The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is expected to have a vote on a resolution seeking to block the proposed establishment of the Koi Nation’s casino and resort outside Windsor and putting under question the historical ties of the tribe to Sonoma County.
The vote is set to take place later today. It is to be held after 5 federally recognized Indian tribes in Sonoma County addressed the board, urging supervisors to pass a resolution that seeks to ban the establishment of the planned $600-million casino and resort project. If the project is successfully established, it would be the third Las Vegas-style gambling destination operated by an Indian tribe in Sonoma County.
The opposing tribes’ letters have argued that the Koi Nation is historically related to Lake County’s Lower Lake area, which means that allowing the Native American nation to establish a casino in Sonoma County would breach federal laws. Two tribes that run competing casinos in the Country argue that the Koi Nation had tried to “manufacture a connection” to Sonoma County but it lacked distinct names and village sites within the County to back the cultural landscape of the tribe.
The letters sent to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors by the Dry Creek Rancheria, the Graton Rancheria, and the Cloverdale Rancheria are all dated February 18th and use the same language. A similarly-worded resolution, dated February 12th, was submitted to the County Board by the Kashia Band.
Several Native American Tribes Oppose the Proposed Las Vegas-Style Casino and Resort of the Koi Nation
Dino Beltran, the Vice Chairman of the Koi Tribe, has indicated that the Native American nation was surprisingly hit by the resolution. In an email to The Press Democrat, he shared that the tribe’s trust application was filed on September 15th, 2021, so the Koi Nation had actively reached out to the County’s leaders, seeking an open discussion. Mr. Beltran explained that the tribe was troubled and surprised by the placement of the resolution on the Sonoma County Board’s agenda without any notification to the tribe.
The Chair of the Board of Supervisors, James Gore, revealed that he has met with 5 Native American tribe chairs individually after the Koi Nation first unveiled its plans for the proposed casino and resort establishment last September. He also confirmed that during the conversations in question, all 5 tribal leaders said they were against the project. Essentially, the reason why the resolution was sent to the County’s Board of Supervisors was because the Board took the lead from the other tribes. Mr. Gore further confirmed that he has not spoken with anyone representing the Koi Nation about the resolution.
The Sonoma County representatives did not study the history of the Koi Nation before drafting the resolution but reviewed its own records to make sure whether there was a prior link between the Native American tribe and the county. Mr. Gore revealed there was no record of any connection or communication between the two before the announcement that was made in September 2021.
Now, the county is also waiting for the US Department of the Interior to make sure whether the Koi Nation has any historical rights to the land but it is a lengthy process that could take years to complete. A federal ruling on the connection between the Koi Nation and Sonoma County would replace any findings made by the county but, at least for the time being, the Chair of the county’s Board of Supervisors stood by the description of the Koi Nation as a tribe that is not related to the Sonoma County and was once called the Lower Lake Rancheria.
Currently, the Koi Nation is one of the 109 federally recognized Native American tribes in the state of California. Most of its 90 members live in Sonoma County. According to the officials of the tribe, Koi’s ancestors were forced to leave their land by a pattern of enslavement, genocide, and diseases that almost wiped out the Pomo people.