In a final decision, a federal judge has ruled in favor of the Wilton Rancheria, putting 36 acres in trust for the Tribe, which has been landless since the termination era of the 1950s.
The only federally recognized tribe in Sacramento County, California, the Tribal status os the Wilton Rancheria was terminated in 1958. After a long-fought campaign by Tribal elders, federal recognition was restored in 2009. Now, following an arduous multi-year pursuit to open a casino in Elk Grove, California, the Wilton Rancheria finally has received the ultimate decision in its homelands case. Judge Trevor N. McFadden on Monday sided with the Tribe and the Department of the Interior, affirming an action by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“We are gratified by the judge’s ruling to decisively reject dishonest arguments put forth by well-funded special interest groups that have tried at every turn to stop our project,” Chairman Raymond (Chuckie) Hitchcock said in a news release.
Several Elk Grove residents and an advocacy organization, Stand Up for California! had challenged the Tribe’s land acquisition.
“Our Tribe was landless for nearly six decades,” Hitchcock added. “It is time to put to rest once and for all these groundless claims so we can create a brighter future for our children, grandchildren and generations to come.”
Elk Grove Casino will be the nearest casino to downtown Sacramento, and home to the largest convention space outside of it.
“We will continue to move ahead with our plans to build the resort and casino, which will create thousands of jobs and represents the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars by Wilton Rancheria in the City of Elk Grove and Sacramento County,” Hitchcock said.
Wilton Rancheria hopes to open the facility in late 2020 or early 2021.
The property was purchased by the Tribe in 2016, shortly after the Tribe inked a new gaming compact with then-Governor Jerry Brown. Legal challenges ensued thereafter. But the Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri, of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, signed and approved the management agreement between Wilton Rancheria and Boyd Gaming to build a resort and casino on the Tribe’s trust land on October 31, 2018.
Boyd Gaming will manage the property; the partnership was approved by the California State Assembly and California State Senate in 2017 — at the time of unanimous compact approval by both chambers.
The Tribe is investing $186 million in the first 20 years with the City of Elk Grove and Sacramento County to support police, schools, roads and other community and social services. In addition to creating thousands of local jobs, “the project will also enable the Tribe to invest in medical care, housing and educational opportunities for its members,” Chairman Hitchcock previously said.