Graton Rancheria Tribe Donates $15M to UCLA Law for Native American Studies

Posted on: September 24, 2020, 02:26h. 

Last updated on: September 24, 2020, 02:51h.

The Graton Rancheria Tribe, owner and operator of the Graton Resort & Casino, located 40 miles north of San Francisco, is giving UCLA Law $15 million.

Graton Tribe UCLA Native American law
Revenue from the Graton Resort & Casino will fund tribal attorneys of the future. (Image: The Press Democrat)

The gift is to provide scholarships for law students interested in pursuing Native American legal studies. The money will be used to create the Graton Scholars program at UCLA Law’s Native Nations Law and Policy Center. The Graton people are hoping their gaming money can help lead the next generation of legal tribal advocates.

Native and other students interested in careers surrounding Native American legal issues will be provided full-tuition scholarships for all three years of their law school education.

Tribal law is a cornerstone of Native Americans’ quest for equality and inclusion within the US justice system,” said Graton Rancheria Tribal Chairman Greg Sarris, who received his undergraduate degree from UCLA.

“We hope this gift will begin the drive for equity for our people in our native land,” Sarris added.

UCLA says it’s the largest gift the school has ever received from a tribal group, and “one of the largest gifts to support scholarships in UCLA history.”

Native American Ally

The Graton Rancheria donation to UCLA is money predominantly derived from the tribe’s Northern California casino resort. Graton Resort & Casino offers 3,000 slot machines and more than 100 table games. The complex features 200 hotel rooms, spa, 20,000 square feet of convention space, a theater, and seven restaurants and bars.

UCLA’s Native Nations Law and Policy Center seeks to connect students with Native American communities to strengthen Indian legal systems on their sovereign lands. The program is tailored to advancing tribal cultural and legal values.

A key component of the school is its Tribal Legal Development Clinic, which provides Native American communities with free legal services. Areas include constitution drafting and revision, tribal code development, establishment and operation of tribal courts, and the negotiation of cooperative agreements with cities, counties, and states.

Gaming compacts are one such example of a cooperative agreement. The state-tribe contracts allow Native Americans to operate Class III gaming — slot machines and table games — at their casinos.

Graton’s most recent gaming compact with California, reached in 2017, requires the tribe to share 12 percent of its slot machine revenue with the state.

Tribal Casinos Support Tribal Education

The Graton Rancheria Tribe is the latest Native American group to provide a law school with a large donation.

In February, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, another California tribe, gave $9 million to UNLV to support tribal gaming and law programs at the Nevada university. In that donation, $6 million of the total gift was allocated to establish the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Endowed Chair in Tribal Gaming. The program, part of the UNLV William F. Harrah College of Hospitality, enhances the “college’s curriculum by incorporating tribal gaming into existing gaming courses.”

As tribal gaming continues to expand throughout the nation, it is critical for our college to be able to educate both current and future professionals on the operational nuances of tribal gaming,” explained Stowe Shoemaker, dean of the UNLV Harrah College of Hospitality.

The San Manuel Casino is located near San Bernardino, California.