The Fresno Bee has a big story on the expulsion of hundreds fromt the Picayune Rancheria. We need our representatives to STAND UP for those of us who have suffered at the hands of their tribes.
With millions of dollars flowing into the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino near Coarsegold each month, the Indians of the Picayune Rancheria have tapped into a source of wealth they hope will end decades of poverty.
But not everyone gets to share the bounty.
Over the last several years, the tribe has expelled about half its members, stripping them of their Native American heritage, former members say.
Hundreds have been cut from the rolls even though many could clearly document their Chukchansi descent, they said. Some had been tribal leaders. Even two of the last 10 people who speak the tribe's language were removed, one former member said.
Those who were kicked out of the tribe, including the jobless or elderly, lost health-care benefits, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. subsidies, college scholarships and any hope for a share of casino profits.
Those who remain could receive significantly larger payouts from the casino now that membership has been slashed, former members say.
"What better way to get more money in the future than to whittle down your tribe?" asked Mary Chapman, a 71-year-old retired Fresno County worker who says she was expelled after she questioned the disenrollments.
Tribal Chairman Morris Reid says the disenrollments were necessary to correct past membership mistakes and had nothing to do with increasing the wealth of remaining tribal members. OP: This is a standard answer from many tribes. Do you think they all went to the SAME disenrollment seminar, or got their legal advice from the SAME law firms?
"We had to find out if they were qualified Chukchansi," he said. "It was a process and procedure that had to be followed."
But some who have been expelled say the move contradicts the original purpose of Indian gaming: to draw a long-suffering people out of poverty and unite them in prosperity.
"It's really a sad day when your people are engaging in the theft of your identity to line their pockets," said Cathy Cory, a special-education teacher in Porterville who was disenrolled along with 41 members of her family. OP: Cathy has been out front for those who were disenrolled from Picayune, mostly alone and standing up for hundreds.
The Chukchansi tribe had 23 members two decades ago after it was officially recognized by the federal government. The tribe boosted membership to more than 1,500 by the late 1990s, in part to increase federal aid, tribal leaders later said. OP: WILL the tribe RE-imburse the federal government for all the money and benefits they received for those tribal members they now have eliminated?
Then, as the sparkling casino doors swung open in 2003, the seven-member tribal council decided it had enrolled too many people. It ordered a membership audit and, according to former members, kicked out more than 500 members in 2006. It had already expelled more than 200 members years earlier. OP: Thats..uh, 700.
Those disenrolled include retirees and children, teachers and college students -- some in the Valley and others scattered across the country. The tribal council voted to kick out members who had served on tribal committees and on the tribal council, and booted at least one sitting council member. Others were removed from the tribe even though their blood relatives were allowed to stay.
The federal government hasn't recorded membership since 2005, but former members say the tribe has about 760 people. Reid, the chairman, estimated membership at 900 to 1,100, but said he did not have an exact count. OP: REID, therefore must be a liar. They don't have a complete membership roll? He can't come closer than a 200 member spread? Can we trust someone like HIM to pay California our rightful share of casino profits?
Read the LINK above for the complete story. This is NOT what we voted on.