The Chumash Indian tribe is seeking the community’s help developing a 1,400 acre parcel of land purchased last year to reduce overcrowding on its Santa Ynez Valley reservation.
The Chumash purchased Camp Four in 2010 with the intent to build additional housing for the tribal community. The tribe is struggling to support its 140 members and 500 descendants on its 137-acre reservation comprised mostly of wetlands.
According to Chumash Tribal Community Organizer Nick Brokaw, the legal process to bring the purchased land into reservation boundaries requires significant public support.
“Although the Chumash Indians own this new property, it takes a legislative act through Congress to make the new land part of the reservation,” Brokaw said. “The key is local support from the Isla Vista community and UCSB students.”
The tribe previously owned the land encompassing Camp Four until a lawsuit with the Roman Catholic Church in 1800 removed the tribe’s property rights, according to Chumash Tribal Chairman Vincent Armenta.
“The tribe at one time had the rights to this land prior to our existing reservation,” Armenta said in a press release. “A lot of the tribal members’ parents and grandparents were actually part of that, so it is very symbolic to them.”
However, Chumash Government and Legal Specialist Sam Cohen said opponents are stonewalling the annexing process under the auspices that the tribe plans to use the property for a second casino.
According to Cohen, the claims are completely unfounded.
“The tribe has absolutely zero plans to build a casino at Camp 4,” Cohen said in a press release. “More importantly, it is illegal. Federal law makes it almost impossible for a tribe to build a casino on land acquired after 1988.”
The tribe is attempting to inform the campus community to remedy such misconceptions, according to Brokaw.
“I’ve been going around UCSB trying to approach students, going into classes,” Brokaw said. “The grassroots approach is important to make sure that students know what is going on.”
Armenta said over 350 UCSB students signed a petition to support the Chumash’s efforts during the Nov. 4 soccer game against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
“The tribe is incredibly grateful to the UCSB community for their support and encouragement as we seek to build homes for Chumash members and their extended families in order to ensure the long-term survival of the tribe,” Armenta said in a press release.