could claim the entire United States as their Sovereign territory, subject only to their own Constitutions, does Congress intend to replace the United States Constitution with hundreds of different Tribal Constitutions?

Lastly, Congressman Young, in the hearing you said that you are a strong supporter of property rights.

However, it appeared from the hearing that you have no regard for the property owners that would be impacted by the real or possible unrestricted development that could occur on land in trust.

The neighboring properties are not high-density housing, as stated by Chairman Armenta, nor are they a ghetto, as stated by you.

Chairman Armenta made it very clear that the tribal leaders of the Santa Ynez Band believe it is their tribe’s right to use the land however is best for this generation or future generations. Chairman Armenta may intend to use the land for housing, but future tribal leaders could have far more expansive plans.


Kathy Cleary

Preservation of Los Olivos Board president


(805) 693-5090

P.O. Box 936

Los Olivos, CA 93441


Congressman Doc Hastings

Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors

Senator Diane Feinstein

Senator Barbara Boxer

Congressman Elton Gallegly

Congressman Lois Capps