Mooretown Rancheria members are fighting to be recognized as lineal descendants, entitling each of them to thousands of dollars in revenue from Feather Falls Casino.
More than a year ago, the tribal council reclassified 40 members as non-lineal after a genealogical survey by a hired anthropologist found that they were the relatives of Ina Jackson and her first husband, Frank Martin.
After Martin died, she remarried Robert Jackson and they had children, whose descendants are classified as non-lineal members.
Non-lineal members are still eligible for housing, medical care and education, said tribal council member Susan Tiesing.
The decision to reclassify the members was to protect the integrity of the constitution, Tiesing said.
The constitution identifies Robert Jackson, Katie Archuleta and Fred Taylor as distributees of Mooretown Rancheria, Tiesing said. Ina Jackson is listed as "wife," which is part of the conflict.
There are 153 adult lineal members of the tribe and 646 adult non-lineal members, according to a Mooretown Rancheria press release.
Saturday afternoon, Jon Velie, an attorney from Norman, Okla., representing the reclassified members, gave a presentation updating around 70 American Indians and supporters about the status of the battle to regain lineal classification for the 40 members.
"Mooretown is not a kingdom, it is a democracy," Velie said. "This puts the tribe and casino in a position of odds with members."
Velie said he is working with the National Indian Gaming Commission and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to classify Jackson's descendants as lineal.
Velie said the report from the anthropologist hired by the tribal council doesn't fulfill its goals, omits evidence and imposes modern feminist views on a couple living in the 1950s.
"(The anthropologist) tries to portray (Ina) Jackson as only marginally involved," he said. "(Robert and Ina) acted as a unit. They shared what they had."
Debbie Olney, a reclassified descendent of Ina Jackson, said the change in the constitution sets a dangerous precedent.
"It's not just us," she said. "It's going to go with the next family."
Lineal members received around $40,000 from the rancheria in 2004, Olney said.
The government needs to regulate American Indian affairs because the tribal council runs the casino, leaving room for corruption, she said.
"They are saying Ina is just a wife, and that's crazy," Olney said.
Archuleta descendent Darlene Cummings was the tribal chairwoman who helped reorganize the tribe and draft the constitution. The biggest problem with the council is that it doesn't keep all the Mooretown Rancheria members involved and informed.
"It just seems like it's family against family," she said. "There's so much politics and greed."
Tiesing said the tribal council has hired legal counsel to respond to the reclassified members' complaint.
The anthropologist hired to do the genealogical survey is an expert in American Indians and is highly recognized and respected.
Tiesing said the children Jackson had with Martin never grew up or lived in the Feather Falls area, and don't have any ties with the descendants from her first marriage.
"We are trying to remain peaceful through this," she said. "I know it's an emotional issue. It's difficult for us to understand."