Chumash tribal chair Kenneth Kahn
Paul Wellman

The Chumash-sponsored federal bill to immediately place the bucolic Camp 4 property into federal trust unanimously passed out of the Natural Resources Committee. It now moves to the floor of the House of Representatives.

The Chumash bought Camp 4 seven years ago. They have petitioned to annex the 1,400-acre land to their reservation, freeing the property from county zoning codes and property tax rolls. Earlier this year, the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) granted the application, but there is a six year statute of limitations before the deal is final.

“Today we took a step in the right direction,” said tribal chair Kenneth Kahn on July 26. “The Committee’s action, and the Trump Administration’s recent decision to dismiss lawsuits alleging that Department of the Interior officials lacked the authority to take this land in trust, demonstrates that Washington D.C. is upholding its trust responsibility to Native American tribes.”

The tribe has said it is nonpartisan. Personally, Kahn has donated to several Democratic politicians, including current and former Santa Barbara congressmembers Salud Carbajal and Lois Capps.

Carbajal, who served as a county supervisor for 12 years before being elected to Congress, wrote a letter dated July 25 calling for the committee to delay the vote. “It is my understanding that the county and the tribe are currently close to an agreement-in-principle on a local agreement regarding the Camp 4 property.” If not possible, he added, “I request that any agreement reached in ensuing discussions be incorporated into the legislation prior to any further legislative action.”

County officials and tribal leaders have been meeting privately to hammer out an agreement on payments, sovereign immunity, and other things.

County Supervisor Joan Hartmann, who represents the Santa Ynez Valley, said in a statement, “I am disappointed with yesterday’s vote,” going on to explain she had lobbied the committee and Kahn to delay the bill to allow a local agreement. Her statement notes the county-Chumash negotiations are attempting to bridge the tribe’s need for housing, a tribal center, and preservation of tribal culture with the certainty and stability asked by both the tribe and the Santa Ynez community.


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