By Laura Brown
Triplicate staff writer
Elk Valley Rancheria has come a long way from the doublewide trailers that once served as its offices.
Its new headquarters a 6,757- square-foot redwood-and-river-rock building on Howland Hill Road will be revealed at a public celebration at 1 p.m. this Saturday.
A Sacramento representative from the Bureau of Indian Affairs will be at the event to sign four parcels of land into tribal trust. The rancheria has been considered a "landless tribe" since the 1950s. On Saturday, its status will officially change.
Its new administrative building cost more than $2 million.
"It came out better than we ever expected," said Tribal Chairman Dale Miller.
The new building is just one of the rancheria's recent projects. In the past 10 months alone, it has acquired three businesses: the Del Norte County Golf Course, the Hiouchi RV Resort and Tsunami Lanes bowling alley and sports bar.
As early as next April, the rancheria's expansive resort destination hotel and golf course will get underway.
"It is a statement. Here we are. We're moving forward, and we want to take the community with us," said Tribal Chairman Dale Miller.
The rancheria's revenue comes from a variety of sources, but the largest is gaming. While officials won't specify just how much money is generated by Elk Valley Casino, it has been so successful that the rancheria plans to build an even larger casino along with the resort hotel.
The new administration building incorporates distinctive flavors of the region, including native redwood and river rock with culturally inspired stained glass and rock inlay.
Built with anticipated employee growth in mind, staff members are finding the extra space a little lonelier than their old elbow-to-elbow work environment. Five private offices and four cubicles have been left vacant in anticipation of the rancheria's future development.
A large community center with high cathedral ceilings and a complex audio-video system stands apart from the rest of the building. Light shines in through a multicolored stained-glass interpretation of the rancheria seal, displaying the honored salmon, redwood, elk and basket cap of local tribal people.
The community room can seat as many as 230 people for a banquet or 500 people for audience seating. Already, outside groups have shown an interest in using the state-of-the-art meeting facility.
The larger building will allow the rancheria's collection of baskets to be on display along with a handcarved redwood dugout canoe made by a local Yurok man, George Wilson. A reference library of historical videos and studies of the Tolowa tribe will be available.
This weekend's celebration will include a blessing prayer, traditional Tolowa dancers and a salmon barbecue. Already, 300 people have said they will attend. State representatives such as Congressman Mike Thompson, Patty Berg and Sam Aanestad have also been invited.
Originally, the Elk Valley Rancheria was designed for homeless Indians who were displaced when non-Indians moved onto their traditional homelands. The rancheria has a base of 100 members, primarily of Tolowa and Yurok descent, but all American Indians can be members. Of that number, only 25 to 35 live locally.