Table Mountain Rancheria of California

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Table Mountain Rancheria is a federally recognized tribe of Native American people from the Chukchansi band of Yokuts and the Monache tribe.

Official Tribal Name: Table Mountain Rancheria of California

Address:  23736 Sky Harbour Rd, P.O. Box 410, Friant, CA 93626
Phone: (559) 822-2587     
Fax: (559) 822-2693

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Region: California

State(s) Today: California

Traditional Territory:

Confederacy: Rancherias, Yokuts

Treaties:

Reservation: Table Mountain Rancheria
Land Area:  650 acres
Tribal Headquarters:  Friant, CA
Time Zone:  Pacific

Registered Population Today: There are approximately 160 enrolled members. The reservation population is approximately eleven people, with 34 tribal members living in the general area.

Tribal Enrollment Requirements: Direct lineal descent from a member on the 1933 roll.

Genealogy Resources:

Related Tribes:

 

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

Annual pow wow held on second Saturday in June.

Monache Legends / Oral Stories:

Yocut Legends / Oral Stories:

Economy Today:

Table Mountain Rancheria owns and operates Table Mountain Casino, Eagle Springs Golf Course, the Eagle’s Landing restaurant, Mountain Feast Buffet, and TM Cafe, all located in Friant, California.

Monache Chiefs & Famous People:

Yokut Chiefs & Famous People

Catastrophic Events:

Tribe History:

In 1916. the United States purchased a parcel of land in Fresno County, California and thereafter held this land in trust for the Table Mountain Band of Indians. The land became known as the Table Mountain Rancheria. The Rancheria was considered an Indian reservation and Indian country. Rancheria residents were recognized as Indians for purposes of federal law.

The Government provided little if any infrastructure, barely habitable substandard housing, scarce substandard healthcare (if at all), and substandard education (if at all). While building a national highway system and secondary road system, dirt roads and pathways were provided to the Indians. No schools were built on the reservations to educate the Table Mountain children. Employment opportunities were scarce.

In 1958, the Congress appointed non-Indian bureaucrats from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to “help” the Indians govern themselves rather than permitting the Indians to continue with their own governmental structure. When it was clear that the reservation system merely added to the deprivations of the Indians and in an effort to allegedly integrate the Indian population into mainstream American society and to end discrimination against the Indians in property ownership, education, healthcare, employment and other areas of American life, Congress passed the California Rancheria Termination Act Public Law 85-671 (CRTA).

CRTA provided a voluntary process by which Indians who lived on the Rancheria could decide whether or not to exchange their privileged status under the 1918 trust, for a parcel of land which was part of the reservation. The Indian would own that land in fee simple.

CRTA called for the distribution of rancheria lands and assets to the members of the Tribe as well as the other residents of the Rancheria. It called for a plan “for distributing to individual Indians who resided on the Table Mountain Rancheria, the assets of the reservation i.e. the Rancheria, including the assigned and the unassigned lands, or for selling such assets and distributing the proceeds of sale, or conveying such assets to a corporation or other legal entity organized or designed by the group, or for conveying such assets to the group, as tenants in common.

The Distributees were simply those Indians who lived on, and used, the rancheria at the time of the termination whether a member of the tribe or not. Before the termination plan could be implemented and the land could be distributed, CRTA called for the government to give notice to all Indians of the Rancheria who were recognized and designated as Indians under the 1916 Act.

The only notice published was a minute publication in a local throw-away newspaper that had no subscribers and a circulation of less than 250 persons. The newspaper, the Mountain Press” is located in an unincorporated area of Fresno county. It was not part of the Table Mountain Rancheria and was not located on the Trust Land where the Indians resided.

Said termination plan did not become effective until approved by a majority of adult Indians who were eligible to participate in the distribution plan.There were hundreds of Indians living on Table Mountain Rancheria in 1958, but most of them did not see the notice, so the Department of the Interior chose and selected twelve heads of households to vote in that election and failed to notify the others.

In addition, the government was required to do a survey of land on the Rancheria. The government was also required to improve or construct all roads serving the Rancheria, to install or rehabilitate the irrigation, sanitation, and domestic water systems, and to exchange land held in trust for the Rancheria.

Any Table Mountain Indian who received a portion of the assets was ineligible to receive any more federal services rendered to him/her based on their status as Indians. Their status as United States citizens was not affected by this transfer. All Table Mountain Indians who did not receive a portion of the assets [land] continued to be eligible to receive federal services rendered to them based on their status as Indians under the 1916 Act.

However, because the United States contended that all of the Indians who were eligible to receive any of the assets, had been given notice, and had participated in the distribution, none of the Table Mountain Indians were considered eligible for any further federal services. This left the bulk of the Table Mountain Indians without any federal services.

Any land or asset not conveyed to an individual Indian, was to be held by the Association as tenants-incommon by all of the Table Mountain Indians and to be administered by the Association under the special fiduciary duty owed by the Association to the Indian people who did not participate in the distribution/termination plan.

During the period from the enactment of CRTA in 1958 until March 28, 1983, the Secretary of the Interior failed to comply with his fiduciary duty to the Indians who did not receive any land under CRTA and who should have continued to be recognized as Indians after CRTA.

On December 23, 1980, Respondents filed an action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (Table Mountain Rancheria Association v. Watt, C-80-4595-MHP (N.D.Cal. 1983)) That court was not the proper venue to hear the matter.

The matter was filed in the Northern District so as to avoid any publicity at Table Mountain where Appellants resided. Respondents sought to conceal the lawsuit from the local residents so they could accomplish a scheme to acquire the Trust land for their purposes and use. On or about March 28, 1983, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California [the action entitled Table Mountain Rancheria Association et all v. James Watt et al. Case No. C-80-4595 MHP) entered a Stipulated Entry of Judgment which declared the 1958 distribution plan unconstitutional and re-instated Appellants [who had not participated in the 1958 distribution] as Indians under the laws of the United States prior to the 1958 CRTA and whose benefits which they enjoyed prior to 1958 were re-instated.

Many of the benefits restored by the Watt Stipulation are property rights as defined under California Law. The affected Indians consist of all persons named in the distribution plan of the Table Mountain Rancheria as distributees of the assets of the Table Mountain Rancheria, who, by reason of having participated in the distribution of the assets of the Table Mountain Rancheria at any time have been considered by the United States government or any governmental entity to have lost their status as Indians under the laws of the United States of America.

The affected Indians also consist of all persons not named in the distribution plan of the Table Mountain Rancheria as distributees of the assets of the Table Mountain Rancheria, who, by reason of not having participated in the distribution of the assets of the Table Mountain Rancheria at any time have been considered by the United States government or any governmental entity to have lost their status as Indians under the laws of the United States of America. Affected Indians also consist of all persons listed or otherwise considered to be dependent members of the families of residents of the Table Mountain Rancheria who resided there prior to 1958.

On or about March 28, 1983, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the Secretary of the Interior to prepare and provide a list of federal services, benefits, and programs and the eligibility criteria which were available to Indians because of their status as Indians between May 2, 1973 and June 25, 1975.

The Secretary of the Interior failed to prepare and provide a list of said federal services, benefits, and programs and the eligibility criteria to receive those services, benefits and programs. The Secretary of the Interior never provided any list of federal services, benefits, programs and/or any eligibility criteria for receiving those federal services, benefits, or programs.

Many of the services, benefits and programs restored by the Watt Stipulation are property rights as defined under California Law. The essence of understanding one of the major complaints is understanding the unlawful transaction that took place conveying the Trust land from the Association to the United States in trust for the Band of Table Mountain Indians.

In the 1958, the Table Mountain Rancheria Association was formed to accept all lands not claimed by individuals Indians and to manage the water, sanitation and roads within Table Mountain Rancheria. It did so for almost twenty years.

In 1980, the Table Moutain Rancheria Association, represented by eight members, not all its members, and those eight members as individuals, sued the United States concerning the 1958 distribution plan and the United States’ failure to implement the 1958 distribution plan. They sued in the Northern District not in the Eastern District where each of them resided and where Table Mountain Rancheria was located.

The litigation was filed in 1980 and continued until a stipulation was agreed upon in March 1983. The notice was published beginning in April 1983 (ER 565) after the Stipulation was executed and filed. There was no notice to anyone while the litigation was pending and a careful examination of the contents of the notice shows it is not legible to the everyday lay person.

These persons then entered into a stipulation with the government in settlement of the case. (ER 45.) The Stipulation contained a factually impossible clause. The Stipulation stated: “Within one year. . . plaintiff Band shall convey to the United States all community-owned lands [Trust land] within the Table Mountain Rancheria to which the United States issued fee title in connection with or as a result of distribution of the assets of the Rancheria.The The Stipulation called for the Table Mountain Band of Indians to convey land which its did not have title to and did not own. The Trust land was owned in fee simple by the Association not the Band.

However, because the disenrolled tribal members did not file suit within the time limit allowed, the US Courts upheld their disenrollment — and when it re-formed in 1987, it based its membership on the people who were actually on the rancheria at the moment. That turned out to only be the descendants of four of the many who were on the 1915 list. The disenfranchised members do no share in casino profits today.

All disenfranchised members of the Table Mountain Rancheria have to prove that they are descended from a 1933 tribal roll, not the original 1915 roll.

Disenfranchised tribal members say they are being unfairly, excluded from what is legitimately theirs. They see the tribal councils as greedy, fat cats trying to hoard all of the gaming revenues for themselves and their families. The tribal councils see the latecomers as people who left during hard times and thus without the same rights as those who endured the years of hardship on the ancestral homelands.

In the News:

Further Reading:

Centuries of Genocide: Essays and Eyewitness Accounts
 Surviving Through the Days: Translations of Native California Stories and Songs
Native Hubs: Culture, Community, and Belonging in Silicon Valley and Beyond