Chukchansi Feud: Tribal Office Takeover | News
The fight over who has the right to lead the Picayune Rancheria Chukchansi Indians heated up Monday morning. More than 30 supporters of the newly elected council cut locks and stormed the tribal council office. The office is located just behind the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino on Road 417 in Coarsegold.
Tribal offices broken into, an angry chanting mob and upset leaders crying "foul." At first blush, it may be hard to tell the good guys from the bad -- until you hear their stories.
After cutting the locks on gates, about 40 men and women entered the tribal government office, through a locked window and disabled the alarm.
Morris Reid says he and his group are just taking over the offices that should have been theirs since last December, when he and his fellow tribal council members won the election.
"You know the people that elected us in an overwhelming election are now saying and did say they want change. They don't want disenrollment," said newly elected tribal council chairman Morris Reed.
But Reid says the former council members refused to give up their seats. He asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to step in to settle the power struggle, but it called the matter an internal tribal conflict. So Reid and others say they were forced to take matters into their own hands.
"Membership has spoken both on December 3rd which got us elected here today, and on February 27th that took over this building. Hey our home is now open to you guys to come back in and do the right thing and treat all tribal members fairly," said Dora Jones, newly elected vice chair of the tribal council.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Stanley, a tribal council member with the former group, wanted Madera County Sheriff's Deputies to step in.
KMPH News Reporter Erik Rosales says, "You guys are calling this a break-in, and they're calling it sovereign."
Stanley says, "When you break a window, and you break doors, and you plow down fences, that is a break-in. The sheriff is not willing to recognize it, that is a break-in in any other part of this world."
But Madera County Sheriff John Anderson says the sheriff's department is treating it as a "family disagreement."
"Because this is all Indian trust land, our laws don't apply here. The only thing that applies are California criminal laws. With regards to all of the politics involved in the tribe, there's really nothing we can do except try and keep the peace," Sheriff Anderson said.
Members of the new council and its supporters say that they will camp outside the tribal government building 24/7 until the issue is resolved.
While the tribe remains divided, the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino remains open to the public.
Late Monday night, deputies were at the tribal office after the people inside said someone threw a brick through the window and hit one of the new tribal leaders.