A partnership between Hard Rock International and the Tejon Tribe to develop a hotel and casino recently took a significant step forward.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) signed off on the proposed project Jan. 8 – one of the last hurdles to clear before the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tejon could eventually move toward a construction timeline.
The $600 million project is to be built on a site in Mettler, California – 14 miles south of Bakersfield and 90 miles north of Los Angeles. California Gov. Gavin Newsom must now approve the BIA decision. If he does, the Department of Interior can take the land into trust.
“From the start of our relationship with the United States government in 1851 our Tribe has fought for a homeland for our people,” Octavio Escobedo III, chairman of the Tejon Indian Tribe, said in a statement after the BIA approval. “Today we are … closer to that dream.”
Escobedo said the project would enable the tribe to “move closer to the promise of self-determination through economic development.” The BIA has agreed, saying it would allow the tribe to be self-sufficient and maintain a stable source of revenue to provide for governmental programs.
The proposed project has been in various stages of approval since 2016. A big hurdle was cleared when Kern County Supervisors approved a government-to-government agreement by a 4-0 vote in 2019 – the same year Hard Rock came onboard.
“This has been a long but worthwhile journey for the tribe and its citizens,” Escobedo said in his statement.
Escobedo also thanked the Seminole Tribe, who is the parent entity of Hard Rock International, as well as federal officials and local supporters.
He said the Seminole Tribe “stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us to help make our dream of restoring our land base a close-at-hand reality.”
Plans call for an 11-story hotel with 400 rooms and a 166,500-square foot gaming floor. There would be convention and meeting space, an event center, restaurants, an RV park and tribal offices.
The development would be built on 52 acres of a 306-acre parcel the tribe owns in Mettler. The project is expected to generate thousands of temporary and permanent jobs. As of press time there was no specific timeline for construction or a predicted opening date.
The Tejon Tribe was federally recognized in 2012 and today has approximately 1,100 members, the majority of which live in the Bakersfield area.
According to the tribe, its ancestors lived in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, along the southern tip of the San Joaquin Valley, and they were known as the Kitanemuk people.
Since the 1950s, most of its tribal members moved to Bakersfield, where Tejon descendants remain.
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