As our Nooksack 306 relations are bringing much needed media attention to their tribal disenrollment and forced evictions, my editorial board* thought it important to bring some reviews of the histories of disenrollment. The most egregious, the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians, which is in Coarsegold, CA north of Fresno which has destroyed the heritage of nearly HALF of their tribe.
The Fresno Bee had been on top of the corruption at Chukchansi for over a DECADE when we posted this story from 2008. The corruption is staggering. The civil and human rights violations that the BIA, the State of California, and the local county governments are still ignoring are STAGGERING. PLEASE read and share on twitter and Facebook.
The biggest, most expensive and most controversial American Indian casino/entertainment complex in central San Joaquin Valley history is expected to make its debut in eastern Madera County in 10 days.
With it comes a long-simmering and increasingly bitter tribal civil war over who will pocket the profits of a business that eventually could rake in $200 million or more a year.
Carved out of a once-forlorn swath of rocks and brush in the Sierra Nevada foothills near Coarsegold, the gamblers' half of the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino is all but finished.
That's the casino, home to 1,800 slot machines and more than 40 card tables. June 25 is the planned opening date, according to the owners, the Chukchansi Indians of Picayune Rancheria.
The 192-room hotel is expected to open next door in August. The total project's estimated cost: $150 million.
Indian gaming has been a fixture in the six-county central San Joaquin Valley for two decades. Gamblers, though, have seen nothing locally like the Chukchansi digs -- nearly 300,000 square feet of casino, hotel and entertainment venues.
Nor has there been anything here quite like the Chukchansi membership fight that has brewed for four years.
Its roots go back even further. Twenty years ago, the tribe had only 30 members, the result of federal policy dating back to the Eisenhower administration designed to terminate Indian lands such as rancherias. The thinking, at least among non-Indians, was that Indians should be assimilated into mainstream America.
It took several decades of court battles, but many tribes finally regained their legal recognition and the right to renew their lives on rancherias. In a word, they were "reconstituted."
By the late 1990s, with the Chukchansi tribe legally reborn, a liberal enrollment policy raised the membership total to more than 1,000.
Then, in 1999, as negotiations with a casino management company neared a critical juncture, nearly 200 people were suddenly kicked out of the tribe.
Membership fights are nothing new among casino-owning tribes. For example, Table Mountain Rancheria in Fresno County has been the center of a long struggle among four extended families of Mono-Chukchansi Indians who own Table Mountain Casino and several hundred Indians who say they have been illegally excluded since the tribe was reborn in the early 1980s.
The Chukchansi battle, though, is different. This doesn't involve people on the outside who want in. These are Indians who were full-fledged tribal members one day and the next day found themselves out in the cold for what they say is no good reason.
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* Editorial board is Me, Myself and I