History

Margaret DaltonHistory of Jackson Rancheria
Band of Miwuk Indians

The Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians was first recognized by the Federal Government in 1898. Over 100 years later the Tribe enjoys self-sufficiency and self reliance thanks to the vision and determination of one small Indian woman.

Margaret L. (Hughes) Dalton was born in Tuolumne, California to her Native American Mother, Tessie Jeff, and her non-Indian Father, Clyde Hughes. After completing her ninth grade year at Calaveras High School, she left school and married Earl Dalton, Sr. in 1956, when she was 16 years old. 

Their dream was to make their small Band of Miwuk Indians self-sufficient, not dependent on any state or government funding. It was a journey that would take over 40 years to complete.

Margaret and Earl moved to Jackson Rancheria where they raised four sons, Earl Jr., Dennis, Robert, and Adam, as well as Margaret’s brothers and sister, Irvin “Bo,” Clarence, Gary, and Donna. They had one steadfast rule in their household - all eight children must graduate from high school. And all eight did.

Margaret knew her Tribe must form their own government to strengthen themselves in their dealings with local, state, and federal governments. The Tribe held a meeting in 1979 and established a formal government. Margaret was elected Tribal Chairperson, a position she held uncontested for 30 years.

In 1980 Margaret lost her best friend, and husband when Earl Sr. died in a logging accident, leaving Margaret to pursue their dreams on her own. 

In 1984, she read about the success of the Seminole Tribe in Florida opening their own Bingo Hall and she began a search for private investors to help her Tribe open a Bingo Hall.

The Tribe opened their first Bingo Hall in 1985, but it was a rocky start on their path to self-reliance. The Bingo Hall opened and closed three times. With Margaret’s incredible determination, she convinced her Tribal Government to let her try one more time. In 1991, with backing from honest investors, Jackson Indian Bingo opened its doors.

Several political moves were necessary for the Bingo Hall to grow into a Casino. The Tribe watched carefully as California voters approved Proposition 5, the Tribal Government Gaming and Economic Self-Sufficiency Act in 1998. The following year the Tribe signed a compact with the State of California. Proposition 1A, the California Indian Self-Reliance Amendment, passed in 2000, affirming the right to gaming on tribal lands and Jackson Rancheria’s path to self sufficiency was clear.

Unlike many California casinos which sprang up as giant properties in lightly populated rural areas, often with considerable local resistance, Jackson Rancheria has grown along with its community and for the most part enjoyed substantial local support. 

Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort is now the largest employer in Amador County and has spent and donated tens of millions of dollars into the local economy. A new access road, Dalton Road, opened in 2006 reducing the casino’s impact on county roads.

Over the years the metal building that housed the first Bingo Hall has grown into a casino complex that includes multiple restaurants, a Hotel, RV Park, General Store & Gas Station, and the first LEED certified building in the county. The Tribe has also built new homes for its residents, a medical and dental clinic, water and sewage treatment plants, an auto mechanic shop, child care center for employees’ children, and an off-reservation apartment complex. 

Margaret and Earl Dalton’s dream was the betterment of the Native American’s way of life. Margaret lived to see that dream come true for her Tribe.

Today her Tribe continues down the path she envisioned, now led by her son Adam Dalton, who was elected Tribal Chairperson in January 2013, and her grandson Vice Chairperson Earl Dalton. The Tribal Council also includes Secretary/Treasurer Nick Wilson and General Council Representatives Robert Dalton Sr. and Dennis Dalton.

In honor of Margaret’s vision, determination, and accomplishments, the Tribe has declared her birthday, February 9, to be Founder’s Day.

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