Greg Sarris, leader of the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancharia, today announced additional commitments for sharing the proceeds from the tribe's new casino, current under construction at the western edge of Rohnert Park.
Speaking to a warmly receptive crowd at the opening session of this year's annual Bioneers Conference at the Marin Civic Center, Sarris outlined new agreements to share $50 million or more each year with county parks and Open Space, the Indian Health Center in Santa Rosa, and the members of "non-gaming tribes" in the North Bay and elsewhere. He did not say when any of these payments would begin.
Dwarfed by the video image of himself, Greg Sarris addresses the opening session of the 2012 Bioneers Conference at the Marin Civic Center Friday morning.Acknowledging that his tribe's decision to build and operate a casino was unpopular with many in Sonoma County, Sarris said an underlying ethic for it was the question, "Can we do something that would benefit Indian and non-Indian alike? Is this possible?"In a partial answer, he listed a series of annual gifts the Graton Rancharia will make out of the casino's proceeds:
--$6.7 million to a new Community Benefit Fund in Sonoma County--$25 million to Sonoma County Parks and Open Space.--$5 million in support of an additional environmental issue, to be selected jointly each year by the tribe and county supervisors.--$3 million each to two non-gaming tribes in the North Bay. He did not name them.--$2 million to the Indian Health Center.--$12 million to additional non-gaming tribes outside of the North Bay area.
Any additional proceeds, Sarris said, will go "back to the county for other environmental issues."
The tribve had previously committed to giving the City of Rohnert Park $97 million annually for public safety and other municipal services.
"I'm hoping that other organizations will follow this model," he added.
The tribal leader also revealed new plans for lands owned by the Rancharia north of Highway 37. That 238 acres will be given to LandPaths, he said, to be used to establish a new organic farm. With labor provided by low-risk jail inmates and undocumented immigrants in the region the produce would then be "sold at cost in low income neighborhoods," where fresh fruits and vegetables are often hard to find.
This approach is a sharp departure from the practices of other California tribes that have casinos, something Sarris said he had discussed with their leadership, who expressed skepticism.
"They said',We don't owe the white man anything'," he told the crowd. "And I said yes, we do. They said what. And I said, a good example."
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