Saturday, February 23, 2013

Chukchansi Tribe at WAR again..

The Fresno Bee's Marc Benjamin continues to tell the said saga of the corruption at the Picayune Rancheria.
Is it time to initiate a BOYCOTT of their casino?
Another power struggle has erupted at the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians after a group of the tribe's original descendants took over a business meeting Thursday night.

Now, like last year, two factions claim they are in charge of the tribal government.

Tribal chairwoman Nancy Ayala, a descendant of the Wyatt family of original tribal members, announced a new board was taking over after she was handed a referendum signed by about a dozen descendants of the original rancheria landholders that demanded the replacement of the tribal council.

She ordered vice chairman Reggie Lewis and council members Chance Alberta and Carl Bushman off the board. A fourth member had recently resigned. Two other members were previously suspended.

Then Ayala named six members from her family and the Ramirez family -- the other "lineal descendants" -- to the board.

"It was an orderly transition that followed the constitution," said Roger Salazar, who represents Ayala's group after last year serving as a spokesman for the Lewis group. "The chairwoman was given a petition and under the constitution she had to act upon it."

The tribal constitution requires that a new council be seated once a referendum is signed by 30% of the tribe's voting members. The referendum Ayala received was signed by 30% of the voting members of the tribe's lineal descendants, the "noncontested enrolled members" of the tribe, Salazar said.

But the move was unconstitutional, said Richard Verri, an Arizona lawyer who represents the Lewis group, which contends it is the rightful tribal council.

He said the tribe has 800 qualified voters and that 30% of those voters must sign a referendum to impanel a new board.

Verri said the Ramirez/Wyatt referendum had 14 signatures, which represents about 30% of the two families' voters. He called the move a "coup d'├ętat" and an attempt to reduce the tribe to the 46 members of the two families.

Such reductions have occurred regularly in recent years. Large-scale disenrollments began a few years after the 2003 opening of the Chukchansi casino.

Before the casino, the tribe built up membership to obtain additional federal money. After records were destroyed in the 1990s, the tribe's enrollment committee decided that all members previously certified to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs were valid members.

But the tribal council then decided that all members would have to provide documentation from a checklist or be disenrolled. Over the past decade, hundreds of people have lost their tribal membership.

Thursday's tribal council takeover was short-lived. Verri said Lewis' group controls the security team, which removed Ayala's faction from the business meeting. They went to another tribal building and stayed there for several hours before leaving.

Thursday night, Lewis and his group secured the tribe's financial records and suspended Ayala from the board.

Meanwhile, Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino continues to operate normally, Verri said.

Madera County Sheriff John Anderson met Friday with both groups away from the casino and business buildings. He said they promised there would be no violence -- which marked last year's dispute.

Anderson was told that both factions sent petitions to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. A call to the BIA office in Sacramento was not returned Friday.

The power struggle has been brewing for some time and picked up steam after members of a third group that won election in December 2011 were prohibited from taking over the council by Lewis' group, which included Ayala.

Read more here at the FRESNO BEE For more on tribal disenrollments in CA, we have stories at the links below:

KNBC’s Without A Tribe

Redding Rancheria

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