Calif. Federal Judge Orders BIA to Take Land Into Trust for Buena Vista Rancheria

Harrah’s Northern California Casino, located 32 miles southeast of Sacramento on the Buena Vista Rancheria, is owned by the Buena Vista Band of Me-Wuk Indians.

The Northern District of California recently granted a motion to place the Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians of California’s land back into trust. 

Buena Vista Rancheria was one of the Tribes illegally terminated by the California Rancheria Act of 1958. 

On July 19, 1983, a U.S.District Court in Tillie Hardwick, et al. was instrumental in reversing the California Indian Rancheria termination policy of the U.S. government. The ruling ultimately restored 17 Tribes, including Buena Vista Rancheria, which deemed the California Rancheria Act illegal in 1983. 

The Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians had sought an order requiring the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take restored Rancheria land back into trust pursuant to the 1983 stipulated judgement. 

On November 13th that relief was granted. 

These efforts took over two decades to achieve. 

“We are proud and this victory we dedicate to Louie and Annie Oliver who were the Indians who(se) rights were stripped away in 1958. Tribal Sovereignty strengthened today,” states a post on the Tribe’s social media page. 

U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen sided with the Tribe in the order, determining that it fulfilled the requirements under the 1983 land claims judgment.  

The California federal judge ruled that the Tribe qualifies for a mandatory trust acquisition, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs must take land into trust for the Tribe. 

Four years ago, the Tribe won a legal fight against Amador County to allow the development of its casino, Harrah’s Northern California, managed by Caesars Entertainment, which licenses the Harrah’s name to the Tribe. In 2018, the Tribe sold $205 million of high-interest junk bonds to finance the project, and struck its development agreement with Caesars.