At the center of the lawsuits is the tribe's founding constitution, which dates to 1981, when the band of Indians living on the reservation were declared a tribe under the Indian Reorganization Act, a 1930s federal statute designed to provide groups of Native Americans, who could not prove their historical tribal existence, a way to gain recognition as a tribe. "Reorganized tribes," Webb explains, "since they are considered to have been tribeless at some point in time, are squeezed into this mold of what the Roosevelt administration decided was going to qualify to be a reorganized tribe. Each one adopted constitutions, just like the 50 states all have constitutions. Now, the one in Jamul specifically requires that to be a member, you had to have half-blood or more as far as the degree of Indian blood you maintain. Persons of half-degree or more California Indian blood who resided in the Jamul Indian Village at the time of the adoption of this constitution -- it was adopted in May of 1981 -- those are the members. And there are two other provisions that pick up all the heirs, all the people that come after them. The problem that my clients have faced is that [some new members] are not half-bloods or better, they are quarters, sixteenths, sixty-fourths."
Mesa counters, "When we did our first constitution, it was for half-bloods because that was the minimum under the IRA [Indian Reorganization Act]. That was the minimum blood quantity that you could have under an IRA tribe. So we started out with 23 people who were the tribe. Later on, the tribe had what they call a secretarial election -- and the secretary I am talking about is the secretary of the interior -- by which we amended our constitution to include quarter-bloods. There are tribes out their that are down to sixteenths and thirty-seconds blood. Besides, the Bureau of Indian Affairs says, 'Your enrollment is your business.' "
Webb also contends that the Jamul tribe has no right to game on their reservation because the gaming compact between the State of California and its 107 tribes requires the tribe to hold a federally issued "class-three gaming ordinance. And to date, despite them trying to do this for eight years, they never adopted a class-three gaming ordinance in Jamul, so the very ticket by which they would get to use their compact with Governor Davis to allow gaming doesn't exist, because they never passed such an ordinance."
Mesa responds, "We don't have a class-three gaming ordinance; we have a class two. But you have to have a class-three ordinance when you game. The head of the National Indian Gaming Commission sat right at this very table, and we asked him if it was a big deal that we didn't have the class-three gaming ordinance, and he said, 'No, that is not a big deal.' "
Mesa adds, "Class three would allow the slot machines. Bingo and things like that fall under class two. But the head of the National Indian Gaming Commission said that until we have the machines, we don't need to have the class three. And, as a matter of fact, he said if you have a class two, when the time comes, all you need to do is write an amendment to the class two and say. 'We now want to have a class three,' and that it's almost an immediate approval."
Hennen steers his royal blue, leather-upholstered Dodge Dakota along west on serpentine Highway 94, just east of town. It's 6:30 in the evening, and the Jamul sun bathes the car in golden light. Where the road bends sharply north, the little homes of the reservation come into view straight ahead. On the hillsides, the white walls of red-tiled villas shine in the low-angled sun. Past the fire station and a long-closed prime-rib restaurant, "downtown Jamul" comes into view. "The biggest problem about the casino plan," Hennen says, "is this road. This is why the town is up in arms. This is the only way in and out of town, the only major thoroughfare. It is two lanes, and there are many, many accidents. There were four teenagers that were killed on this road within the last nine to ten months in four different incidents. And now the Indians are talking about adding numbers as low as 10,000 cars a day and as high as 25,000 cars a day and possibly serving alcohol. It is a recipe for more disaster."
Through downtown and a quarter of the way down the Steele Canyon grade toward Rancho San Diego, a 7-Eleven store pops up on the right. "This is one of two intersections in Jamul," Hennen says, "that Caltrans grades at level F. The other one is a little further down."
Level F, Hennen explains, "means failure. It means the traffic gets deadlocked, and you are just stuck there. It's like that every morning and every afternoon here."
Marcia Spurgeon is a real estate agent who works primarily in Jamul. An outspoken critic of the casino, she brags about the foothill town's charms as she drives her Jeep Cherokee up and down the hilly roads. "One of the nice things about Jamul," she says as she cruises east on Lawson Valley Road, "is our starry sky at night. We have a dark-sky ordinance out here. Notice there are no streetlights. And homeowners can't have certain kinds of outdoor lighting. As a result we have wonderful stars at night. That's another thing that the casino might ruin."
The fact that the Indian village isn't subject to the zoning laws that would preclude any non-Indian group from building a similar-sized project in Jamul galls Spurgeon. "If you want to do something like that," she exclaims, "you should go by the rules!"
However, she visibly chafes at the idea of resigning herself to the idea of a Sycuan-sized casino in Jamul. "I'll stand in the middle of Highway 94 first. I feel that strongly about it."