In 1934, the Santa Rosa Rancheria was established on about 40 acres of desolate farmland in Lemoore, California. Forty people lived on the reservation below poverty level, many living in tule huts, tin houses, old cars and chicken coops. The average education on the reservation was 3rd grade level, with field labor as the primary source of income.
By the 1980's the Santa Rosa Rancheria had grown to approximately 200 members and 170 acres. Government programs such as Headstart, 638 funds, and an AA program were in place, and the average education increased to 8th grade level. Some HUD housing was built, but living conditions were still below poverty level for most members.
A Turning Point: The Indian Gaming Regulatory ActSelf sufficiency and self determination are the two most important goals of any sovereign nation, which is why we have fought so hard to establish and maintain our own form of government and reclaim our right to determine our own future. Thanks to the efforts of strong American Indian leaders, the federal government gradually acknowledged our rights. In 1988, Congress passed legislation providing a means for rebuilding our economy, our pride, and our hope: the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).
IGRA acknowledged the right of American Indians to make gaming compacts with the states where their reservations are located. Many tribes in California have been inspired by this legislation and have entered into gaming enterprises of their own. In 1983, the Santa Rosa Rancheria was approached by the New England Company, a casino management firm, and soon after the Southgate Bingo Palace was opened.
At first it was thought our Bingo hall would be a small scale success at best, creating just enough jobs and revenue to give our reservation economy a boost. But Bingo prospered from the very start, eventually seating nearly 1500 players a day. Through the years several management companies assisted in our growth, but in 1994 our tribe took over management of the facility and changed the name to The Palace Indian Gaming Center.
Rebuilding Our ReservationThe Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino has had a tremendous impact on our reservation. The Palace has grown from 86 employees in 1994 to over 400 employees in 1997, one-third of whom are Native American. The average education of our members has risen to the 12th grade and college levels, and living conditions have improved to wood frame housing, block homes and mobile homes.
The Palace now offers our youth employment opportunities that would not otherwise be available. Many of our former employees have gone on to successful positions elsewhere in the community and are positive role models for youngsters on the reservation. Unemployment has dropped below 25%, and most tribal members are now free from AFDC dependence.
Gaming revenues allow us to rise to the challenges of reestablishing our cultural identity, returning to economic self sufficiency, and rebuilding our reservation. Everyday we move closer to reaching our goals. The Palace has given us an excellent start and placed us in an exciting new role.
As participants in our own destiny!