American Renaissance

Official’s Comments on Chumash Revive Old Wounds in Santa Ynez

Supervisor Gail Marshall’s critical remarks, published in a book on Indian gaming, lead to calls for her resignation.

William Overend, L. A. Times, Mar. 23

SANTA YNEZ, Calif. — It had been an unusually tough, emotional week of politics for Vince Armenta and Ted Ortega. The two top leaders of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians were outraged over comments made by longtime foe, Santa Barbara County Supervisor Gail Marshall.

It wasn’t just another public battle over how to spread the wealth from Indian gambling. This time it was an issue that brought back centuries of bad memories, one that required private and painful talks with their children. In their minds, Marshall had crossed the line and engaged in blatant racism.

The comments were in a book released in September that quoted Marshall as saying the Chumash are “not real sophisticated people” who “don’t want to be educated,” and that they are spending their new gambling incomes on “brand new trucks” and lounging around their houses doing very little, apart from “sitting on the couch watching a Lakers game.”

Armenta, the tribal chairman, and Ortega, the tribe’s vice chairman, learned of the book just this month and responded March 9 by demanding Marshall’s resignation. She said the tribe had taken the comments out of context and that she would not resign. “I apologize to any who found some of my language offensive; it was certainly not intended to offend,” she said.

“I also want to express my regret that certain Chumash tribal leaders have chosen to inject race into this matter…”

Marshall, whose term will end in January, did not seek reelection this year as Santa Barbara County’s 3rd District supervisor. A liberal Democrat at the end of her third term, she was the target of an unsuccessful recall election last year and has frequently been attacked as divisive by critics.

Her district includes the Santa Ynez Valley and the Chumash reservation, and she has been a leading opponent of the tribe’s expanding gambling activities.

The controversy flared throughout the week. The four other members of the Board of Supervisors declined to publicly denounce their colleague, but expressed sorrow over the wounds inflicted. But, though the supervisors had spoken only of the need for a time of healing, others took a harsher view.

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