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CRIT denounces California land-grab effort
Pledges to continue to vigorously fight any effort to take land from the Tribes
A group of non-Tribal members leasing land from CRIT have formed a group with the expressed goal of stripping away CRIT’s land in California and challenging Tribal sovereignty.
The informal group has retained an attorney, and have gone to local and regional media outlets to argue that CRIT’s boundaries do not extend into California.
CRIT’s California boundary has been reinforced several times over by federal government action, so Tribal officials are not concerned about the validity of the claim.
What’s more concerning, said Tribal Chairman Daniel Eddy, Jr., is another example of outsiders trying to take away valuable land from the Tribes, as has been done in the past with damaging results.
“These misguided individuals seem intent on trying to repeat a sad history, where outsiders seeking economic gain try to steal our lands from us,” Eddy Jr. said. “CRIT has always fought vigorously against such efforts, and we will fight this effort as well.”
Robert Johnson, one of the leaders of the effort, is the operator of the Water Wheel Resort on CRIT land in California.
Johnson purchased the resort knowing that it operated pursuant to a lease with CRIT, so he did not seem to have an issue with CRIT’s ownership of the land at the time.
Johnson later stopped making their lease payments to CRIT, and the lease expired last year. When CRIT exercised its right to evict Johnson and seek the back rent owed to CRIT — revenue that would have gone to important Tribal services and programs — Johnson pursued legal action to question CRIT’s authority.
Eddy Jr. released a statement concerning the issue after Johnson’s group went to the media with their claims.
“The Water Wheel Resort operates on our land in California. Their lease expired after eight years of insufficient and non-payment. Whether one owns property like we do in California or a private person may in Parker or Blythe, it is the property owner’s right to decide whether to renew an expired lease or not.
“We have exercised our rights as any property owner would. Besides, when people do not pay the set amounts it deprives our people, the owners of these lands, of the resources they need and deserve for elder, youth and other critical Tribal services.
“We also want to ensure a quality operation at the Water Wheel Resort. Residents there deserve the best experience possible. So long as rents are timely and appropriately paid, we envision no changes. CRIT continues to enjoy outstanding relationships with literally hundreds of businesses across our lands. They provide critical jobs and revenues. The operators of the Water Wheel Resort have been an exception to the vast majority of businesses that professionally conduct themselves on our lands.”
The group asserts that residents have been unfairly evicted from CRIT lease properties in the past. However, CRIT has only evicted residents in case of non-payment of rent or other significant evictable offenses.
“It certainly is not in our best interest to evict lessees who are paying their rent and being responsible with the properties they are leasing,” Eddy Jr. said.
Other lessees have complained because they wanted to make improvements on their properties that CRIT determined were counterproductive to Tribal interests. As the property owner, CRIT has a right to determine how its property is developed.
“Clearly, the end game here for this small group of people is to try to strip our land away from us,” Eddy Jr. said. “We will never take such a threat lightly. We are exceedingly confident in our legal standing on these issues, and will continue to work to make sure these lands are protected and productive for our people.”