Graton Tribe donates $15 million to UCLA Law School to fund Native American legal students Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · September 24, 2020 at 7:45 am Northern California’s Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria has made a $15 million donation to the UCLA School of Law – the single largest scholarship contribution in the school’s history – to fund the studies of Native Americans and other students interested in pursuing careers as tribal legal advocates. In the announcement Wednesday, Graton Tribal Chairman Greg Sarris said the donation ties into Friday’s California Native American Day, which celebrates and honors the historic and cultural contributions by California Native Americans. The tribe owns the Graton Casino Resort near Santa Rosa, California, roughly 45 miles north of San Francisco. “Tribal law is a cornerstone of Native Americans’ quest for equality and inclusion within the U.S. justice system,” said Sarris, a graduate of UCLA and former professor at the university. “UCLA’s commitment to educating and preparing the next generation of tribal legal advocates is personally known to me. We hope this gift will begin the drive for equality for our people in our native land.” Graton Tribal Chairman Greg Sarris In addition to being the largest-ever financial contribution that a tribe has made to a law school, the donation is one of the largest in history from a tribe to a university. Earlier this year, Southern California’s San Manuel Tribe donated $9 million to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. That money is being split between the law school and the college of hospitality. The donation – formally called the Graton Scholars Endowment – is being directed toward the UCLA School of Law’s Native Nations Law and Policy Center. Every year, five incoming students will receive full-tuition scholarships that will last for the duration of their three years at UCLA Law. In an interview with CDC Gaming Reports, Sarris said providing the donation would “create a cohort of attorneys” that will help tribes both in California and throughout the country “protect their well-being.” Sarris said the donation by Graton was the 1,450-member tribe’s largest since it donated $6.8 million to the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. to create an educational template for middle school and high school students. “This will be a transformative investment in Indian Country to protect our rights and well-being,” Sarris said. “We hope this encourages other tribes.” ‘The best and brightest’ UCLA Law School Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin said the contribution from Graton will assist the school in recruiting and retaining “the best and brightest” Native American law students and other legal students interested in American Indian legal issues. The center addresses public policy issues facing Native tribes while offering students opportunities for legal training. The school’s tribal legal development clinic serves Native American communities directly and provides free legal services to tribes in the areas of constitution drafting and revision, tribal code development, establishment and operation of tribal court systems, and negotiation of cooperative agreements with local cities, counties, and states. The center allows law students to engage with tribal leaders, officials, and community members. “We at UCLA Law are immensely proud of our national leadership in Indian law,” Mnookin said in a statement. “Thanks to this extraordinary contribution, our faculty, staff, and students will have far greater opportunities to collaborate in promoting tribal sovereignty, cultural resource protection, Native American child welfare, and economic development in Indian country – work whose impact will last for a generation.” California tribal gaming California is the nation’s largest Indian gaming state, with more than 60 tribal-operated casinos, and accounts for one-fourth of all the Indian gaming revenues produced in the U.S. According to National Indian Gaming Commission figures, tribal casinos nationwide collected almost $34 billion in gaming revenue during 2018. More than one-fourth of the total – some $9 billion – was produced by California’s Indian casino market. The Graton Tribe’s casino opened in 2013 and added a 200-room hotel tower in 2016 that includes 20,000 square feet of meeting space. The property has 3,000 slot machines and 144 table games, as well as four restaurants. Las Vegas-based Red Rock Resorts currently operates the casino for the Graton tribe; the seven-year management agreement was scheduled to expire in November but will be extended for a few months. Sarris said the tribe is looking forward to taking over the casino. More than just tribal gaming law UCLA School of Law The donation from Graton will cover more than just tribal gaming law, and UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “This is one of the largest gifts to support scholarships in UCLA history,” Block said, adding that the donation “bolsters our university’s longtime commitment to service in Indian country and the success of Native people everywhere. This gift allows us to recruit the very best candidates to pursue their legal education at UCLA and prepare for careers as impactful advocates for Native nations.” UCLA Law has been the national leader among law schools in developing courses, programs, and scholarships addressing the legal standing and rights of Native Nations. The first legal casebook in federal Indian law was written by UCLA Law faculty, and the school developed the first joint degree program in law and American Indian studies. “For decades, Native American students and those seeking a way of serving Native Nations have come to UCLA to gain an unparalleled education in Indian law and American Indian studies, launching them into influential careers in the field,” said Carole Goldberg, the Jonathan D. Varat Distinguished Professor of Law Emerita and founding director of the joint degree program in law and American Indian studies. “This exceptionally generous gift will enable the most talented and committed students to join them as powerful tribal advocates,” she said. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.