Tribal tensions not affecting Chukchansi Casino business

February 28, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Power struggle continues at the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians. One faction of the tribe is questioning the legitimacy of the latest council in power.

Madera County Sheriff's deputies are on standby to keep the area safe, including the Chukchansi casino visitors.

The casino itself is still up and running. Resort officials say the tension among tribal members is not affecting the daily operations of the casino.

Despite the ongoing conflict among the Chukchansi tribal factions, casino busses continue to pick up patrons and transport them to and from the resort. Resort officials say it's business as usual.

Roger Salazar of Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino said, "The tribal operations and the casino operations are separate, so it doesn't impact our guests, it hasn't impacted the players that come and play here."

But the stakes are much higher across from the casino where sheriff deputies can be seen keeping the peace just outside the tribal government offices.

Erica Stuart of the Madera County Sheriff's Office said, "Knowing that it is still a volatile situation, knowing the tension is still here, we have to be here in the event there is another blowup as there was last year. We were told last year that it wouldn't happen and it did."

Madera County Sheriff's deputies do not want a repeat of the violence that left three people injured during a melee exactly a year ago today. Deputies have been on stand-by since Tuesday night when a security guard of one of the factions allegedly pepper sprayed some individuals on tribal land.

Sheriff John Anderson was able to broker a deal to have both disputing factions finally meet, but law enforcement will be camped out indefinitely.

Kenneth Hansen, a Fresno State professor said, "The tribe has been in turmoil for more than a year and it just continues to happen."

Kenneth Hansen is an American Indian studies professor at Fresno State and says the federal government needs to step in to resolve the dispute. He will be leading a panel discussion on the tribal tensions Thursday night at Fresno State.

Hansen said, "There seems to be fundamental disagreement on what constitutes the tribe in terms of its population. And until they resolve that issue, they're not going to be able to resolve any of the institutional issues that they have."

Both sides have said they want to resolve this in a peaceful manner. While there are not any plans to close down the casino opponents of the current tribe in power say there is a possibility that could happen if chaos erupts.

Reggie Lewis, a former tribal council member said, "If it comes down to that, I guess we'll have to do that because people have to be shown that this kind of activity will lead to that, which is bad for everybody."


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