Our friend Marc Benjamin of the Fresno Bee is doing great work keeping the Chukchansi disenrollment story out front.
The Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians tribal council is trying to guarantee its hold on power by targeting tribal members who support a group that also claims to be the rightfully elected council.
The council is taking away financial benefits and banning tribal members if they supported the group headed by Morris Reid that sought to be sworn in as the council at a turbulent meeting in December.
Concerned that continuing disenrollments would disenfranchise supporters, Reid's group thwarted a Feb. 4 election that was supposed to choose a replacement for a disqualified candidate.
The dissident group hoped that federal authorities would decide which council represents the tribe. But Bureau of Indian Affairs officials in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., said last week that the dispute must be handled by the tribe, not the federal government.
That federal indifference came as no surprise to those following Chukchansi issues.
"Given the BIA's history and given the political clout wealthy gaming tribes have amassed, people in Congress and the bureau are reluctant to step in, but they shouldn't be because they have jobs to do," said David Wilkins, an American Indian studies professor at the University of Minnesota.
BIA Pulls a Sergeant Shultz move: I KNOW NOTHING!
Troy Burdick, the BIA's central California superintendent, said only Congress has authority to make laws requiring tribal courts or more BIA involvement.
Chukchansi's standing as a federally recognized tribe is at risk, and Congress must do something if BIA doesn't, said Laura Wass, a Fresno-based representative with the American Indian Movement.
"Congress set this up and Congress is not intervening when the situation is the most toxic ever," she said.
The tribal council now in power is led by Reggie Lewis. His group's lawyer, Arizona-based Robert Rosette, said members of the group led by Reid thwarted the Feb. 4 election for the disqualified candidate's seat by convincing the accounting firm that runs the election that it shouldn't be held
Read more here: Chukchansi Council Dispute
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Unelected Council of Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians