By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"These young people think it's going to go on forever, but it's a business," King Freeman says. "A business is a business, I don't care what kind — it can go broke."
For former members of the Pala tribe, there is little reason for optimism. Along with the humiliation of having their cultural identity officially severed, they have been told they didn't win the lottery after all. Absent a sea change in tribal leadership, their fortunes are unlikely to change.
For the current tribe members, however, these are fortunate times, and many don't share the pessimism of people like King Freeman. This group includes Kilma Lattin, the former Pala executive committee member.
Like Smith, with whom he served on the executive committee until two years ago, Lattin is a controversial figure in the tribe. In 2011, he voted for the initial round of eight disenrollements, although after being presented with more evidence supporting the claims of the Britten descendants, he had a change of heart.
"I could no longer say to myself, unequivocally, that they should be disenrolled," he says. "So, I did not seek re-election to the executive committee because I knew the disenrollment was coming and I didn't want to be a part of it." The group of 154 members was removed shortly after the arrival of his replacement in early 2012.
But despite this crisis of conscience, Lattin continues to believe in the tribe and its potential. He insists that Pala will remain strong even if its gambling interests don't.
"Nothing makes money like a casino, and people know that," he says. "But Pala is a unique tribe because we have a diversified economic basis. We were diversified before we had the gaming enterprise and we will be diversified in the future."
To demonstrate, the flashy 34-year-old gives a tour of the reservation on a clear, bright day in late winter. Driving a BMW sport utility vehicle, he wears Prada sunglasses and drinks a high-protein milkshake, which he flicks into the back when it's drained.
Born in La Jolla, Lattin flew Apache helicopters for the U.S. Army Air Cavalry and later earned an MBA from the University of Southern California. In the mid-aughts he became involved in tribal governance, bringing a sometimes confrontational style to the proceedings. (At one time the proud owner of a yellow Lamborghini, he thought tribal speed limits should increase to 80 miles per hour. )
He points out the various businesses that the tribe runs, including a shooting range and thousands of acres of citrus and avocado groves. There's a sprawling motocross track and a skateboard park, and a sand and gravel operation. It's come to the point where one hardly needs to leave the reservation, for work or for leisure.
"The magic for Pala, I believe, is that we have a sense of financial responsibility," Lattin says, "where we've taken our proceeds and plowed them back into future economic development for growth."
Lattin has been involved in projects ranging from advising an Emmy-nominated documentary about Native Americans in the military to co-founding the Native American Republican Super PAC. He's currently not working. "I'm assessing my options," he says.
Though he no longer serves on the council, and recently left the reservation to move to San Diego, he continues to think about big-picture ideas for Pala. Reservations once may have been seen as dens of poverty and despair, but he believes they are potential utopias.
"Tribal governments have to be savvy both in business and government," Lattin says, "and in good tribal governments like Pala, they're able to react and feed off each other."
Of course, the question of whether Pala's government has acted in the best interest of all its people, rather than just some of them, is hotly debated.
And for all of Lattin's optimism, it's ironic that, after centuries of repression and mistreatment from outsiders, it was Pala's windfall that caused the tribe to turn on itself. Only time will tell whether these millions — gambled and lost by outsiders — have been the tribe's saving grace, or its undoing.
Look, this same scenario plays out across tribal lands where gaming is present... Huge, tax free dividends and corporate lear jets for the council members to enjoy/ Seminole, Miccasoukee...and then the abject poor...The Crow and Shoshone...
It's time for the BIA to take over all indian gaming revenue and to disperse it evenly to all native Americans across the Nation and Alaska. Fair share for each....
But then that is where the Native brotherhood stops...isn't it?
If it's sovereign land and the the government won't intervene the disenrolled are expelled they should fight it by any means necessary and go for a coup d'état.
The disenrollments stripped the members of their heritage, of their pride of being Pala Indian. It was five people taking away everything that these members knew. It would be like the President telling you that you no longer are an American citizen and that you must move, and every eye staring and laughing as you pack your things, dying inside, with no where to go, and no heritage to be proud of. In a reply to an article in the San Diego Reader, Robert Smith just recently claimed that only persons of at least 1/2 Pala blood were allotted land in Pala, which the children of Margarita Brittain were all allotted land in Pala, which proves he lied about the reason for disenrollments. Her children must be at least 1/2, which makes her grandchildren 1/4 and her great-grandchildren 1/8, and her great-great-grandchildren 1/16 (providing their were no inter-marriages, or members who married or had children from other Pala members). 1/16 is the requirement for enrollment which is the blood the great-great-grandchildren possess, so this is proof that the disenrollments were not over blood. But the general council did not vote on the disenrollments, only the Executive Committee did, who are also the Enrollment Committee, and who control the Election Committee, in fact they control everything and allow no one to question their actions or they threaten disenrollment.They also threaten the idea of treason to any relatives still enrolled that try to help the disenrolled, which is ludicrous. Can you say Dictatorship? In America? Our government steps into other countries that have evil leaders who take advantage of their people, but they stand idly by when it happens in their own land. The BIA just lets this happen in Indian Country, what are they here for? Not the individual Indian that is for sure, they only support the tribal leaders who lie to keep their own lavish lifestyles. Ask Robert Smith how many homes he has? Ask him how many supposed bad investments he has made with the tribes money? Ask him who his partners are? Follow the money and the truth shall be revealed.
What a great article! Thank you LA Weekly for exposing the truth about tribal gaming and what is being done on reservations to Native peoples. It's particularly disturbing to hear how tribal members act. "Laughing at people who have lost their money". As if receiving money payouts for doing nothing, having no career makes one better, it's quite the contrary. It has bred a new race of casino Indians as they are called.
I love the Pala Casino, and routinely go out to enjoy eateries and music venues. The hotel is a world class establishment, the spa a European delight. We have raped, pillaged, and plundered the Indians for years, it is fantastic that they get a little piece of the American pie for themselves. More power to them.
What has happened at Pala is an injustice. Similar both Pechanga in Temecula and the most egregious example at Chukchansi. We bring the stories to light of what casino gaming has wrought at ORIGINAL PECHANGA's BLOG ( http://originalpechanga.com ).
Tribe's have sovereignty, but that doesn't make it right. South Africa was a sovereign nation too, yet we interfered with their apartheid system and divested ourselves in order to persuade them to do the right thing.
That is a simple thing to do. Simply call the casino and tell them you will NO LONGER come because of what you read here. You understand their sovereignty, but you can't support a business that would cheat their OWN people. If they cheat their own, won't they cheat YOU?
If you think Wal-Mart is bad because they only pay minimum wage...what about an enterprise that steal money, violates civil and human rights, cheats their people, and lies about it? Which is worse?
Please tell your friends to NOT patronize Pala Casino, Pechanga Resort & Casino and in Northern CA, the Win-River Casino and Chukchansi Gold. ( They are the worst, eliminating 75% of their tribe)
Is it about MONEY? YOU BETCHA. Pechanga has stolen over $400 MILLION from their disenrolled. Is that enough to cheat someone of their heritage? Believe it.
@sedonasherpa Yeah, because
A) Everything you read must be true
B) All tribes are the same
C) The Native Brotherhood What??
@captmrgnx I'm not sure if your attempting to be racist or ignorant but the phrase "Indian Givers" is actually derogatory towards WHITE people! NOT NATIVE AMERICANS! In any event, I applaud you in showing your truly moronic nature.
I have one comment, that TC can not strip you of your heritage! MONEY IS NOT HERITAGE!! You are Pala, you know exactly what blood flows through your veins and they can NEVER take that away from you!!!
@alaxwish your clearly not a native american nor know anyone who is
@alaxwish When one of our elders (80's) asked what would happen if the tribe disenrolled them, some of the yahoos in the corner yelled GET A JOB! Losing health coverage was also a big factor in a lot of lives. No worries though, right, the state of CA would pick up the slack.
@fredquarters And now, the Pala Council is doing the same to their OWN people. Few of the members of any tribe in CA were raped and pillaged by Europeans. Bill Cosby refused to play at Chukchansi because of what those leaders did to their people.
The cover of the book looks great, but what lies beneath is unsavory.
I grow up on Pala Rez and I remember as a child how fun it was to play around on the Rez, such as swimming in the river bottom with brothers and Cuz. Hiking in the mountains and hunting wild game animals. The adults would watch out for one other tribal members Children. We were taught by our parents to respect our elders and to respect our fellow tribal people too. But the children now days have no respect for Elders or our fellow tribal members. It starts with Executive Committee member who are charge of tribe. They are the leaders of the tribe and some have lead by good example and some have not. Those Executive Committee that have lead by bad example have hurt tribe and given our tribe a black EYE. How I miss the old days as child.