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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 16th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 46 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 46

Newly introduced bill would affirm Camp 4 trust status

By Kasey Bubnash

The 2017-18 Congressional session came and went, and during those two years, a House resolution that would have affirmed Camp 4's fee-to-trust status with the federal government was not approved in time for the new year. 

So on Jan. 8, a new bill with the same wording and intent was introduced into Congress, with hopes of passing through the House and Senate more quickly this time around. 

"We're feeling really confident this year," said Kenneth Kahn, tribal chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. "We're hoping it will be quick and easy."

Camp 4 is a 1,400-acre parcel of land in the Santa Ynez Valley that the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs placed into fee-to-trust with the federal government in January 2017, adding it to the tribe's reservation and taking it out of the Santa Barbara County's jurisdiction. 

After the acquisition, Congress forced the county to enter into negotiations with the Chumash regarding development on the land, and the Board of Supervisors officially entered into an agreement with the tribe on Oct. 31, 2017. The Chumash hope to build 143 housing units and a tribal administrative building for members on a portion of the land, Kahn said, while keeping the rest for agriculture or environmental open space. 

Although the agreement clearly outlines county-approved dos and don'ts for tribal development on Camp 4, the acquisition has its fair share of vocal opponents. Some of those opponents, Kahn said, have made it difficult for the tribe to begin building, filing suits and restraining orders that halt construction nearly every time the Chumash "put a shovel in the ground."

Rather than fighting the seemingly endless stream of legal battles, Kahn said the tribe has decided to hold off on construction until the land's trust status is officially affirmed by Congress. 

"This affirmation bill would be important just to give us the opportunity to build today instead of waiting until 2023," Kahn said. "It's a tough process." 

Still, Kahn said most of the hard work is out of the way. The last bill, House Resolution 1157, unanimously passed the House and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs during the 2018-19 legislative session. Since the new legislation, House Resolution 317, is the same, Kahn expects it to make its way to the Senate more quickly this session. 

U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) co-authored the new affirmation bill, and Kahn said he's glad to see a representative of the Santa Ynez Valley supporting the Chumash. 

Carbajal said in a statement that he had concerns over previous versions of legislation regarding Camp 4, because an agreement between the county and Chumash wasn't signed until after the original bills had already been written. Now, Carbajal said, it's a different story. 

"Given that their final agreement was incorporated into this legislation, which prohibits gaming on the tribe's newly acquired land and addresses their housing needs," he wrote, "I fully support its passage."

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