California tribe pulls casino members, refuses to pay dividends
The Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians has removed 60 people from profit-sharing schemes
Unequivocally, the latest chapter of what could turn into a long novel has just been written. A California tribe recently voted to remove 60 individuals from a casino profit-sharing agreement related to their membership in the tribe. The Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians in Coarsegold is playing with fire and will almost definitely lead to at least one lawsuit. The decision follows an ongoing dispute that has, at times, resulted in violence.
The vote to kick out the individuals comes as different factions within the tribe are vying for position and looking to take over as tribal leaders. This infighting has led to armed confrontations, repeated disenrollments and violence that are upending the tribe’s stability. During one of the forced disenrollments, conducted in 2016, some of the families that founded the tribe were kicked out. Prior to that, a casino owned by the tribe had to be closed for a year – back in 2014 – after two rival factions engaged in armed conflict at the venue.
Some argue that the move to kick out the members – reportedly 125 – is nothing more than an attempt to control casino gaming revenue by a small group within the tribe. However, tribal council chair Jennifer Ruiz denies this, asserting, “It was determined that these individuals do not meet the requirements for Tribal enrollment and it was necessary to suspend their memberships as part of a formal review and disenrollment hearing.”
Chukchansi descendant Cathy Cory and her family were kicked out in 2006 and she knows what the latest targets are feeling. She explains, “It’s generational trauma for the Indian people of California. To have your birthright stolen by your own tribe is hurtful, ridiculous and unnecessary.”