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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Tribe Tries to Muzzle Reservation Gun Range

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Two men illegally built a gun range on Cahuilla Indian land, and bullets from it have "narrowly missed" tribal members, the tribe claims in court.

The Cahuilla Band of Indians asked a federal judge to enjoin Chris Davis and Tuhon Chaz Siangco from operating the Sewet Gun Range on their land. Also named as defendants are the businesses Black Knife Research & Development, and Max Ordinate.

The tribe says in its 21-page lawsuit that bullets have "narrowly missed" people on the reservation, and that lead bullets and other toxins have contaminated soil, air and water.

Davis and Siangco neither acquired permits from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers nor the Bureau of Indian Affairs, nor sought approval from the Secretary of Interior, the Cahuilla claim.

"In the course of constructing the range, defendants excavated and graded more than five acres of the tribe's unallotted reservation trust land, erected earthen berms and various structures, and otherwise altered the land's physical appearance and stormwater drainage patterns," the lawsuit states.

Unallotted land is land that the tribe has not assigned to a specific person or family.

Davis and Siangco allow nontribal members to use the range and have set up targets on land outside it, according to the lawsuit.

The Cahuilla say their general counsel ordered the gun range to shut down, but the U.S. Postal Service returned its cease and desist letter unopened because the address listed on the Sewet Gun Range website does not receive mail.

Seeking money damages and costs, the tribe wants a judge to declare that the gun range violates the tribe's rights under the Mission Indian Relief Act, and an order booting the defendants off the reservation.

Originally occupying 2,400 square miles of territory, today the Cahuilla people are scattered in reservations in Southern California. In their own language, which is almost extinct, the tribe calls itself Iviatim.

The tribe is represented by George Forman with Forman & Associates of San Rafael.

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