David Laughing Horse Robinson, an elder of the Kawaiisu tribe of Native Americans, has launched a unique challenge to the controversial Tejon Mountain Village project on the eve of a critical hearing before the Kern County Board of Supervisors.
Robinson, who works as an instructional technician in the art department at Cal State Bakersfield, claims Tejon Ranch does not own the land on the east side of Interstate 5 near Frazier Park where the company and its partner are proposing to build Tejon Mountain Village.
It is owned, he states in a YouTube video challenging the project, by the Kawaiisu tribe and was stolen from it in the early years of California's life as a state.
"The Kawaiisu Tribe has clear ownership of the Tejon-Sebastian reservation," Robinson states in the video.
Since there has been no action by Congress to terminate the reservation or de-list the tribe, the land is owned by the Native Americans, he says.
Lorelei Oviatt, special projects chief for the Kern County Planning Department, said the land was never a formal reservation for the Kawaiisu tribe but only a shared habitation area for several tribes of native people.
Tejon's ownership of the property has not been challenged by native groups previously, she said, and county research with the Native American Heritage Commission in Sacramento did not reveal evidence supporting Robinson.
"Mr. Laughing Horse has never brought this to our attention at any (previous) time," Oviatt said. "We have no evidence that his claims are correct."
But those claims, she said, will be given due consideration as the Board of Supervisors meets Monday to debate a possible approval for Tejon Mountain Village, a 5,082-acre gated, private development on 26,417 acres in the mountains between Bakersfield and Los Angeles.
"We will respectfully take Mr. Laughing Horse Robinson's comments to the board," Oviatt said.