Chukchansi tribal members fight disenrollment
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Sheriff's Deputies and Highway Patrol officers were called in to keep the peace on the Chukchansi Indian Reservation near Coarsegold. Protestors gathered outside tribal headquarters, just across the road from the tribe's multi-million dollar casino complex.
Tribal leaders wrapped chains around the headquarters gate to prevent anyone from getting in, while they met with attorneys to discuss the latest dispute over a tribal election, that could change the makeup of the Tribal Council.
Protestor Nicolette Griffith described it as a "hostile takeover by the losers of the election." The tribal council nullified the results of a recent election that would have changed the makeup of the board. Griffith said a group opposed to the disenrollment of tribal members would have become the majority.
Griffith and other protestors accused the current tribal council majority of trying to dis-enroll, or kick out, hundreds of tribal members in order to increase the revenues from the tribe's casino for the remaining tribal members. Over the years the disenrollment process has cut the tribal membership rolls from about 2,000 to around 1,200. Each tribal member currently received about $300 a month in casino revenues.
Tribal Chairman Reggie Lewis denies the claim. He says the disenrollment process is all about insuring the integrity of the tribe. Lewis also claims the tribal council was unable to certify the results of the recent election at the tribes monthly meeting on Monday night because of disruptive actions at the meeting. He says an election committee decided one candidate was not eligible to run for office and was disqualified. He said another election for that seat will be scheduled.
Disenrollment disputes have become common among casino tribes. Federal law allows tribal councils the sole authority to decide who qualifies to be a member.
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