Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians Files Suit to Stop Impersonation
The Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, a federally recognized tribe of Placerville, California, recently filed a lawsuit against more than two dozen individuals, who were connected to a previous lawsuit in regards to improper misappropriation of the tribe according to a tribal press release.
The lawsuit that was filed with the United States District Court for the Eastern District asks that these individuals, who have no connection with the tribe or permission on its behalf, be prohibited from pretending to represent or act for the “Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians.” According to the release, the tribe is seeking injunctive and monetary damages for violation of the tribe’s trademark and other legal rights.
The first lawsuit came in 2008, before the tribe opened its Red Hawk Casino gaming facility. An individual named Cesar Caballero filed paperwork with the County of El Dorado claiming he was doing business as the “Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians,” according to the release. Caballero was asked to withdraw the document but refused, resulting in the tribe bringing about a lawsuit. Caballero was ordered to cease using the Tribe’s name, but later tried to have the tribal mailing address changed to his bringing about federal charges of obstructing the Tribe’s mail to which he was convicted and waiting for sentencing scheduled for April 23. Caballero according to the release has obtained tax identification numbers from the Internal Revenue Service under the Tribe’s name, established websites that appear to be affiliations with the casino and the Band.
Caballero filed a counter lawsuit in February 2009 that was dismissed for having no basis in law.
Caballero continues to refuse to comply to the court order and claims that members of his “tribe” tell him not to. The federal court held him in contempt as a result and imprisoned him pending his compliance with the order. During the contempt proceedings Caballero had individuals who signed a letter on his behalf, claiming they were the “Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians.” These individuals are now the defendants in the second lawsuit filed March 1. Federal District Court Judge John Mendez deemed the second lawsuit related to the action against Caballero, which is set for trial on September 24. The second lawsuit has yet to be scheduled for trial.
“This Tribe has long struggled in poverty, and these people were nowhere to be seen when we had nothing at all,” Tribal Chairman Nicholas Fonseca said. “It was only after we managed to establish a gaming facility that they suddenly decided they wanted our land, our federal recognition, and our name. If you want to understand what is driving these people, the fact that Cesar Caballero claimed the right to Red Hawk revenues in his countersuit against the tribe is all you need to know.”
The Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians has been recognized by the United States government as a sovereign entity since as early as 1906, when the government acquired land for the tribe. The land acquired was along the El Dorado County tract and next to a tribal group known as the El Dorado Band. Shingle Springs Band was known as the Sacramento-Verona Band of Homeless Indians then, until around 1980 when their present name was recognized. The press release states the El Dorado Band lost it’s federal recognition in the mid 1900s in connection with terminating the sovereign status of tribal governments. The assets were distributed to the Band members and unlike other California tribes never sought to restore its recognition status. Caballero and the other defendants are believed to descend from the terminated tribe.