With one swish of a pen it was official. After more than 75 years, the Santa Rosa Rancheria Tribe had their land back.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribe council chairman Clarence Atwell signed the deeds for 1160 acres. The federal government will hold the deeds in trust for the tribe. Clarence Atwell says, "I feel good! You know, right now, I'm almost like a kid. I want to run around this place."
The Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi Yokut Tribe also owns the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore and the land around it. This new 1160 acres attaches onto that land, just south of the casino. The tribe says they will not expand the gaming operation.
This is the largest parcel of land the tribe has ever been able to acquire, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs says it's one of the largest ever acquired by a tribe in California.
Troy Burdick from the Bureau of Indian Affairs says, "The significance can't be stressed enough. As you can see, the Rancheria since a long time ago was quite small and an acquisition of this size increases the Rancheria quite a bit."
The tribe wants to renovate this A-T-V track, and possibly add housing and even a hospital.
Clarence Atwell says, "That was our dream all along was trying to put our own hospital out here in order to improve service. I think the majority of what people need here is dialysis. That's the main thing here at the reservation."
Tribe member Lyda Duran says, "I think it's exciting! I want more. We want more!"
The tribe is trying to acquire even more land about 400 acres sitting just to the west of the newly acquired land. If the tribe eventually wants to expand the casino they would have to go through a lengthy approval process with the county and state.