Rumsey Band of the Wintun Indians:
Return to Self Sufficiency
is a Success Story
and social benefits of Indian gaming on Indian and non-Indian communities are
profound. Indian nations across the United States have consistently articulated
the ways that Indian gaming supports tribal programs, funds tribal initiatives,
allows for economic diversification, stimulates tourism and creates jobs. In
short, Indian gaming has overwhelmingly succeeded where Federal programs have
of Indian gaming in California is remarkable. After more than a decade of legal
wrangling, two state-wide referenda and a constitutional amendment, the state
of California finally fulfilled its Federal obligation to negotiate class III
gaming compacts with California Indian nations. In May of 2000, nearly 60 Indian
nations signed gaming compacts. One of those Nations is the Rumsey Band of the
Band of the Wintun Indians- A Short History
of years, bands of Wintun people dwelled along the waters of Cache Creek in the
Capay Valley and lived off the bounty of the land. At one time, Wintun-speaking
people occupied nearly all of what has become north central California. As successful
hunter-gatherers living in the abundance of a diverse environment, the Wintun
Indians were self sufficient in the truest sense of the word. The Southern Wintun,
or Patwin, people survived and thrived mostly by gathering acorns, hunting and
fishing. Living near the bountiful rivers allowed fishing for large seasonal
pulses of salmon and hunting waterfowl in nearby marshlands.
settlers finally encroached into the territory of Northern California, the Wintun
(or Patwin) people were nearly wiped out by malaria and small pox epidemics in
the early 1800s. Those who survived the diseases later encountered the influx
of non-Indians who came to search for gold in the 1850s. Later, survivors were
put onto small rancherias, or reservations, and became wards of the Federal government.
By 1972, only 3 Patwin rancherias survived the termination era. One of them was
the Rumsey Rancheria.
Rumsey Rancheria, 15 miles north west of the city of Woodland, is home to 44
members of the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians. The adult Wintun Tribal members
govern themselves through a tribal community council comprised of 22 voting members.
Council leadership consists of a tribal chair, secretary and treasurer and two
at-large members, all of whom are elected to three-year terms. Because of its
gaming revenue, the Rumsey Band is self-sufficient again and Indian gaming has
provided the means to re-claim that self-sufficiency.
Creek Indian Bingo and Casino
Band of the Wintun Indians opened the Cache Creek Indian Bingo and Casino in
1985 near Brooks, California. Today, Cache Creek provides year-round jobs for
more than 1080 people, making it Yolo County’s largest private employer.
In addition to providing secure jobs in a region that has a history of seasonal
agricultural work, the casino has had a profound economic impact on surrounding
communities. More than 900 casino employees are non-Indian and the majority of
these employees live in Yolo county. Since Cache Creek pays more than $15 million
a year in salaries and benefits, most of that money circulates locally, strengthening
existing businesses within the county. Tourism also benefits the region since
many of the 5,000 weekly casino visitors also patronize local service stations,
restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses. Cache Creek contributes more
than $175,000 in sales tax on food and beverages sold and maintains more than
125 local and 350 regional vendor accounts with payments for services in excess
of $9 million annually.
also benefit from the community-mindedness and generosity of the Rumsey Band.
For example, the Rumsey Band has donated more than $140,000 a year to augment
the sheriff’s patrol in the Capay Valley. They have provided financial
assistance to the community’s Volunteer fire department and donated use
of property to the California Forestry and Fire Protection Department for regional
firefighting headquarters. In addition to health and safety, the Band also makes
significant contributions to the regional library, hospital and cultural and
performing arts organizations, offers scholarships through the local high school
district and operates the Rumsey Chapa-De Indian Health Clinic in Woodland. The
Rumsey Band also used gaming revenues to build and operate an independent pre-K
through eighth-grade school on tribal land.
Band has used gaming revenues to diversify its economy beyond gaming. Today,
the nation also runs the Brooks Mountain View Mini Mart, operates agricultural
enterprises and a service station, and manages a diverse investment portfolio,
which includes significant real estate holdings. The tribal government commits
virtually all of its revenues from these economic activities to providing essential
services for its people, such as roads, health care, housing and education.
The hope and
optimism sparked by the success of Indian gaming at Rumsey have provided the
first opportunity in over a century for a future that holds the same self-sufficiency
enjoyed by tribal members in the past. Today, with the new opportunities for
economic self-sufficiency and independence provided by gaming, no member of the
Rumsey Band receives government financial assistance. Rumsey tribal members are
united again and have become free from their dependence on Federal programs.
Business decisions are made thoughtfully as they were in the past. That is, tribal
leaders contemplate the impact of business actions on the next seven generations.
Success in Indian gaming means a return to self-sufficiency for the Rumsey Band,
a return that has been nearly 100 years in the making.
to Paula Lorenzo, the Tribal Chair of the Rumsey Indian Rancheria, "Tribal
gaming is now making the dream of Indian self-reliance come true. In many ways,
our dreams are the same as everyone’s- the dream of a home, the ability
to provide for our children, decent healthcare, and even the dream of college
educations. We are finally participating in the American Dream, bettering ourselves
and the lives of non-Indians alike."
Written by Kate Spilde, Ph.D. February, 2001