Father of a Nation

As head of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, Kevin Gover single-handedly gave the Koi Nation land rights. Now, he's stepped through the revolving door to hawk the tribe's plans for a Bay Area casino.

Apparently, a lot of other people feel the same way. Besides Oakland's City Council, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and the city councils of Berkeley, Alameda, and San Leandro are all on record as opponents of the casino. As such, their resolutions have been forwarded to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which has begun the first in a string of bureaucratic processes that could take several years before the interior secretary ultimately decides the fate of the property.

Meanwhile, the tribe's handlers appear to be positioning the Koi to fight as the home team.

During presentations before community groups, Wilson, the tribe's minder, has for some months shown a slide that purports to be a map of traditional Pomo homelands covering a wide swath of Northern California. On such occasions, he has explained the tribe's connection to Oakland and the East Bay as their being part of Pomo "trade routes" for the sale of such items as clamshell beads and obsidian.

But when benefactor in chief Gover appeared before Oakland's City Council in January, he made a bold new assertion that critics, including San Jose State University ethnologist Alan Leventhal, were quick to dismiss as "astonishing" and "just plain wrong."

Suggesting that Lake County was merely the area to which the Koi were "assigned by federal policy during an unfortunate time in American history," Gover concluded, "So part of our evidence in this case is to examine just what were their original lands. We maintain that those lands were in the East Bay."

He spoke with the conviction of someone with dollar signs in his eyes.

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