For close to four years the Santa Ynez Band (tribe) along with the Federal Government had been arguing that two California community organizations, Preservation of Los Olivos (P.O.L.O.) and Preservation of Santa Ynez (POSY) had no right to appeal decisions by the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the Internal Board of Indian Appeals.
Last July, a Federal judge said they were wrong. There was an appeal - but this week it was withdrawn, making the ruling final.
According to Steve Pappas, a founder of P.O.L.O. "This has always been about restoring and preserving the voice of each and every one of us. The Constitution is still a very young document, but it provides a clear framework for our rights as citizens and this case is a monumental example."
A spokesperson for P.O.L.O. stated that "P.O.L.O. and POSY now have standing to challenge the federal government's ability to remove land from local regulatory and taxing authority through the fee-to-trust process and puts decisions made by the BIA or IBIA under the scrutiny of a federal court. Never before have these decisions been subject to judicial review. This is a very big victory for all affected communities."
I can't tell you how important the efforts of these and other activist groups are to us and every other community that's been turned into a battlefield thanks to failed Federal Indian policy. They'e fought long battles for small victories, but each little victory adds up, and chips away at a common wrong.
I would encourage anyone to visit their web site. Like us, they are ordinary citizens committed to preserving their rural quality of life, and have demonstrated what can happen when citizens stand strong against what's wrong, and stand up for what's right. They are part of the reason that in America, the concept of inevitability remains a myth.