Twentynine Palms Band Of Indians To Open Tribe’s Tortoise Rock Casino On March 31

TWENTYNINE PALMS (March 20) — The Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians has scheduled March 31 for the opening of the Tortoise Rock Casino.
Tribe members and a smattering of public dignitaries will attend a private reception that afternoon, to be followed by a 5 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony. Afterwards, the gaming will begin at the 30,000-square foot facility’s seven tables and 490 slot machines.
Live musical entertainment has been arranged for the opening night.
The Twentynine Palms Band of Mission Indians also operates the Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella. Tribal Chairman Darrell Mike said the opening, which follows ten months of construction activity on the site at 73829 Base Line Road “is not only a significant milestone for our tribe, but we are also very happy to bring jobs and add excitement to entire High Desert community.”
The casino will employ close to 100 and will feature blackjack and several forms of poker.
The Twentynine Palms Band of Mission Indians initially proposed developing and operating the casino on tribal land in Twentynine Palms but discarded  those plans after the Department of Defense raised objections to locating the project so close to the Marine Base. In lieu of that, the tribe resolved to relocate the proposed project, redubbed the Nüwü Casino, some 23 miles away, in Joshua  Tree, on a 130-acre parcel on the north side of Twentynine Palms Highway west of White Feather Road and east of downtown Joshua Tree. That site was well outside the tribe’s reservation and what is recognized as the tribe’s ancestral land. To overcome the opposition of many vocal Joshua Tree residents as well as that of then-county supervisor Neil Derry and Joshua Tree municipal advisory council member David Fick, the tribe was forced to jump through a number of hoops, including filing an application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to place the land in a public trust, transferring the tribe’s right from its tribal property to the Joshua Tree site and making a case that the tribe had ancestral roots in the Joshua Tree area, where it had an historical relationship to the property in question by virtue of aboriginal activity, including hunting, foraging and trading in particular.  That application would have entailed an anthropological study to demonstrate the tribe’s ancestors ranged into Joshua Tree.
Mike and his advisors, including the band’s chief financial officer, Steve Gralla, reassessed the likelihood of prevailing in a bruising battle with project opponents, and elected to resurrect its effort to develop and operate a casino on tribal land in Twentynine Palms.

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