When Chukchansi tribal council members recently asked the Madera County Board of Supervisors to sign off on a settlement agreement that will help the tribe reopen Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, the supervisors refused.
Board Chairman David Rogers, in a letter sent to the tribe’s lawyers, said the board was unwilling to sign an agreement until the issue of tribal governance has been resolved. Questions over tribal leadership and missing audits led to conflict that sparked the closure of the hotel and casino near Coarsegold in October by the state and federal governments.
“No nontribal entity, whether it be federal, state or local, can authoritatively determine who the governing body of the Chukchansi tribe is,” the county letter said. “Only the tribe can do that. Until such time the tribe itself agrees on which council or other group constitutes its legal governing body, Madera County will not attempt to do so.”
The tribe also is in the process of negotiating settlement agreements with federal and state agencies. Such agreements must be in place before the hotel and casino can reopen.
The settlement agreement that the county rejected would have established police and fire services with monthly payments by the tribe of $112,000, a $1 million annual grant to nonprofits, a $350,000 payment upon lifting of the court federal court order to open the casino and monthly payments to pay off remaining debt to the county at 4% interest.
Supervisor Tom Wheeler said the tribe owes the county about $480,000 so far.
The council that supervisors deal with should be elected by the whole tribe and not be an interim council, he said.
Supervisors were concerned about a letter in February that named the 2010 council as the tribe’s leadership on an interim basis, Wheeler said during a break in the board meeting.
The February letter said the Interior Board of Indian Appeals’ decision “shall not be construed, in any respect, as a determination on the ability of the 2010 council to execute the tribe’s obligations.”
Reggie Lewis, tribal council chairman, said the council that was elected in 2010 has been recognized by the federal government — the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior Board of Indian Appeals and the National Indian Gaming Commission — as the legal tribal leadership.
The county’s letter “was a surprise to us,” Lewis told supervisors Tuesday.
He said the letter came to the tribe’s attention during the tribal council meeting last Thursday.
Read the FULL article at Fresno Bee
The 2010 council is the rightful governing body of the tribe . I don't like it anymore than Madera County does but... it is what it is. Madera has a lot of people out of work and so does the tribe. I feel like the tribe is being bullied by Madera County asking for money we don't have. They claim because the sheriff dept. was used we owe we owe we owe. Under public law 280 the sheriff MUST come out on calls whether we have money or not. Why are they trying to charge us money ? We've given millions over the years. The county needs to stop this extortion and focus on getting over 1000 people back to work. The employees have suffered with trying to live off low unemployment benefits which have run out . Is giving them foodstamps the answer or is giving their job back the answer?
That is fantastic. It is wonderful to see that the County is taking a stand that the tribe must deal with the internal strife that caused the closure in the first place, and deal with it in a democratic way. Inclusion is the native way!
madera county supervisors, surprisingly, made the right call...when will our chukchansi people be heard? until and unless a clean slate election is held by our chukchansi people, ALL our chukchansi people, only more corruption will take place...if one places the same people responsible for the destruction of our people through the disenrollment of over a THOUSAND of our chukchansi people back in charge, the same tribal "leaders" responsible for the theft of over $50 million dollars from our people, what does one expect will happen? these tribal "leaders" promised to bring those disenrolled from picayune home, yet over a THOUSAND tribal citizens remain disenrolled? and WHERE is the promised forensic audit? the madera county board of supervisors is correct in their refusal to sign off at picayune without there being a clean slate election...i support their decision wholeheartedly, and challenge the california state government officials and the NIGC to do the same until these "leaders" keep their promise of a clean slate election, which was promised before may 2, 2015 and HAS NOT occurred...doesn't take much to see why it hasn't...kudos to the madera county supervisors for their stand up decision! cathy l. cory
This is sovereignty biting the tribe in the “you know what.” The tribe has to come together and recognize a council. The way it looks this is going to be almost impossible given all of the competing factions. I am sure they will come up with something for convenience sake and no one is going to be happy. Personally I would work to find tribal members who are respected elders and who have not been part of the problem that got the tribe in such bad shape.
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