Chukchansi Tribe elects new governing council

FRESNO, Calif.

But opponents are calling the election illegal. The group in power says yesterday's referendum to call an election was Constitutional.

The other side disputes that calling the actions illegal. This comes almost a year after the tribal government office was taken over.

There was a chaotic scene almost a year ago as two factions of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians disputed over tribal council election results.

But it was a much different atmosphere Thursday night after a new council was elected under the direction of Tribal Chairwoman Nancy Ayala.

Ayala said, "A referendum was handed to me last night, with 30 percent of those qualified voters' signatures on that."

The tribe's constitution requires 30 percent of qualified enrolled members to call for an election. Ayala says an independent audit revealed there are only 46 legally enrolled members. But opponents say there are more than 200 members many of which are being dis-enrolled.

Dora Jones, Former Tribal Council Member said, "If a referendum is submitted without that qualification of 30 percent of voters, then it's an illegal referendum."

Dora Jones and Morris Reid were part of the group not allowed to take power last year after their opponents refused to step down. Their election was discredited and as a result both were suspended.

Morris Reid, Former Tribal Council Member said, "This time it's about money, it's about getting the tribe down to a point that the per capita would be very high if there were only a few. We are not dis-enrolling people. That is not our motive. We are going to make amendments to the constitution so people fit."

Ayala says the referendum was constitutional and wants to move on. But Fresno State political science professor Ken Hansen says this turmoil could last for some time.

Hansen said, "This has been allowed to go on and its keep repeating because the federal government sets up tribal governments like Chukchansi to fail and then doesn't do anything about it."

Now as for both Jones and Reid, they tell me they are in the process of appealing the tribe's decision to suspend them.

They say they want the Bureau of Indian Affairs to step in but the agency has refused to mediate the ongoing conflict.

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