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The enigmatic leader behind Rohnert Park casino

Greg Sarris read, flawlessly and in a voice that carried to the corners of the high-ceilinged gallery, the new children's story he's written about characters from Indian lore named Fox, Rattlesnake and Raccoon competing for Hummingbird's heart.

It is a parable about priorities and caring for the less advantaged, and the audience of about 50 applauded warmly in a studio in Santa Rosa's A Street arts district.

Sarris, a Santa Rosa native and chairman for 20 years of a tribe planning to build a casino and resort next to Rohnert Park, has his own story. Woven with a past hard to unravel, his story also is about the perseverance that has his tribe poised to become a North Bay economic and political power.

The casino proposed by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria would be one of the largest in California, with 2,250 employees, yearly revenues of more than $300 million and almost 15,000 cars a day coming in and out of its parking lots.

At the reading earlier this month, Sarris, 60, was a guest author of the Imaginists Theatre Collective. But as he introduced the story and spoke about American Indians, he interrupted himself to raise the subject of the casino.


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