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End of The Year Newsletter »


Utu Utu Gwaitu Paiute Tribe
News Letter
December 2013

Chairman’s Report

We are moving on and I am pleased that our Tribal Government has reached a good level of stability. It is my goal, as your Chairman, to provide the highest level of responsiveness to meet the needs of all our members and their families. Further, it is also my goal to make sure all funds received by our Tribe from any sources are all accounted for and spent for their intended purposes.

Our Tribal Council has made every effort to reach out to all our members so you will be informed about the direction of your Tribe. In this regard, the Council has decided to develop a new website so you can access it to see what the Council is doing and how you can help us reach the highest level of effectiveness and accountability in the way our Tribe’s Government is run.

On behalf of the Tribal Council, I want to send you and your families Seasons Greetings and encourage all of our Tribal Members to participate to the best of your ability in helping our Tribe to exercise and strengthen our Self-Determination Rights!

Treasurer’s Report

The Tribe has contracted with Shallcross & Associates, Bishop, CA to provide accounting services. This will ensure financial reports to funding agencies will br readily available and the Tribe will have audit information if required by federal funding guidelines. Darryl Bahe our tribal Secretary/Treasurer works closely with Shallcross to ensure tribal books and records are properly maintained in the best interest of the Tribe.

New Website

The Tribe has contracted with Clear Imaging to rebuild our Tribal website, update it as needed and keep it running. We are proud to say that the new website is saving the Tribe $1,700.00 per month. Please take the time to look at the new website, the address is www.bentonpaiutereservation.org.

Gaming Revenue Sharing Update

Because the payment from the “Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund” was delayed, the Tribe could not process the per capita payments to tribal members on time. We received many calls from our members who wondered why the payments were delayed and whether the money from the Distribution Fund would continue to come to the Tribe.

For your information, the Indian Gaming Special Distribution Funds is established under the laws of the State of California. Our Tribe and other ones eligible to receive quarterly distribution of funds will receive these funds until the law expires on January 1, 2021. This gives eligible tribes 8 more years to receive these quarterly distributions from the Distribution Funds. The Tribes and the California Legislature can amend this law to extend the 2021 expiration date.

The California Gambling Control Commission has a website where you can read about all these state laws and regulations that control the distribution and the amounts of these gaming funds to tribal governments in California. www.cgcc.ca.gov

Horvath Towers Lease

The Tribe has been negotiating with Horvath Towers III, LLC, a Delaware company, to lease a 100 ft. by 100 ft. part of our Reservation near the water tower for construction of a telecommunications tower. Chairman Saulque sent a letter on April 1, 2013 to BIA Superintendent Burdick requesting technical assistance in making sure all federal laws and regulations were followed in negotiating and completing the lease. Since then, Horvath Towers and the Tribe have been diligently working back and forth with the BIA to get the lease approved. All necessary documents have been sent to the BIA and we are waiting for the Superintendent’s final approval.

The tower will allow travelers to get online, in air, so passengers with laptops and other Wi-Fi enabled devices can get online on all domestic Air Tran Airways and Virgin American flights and on select Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, America Airlines, Delta Airlines, Frontier Airlines, United Airlines and US Airway flights.

The lease terms call for a 10 year term and an annual rental rate of $ 4,800 with an additional $150 added when other tenants sublease tower services. A current market rent appraisal was completed in July by Launer & Associates, Bakersfield, CA, and sent to the BIA Superintendent for his review. The BIA agreed that the lease rental amount was credible, fair and reasonable under current market conditions.

The Tribal Council is pleased that the Horvath Towers lease will be approved by the Superintendent very soon so construction can commence.

Status of Fee to Trust Indian Land Transfer Application for Benton Station Property

The Tribe purchased Benton Station with Indian Community Development Block Grant funds on August 24, 1984. This business has continuously been operated by the Tribe since then or for over a period of 29 years. Ever since the Benton Station property was first purchased, the Tribe had expressed to the Bureau of Indian Affairs its desire to transfer the land into tribal trust status.

Tribal Council Resolution, Number 2001-010, was passed on August 9, 2001 requesting the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take off-Reservation land where Benton Station is situated into federal trust status pursuant to 25 CFR 151.11. By letter, dated October 8, 2002, Superintendent Dale Risling, Sr. wrote to then Chairperson Rose Marie Saulque that in order to expedite the application for the fee to trust transfer of the land that more information was needed. The fee to trust transfer was not completed then.

Another Tribal Council Resolution, Number 2007-003, was passed on March 13, 2007 to place “fee land into trust for the Tribe and/or Tribal Citizens for future growth of the Tribe.” For unknown reasons, the actions required to be taken by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to approve the fee to trust transfer did not happen for over 6 years.

Chairman Saulque directed that the Central California Agency and Pacific Regional Office, Bureau of Indian Affairs, proceed to work with the Tribe’s” lawyer to keep alive our Tribe’s efforts at the placement of the Benton Station land into trust status. The Pacific Regional Director sent a letter, dated November 5, 2013, to Chairman Saulque asking the Tribe to submit information and supporting documentation on whether or not the Utu Utu Gwaitu Paiute Tribe of the Benton Paiute Reservation was under Federal jurisdiction in 1934. The Tribe and the lawyer will be gathering all relevant information and documents proving that the Tribe’s Reservation was under Federal jurisdiction prior to 1934.

The reason for the Pacific Regional Director’s letter seeking proof of the federal status of the Reservation before 1934 is because of the Carcieriv. Salazar decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that issued on February 24, 2009. Carcieri held that Congress granted limited authority to the Secretary of the Interior under the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) to acquire land-in-trust for Indians tribes only when the tribe was “under Federal jurisdiction” at the time the IRA was passed in June 1934.

Putting the Benton Station land into trust is very key to our Tribe’s economic development efforts as proven by our repeated efforts to get this done for many years. The Tribal Council feels very confident that the Tribe will be able to gather up historical documents and information proving that our Tribe and its Reservation were “under Federal jurisdiction” prior to 1934. We know that President Woodrow Wilson signed an Executive Order on July 22, 1915. The Tribal Council will update you on our efforts to get this Benton Station transfer done.

Benton Station Report

Benton Station is pulling it’s weight and making a profit which proves that Benton Station was not costing the Tribe and no doubt it has always been making more than reported. It is one of the only economic ventures the Tribe has right now. Benton Station most importantly provides badly needed jobs. We give thanks to all our employees and especially to Rana Saulque for her dedication and management skills.

Flood Repair Funding from HUD

Due to the heavy rain this year we had flash flooding we haven’t seen in 20 years. The Tribe requested assistance from Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for an “Imminent Threat” Grant and was awarded $377,249.00. These federal grant funds will be immediately used for the repair of the two severely damaged homes inside and out and also for grading for twenty-five additional homes to help in preventing future flood damage. One home suffered severe roof damage and some of these funds will go towards a new roof and fascia for this tribal member’s home. Funding was obtained by Darryl Bahee with the assistance of the Tribal Council. This federal funded “Imminent Threat” program is employing 4 tribal members full time for about five months.

HUD Community Development Block Grant

The Tribe was encouraged by HUD to apply for a Block Grant which could generate $650,000.00. We can use the funding for a wellness center which can be used for our youth and elders, new housing and/or to create economic development opportunities which will create jobs for tribal members. Because the gaming revenue may not be there is 7 years, creating other sources of income and jobs is very important. Inside the Newsletter you will find a one page survey. Please let the Tribal Council know your thoughts on this by returning a brief survey to the tribal office by mail, fax or personal delivery. Your input is very important so please take the time to give us your thoughts on this opportunity.

BIA Housing Improvement Program

Applications are being accepted for the FY 2014 Housing Improvement Program (HIP) for renovations and new housing for eligible tribal members. The criteria is that the individual or family must be low income according to federal guidelines. The deadline is January 20, 2014. You can request assistance with your application at the Tribal Office.

Reserved Winters Water Rights Negotiations

For years, the significant matter of our Tribe’s Federally Reserved Indian Water Rights has been left unaddressed. At one time, Benton was a member of the Owens Valley Indian Water Rights Commission along with Ft. Independence, Bishop, Lone Pine and Big Pine Tribe’s who were negotiating with the City of Los Angeles to resolve issues over the 1939 Land Exchange and water rights. For reasons to complicated to explain here, Bishop, Big Pine and Lone Pine Tribes said that Benton and Ft. Independence did not have valid claims to water rights associated with the lands traded in the 1939 Land Exchange. These Tribes made a determination pursuant to Tribal resolution that just those three Tribes should be involved in the water rights negotiations related to the exchanged lands and would be the only Tribes sharing in the settlement.

We are in contact with the U.S. Department of the Interior at Washington, D.C. level to begin, once again, efforts by Benton to make our claims to recover our reserved Winters Water Rights. We do not agree with the reasons Bishop, Lone Pine and Big Pine said that Benton and Ft. Independence should not be included in the overall negotiations with the City of Los Angeles. We have told the California BIA that it has a federal trust responsibility to make sure our Federally Reserved Indian Water Rights are “quantified” and recovered for the benefit of our Tribe.