Friday, May 22, 2009

Even a Five Member Tribe Can't Get Along

7 people can't agree who is in the tribe? Come on, aren't you embarrassed?

An internal dispute continues regarding who is actually a member of the Alturas Rancheria, with the individual the Bureau of Indian Affairs recognizes as its chairman claiming that there are seven voting members, and the individual the BIA recognizes as vice-chairman claiming there are only five voting members. There is also a dispute over who currently holds office and who has been voted out.

Rancheria Chairman Phillip Del Rosa’s representative, Wayne Smith, provided the Daily News with a list of the seven individuals Del Rosa states have voting rights: Del Rosa, Vice-Chairman Darren Rose, Del Rosa’s sister Wendy Del Rosa, who serves as rancheria secretary/treasurer, and members Jennifer Christman, Joseph Burrell, Don Packingham and Calvin Phelps.

Rose told the Daily News Thursday that only the first five have voting rights, as Packingham and Phelps were only awarded honorary membership in the rancheria.
“They don’t have Native (American) blood, so they can’t have a voting membership,” he said. “They are business partners, so we gave them honorary memberships. They are part of our tobacco deal. We plan to start manufacturing our own cigarettes.”

A tobacco shop has opened on the land in the south Yreka area that was originally slated for a casino; plans for a gaming establishment there were eventually scrapped for a variety of reasons. Rose said the manufacturing aspect of the tobacco business is currently on hold.
“We need to straighten out our business relationship first,” he said, referring to Packingham’s and Phelps’ membership status.

The BIA currently recognizes the same five members Rose does.
“At this point we are referring back to the (rancheria) election of a year ago,” Dr. Virgil Akins, the BIA’s Northern California Agency superintendent in the Redding office told the Daily News recently. That election involved just the five members.

“This is to acknowledge receipt of the Report of Tribal Election submitted to this Agency on May 22, 2008, for the Alturas Rancheria Tribal Election. According to the report for the Tribal Election held on April 7, 2008, the following individuals were elected to serve for a term of 2 years to June 2010: Phillip Del Rosa, Chairman; Darren Rose, Vice-Chairman; (and) Wendy Del Rosa, Secretary/Treasurer,” a May 30, 2008 letter sent by Akins to chairman Del Rosa stated.
Akins is well aware of the current dispute.

“They are moving toward mediation with Indian Dispute Resolution Services out of Sacramento,” he said. That non-governmental agency did not respond to a recent email request to discuss the issue sent by the Daily News.
“Everything is subject to change, but that’s where we are today,” Akins concluded. “We hope that they resolve their dispute internally.”
Del Rosa acknowledges that the BIA only recognizes the five members currently.
“The Bureau would absolutely go with the first five,” he said. “The last two are still an issue.”
Del Rosa stated that only he and his sister actually have Alturas Rancheria blood, and that everyone else was adopted into the rancheria, which has historical ties to northeastern California’s Pit River Tribe.
“We are the only direct lineal descendants of this tribe; all the others are adoptees (into the rancheria)”, he said.
Rose was adopted by the rancheria when plans for the casino were developing; he has partial ownership of the site where the casino was to be located. Construction of the casino complex was halted when the project itself was put on hold.
The issue of who has voting rights is crucial to both sides. Rose stated that the Del Rosas were voted out of their positions recently by a 3-2 majority of the five members he recognizes. Del Rosa said that Rose was voted out of his position by a 4-3 majority of the seven members that he recognizes as having voting rights.
The dispute has even gotten physical. Rancheria member Joseph Burrell was arrested for assault and battery on April 23 in Alturas, a Modoc County Sheriff Dept. spokesman told the Daily News recently. The spokesman would not release any more information than that, but Del Rosa claims that he was the victim of that assault.
Clouding the membership issue was an April 9, 2009 letter sent to Rose by the California Department of Justice’s Division of Law Enforcement-Bureau of Gambling Control which implied that that agency agreed that Del Rosa had been voted out of the chairmanship.

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