Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Chukchansi Claims Leadership Dispute is Settled. Questions over Voting Arise.
Can the Chukchansi Tribe survive the turmoil. What does this mean for those who were disenrolled a decade ago? Has Reggie Lewis seen the light?
Here’s the story from the Central Valley Business Times
Officials of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians say that their members have affirmed members to a tribal council and suspended three people who had claimed the leadership.
It’s the apparent resolution of a lengthy dispute over tribal leadership and with it control of a large business enterprise including the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino near Coarsegold east of Fresno.
With 1,800 slot machines, a 56,000 square-foot gaming floor, six restaurants and a 400-room hotel, the Chukchansi operation is the sixth largest Indian casino in Northern California.
The referendum asked members to affirm that the legitimate Tribal Council consists of Reggie Lewis (chairman); Chance Alberta (secretary/treasurer); Carl “Buzz” Bushman (member-at-large); and Irene Waltz (member-at-large).
Tribal members additionally affirmed in the referendum the suspensions of Karen Wynn, Tracey Brechbuehl, and Nancy Ayala as active members of the Tribal Council, tribe officials say.
The referendum was conducted with the assistance of Indian Dispute Resolution Services, which assisted in the acquisition and processing of the required member signatures. The tribe needed 225 signatures to pass a referendum and according to IDRS, which collected the signatures, the tribe received 337, exceeding the requirement. OP: Remember when there were well over a THOUSAND in the tribe?
In accordance with the tribe’s Constitution, which was approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1988, the referendum process enables the members of tribe’s General Council to determine the tribe’s leadership.
The referendum was necessary after a group of tribal members submitted a petition with 14 unverified signatures removing several members of the Council and installing themselves, members of their family, and suspended tribal members as the tribe’s governing body.
“Throughout this entire process the Tribal Council has acted with the best interests of all tribal members in mind,” says Reggie Lewis, chairman of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians. “Ultimately, it is up to the General Council consisting of all tribal members to determine the governing body of the tribe and that is exactly what happened. We look forward to focusing on taking care of tribal members and restoring the services that were reduced due to the conduct of the illegal group that attempted to install itself as Tribal Council and its supporters, who refused to deposit money into the bank account to support the Tribe’s most vulnerable citizens.”
“The will of the people cannot be clearer regarding the governing body of the tribe. Now we need assistance from the Department of Interior, the NIGC [National Indian Gaming Commission] and other federal agencies with jurisdiction to make it known to everyone else outside the tribe,” says Mr. Lewis. “A hands-off approach is not working and the longer the federal government waits to act, the more harm that will be done to Tribal members and our business partners.”