YouTube video shows Chukchansi tribal divisions continue

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A video, posted on YouTube by a member of the Chukchansi tribe, shows what happened two weeks ago, the last time members of the Chukchansi tribe got together.

Yelling and shoving broke out among the crowd of more than 500 tribal members, who were each paid $1,000 to come to Fresno and vote on whether to appoint a temporary leadership group headed by Reggie Lewis. The Lewis group won, and in an interview with Action News, he downplayed the commotion.

"We are no different from anybody else, there's always going to be friction. You get 900 people together you think everybody's going to think the same? I beg to differ," said Lewis.

From the video it's obvious everybody doesn't think the same but Lewis and his so-called unification council won a clear majority of the votes. Lewis hopes his group can now be legally recognized by the federal government to do the tribe's business, mainly the casino, and get it reopened, eventually.

"As far as I know the timeline hasn't been decided on, but I know for sure it's not going to be quick, even if they get the word to open up pretty soon within a month or two it will be several months probably after that at best, and that's the best-case scenario," said Lewis.

Most of the gambling machines were leased and have already been removed from the casino by the owners. The National Indian Gaming Commission and a federal judge revoked the casino's right to operate following the violent takeover attempt by a tribal faction headed by Tex McDonald on October 9. McDonald remains in the Madera County Jail on assault and other charges.

McDonald's followers remain at the tribal offices across the street from the casino. Their new chairperson, Donna Featherstone, told Action News Lewis heads a "rogue leadership group" that will not be recognized by anyone. But Lewis says as the tribe runs out of money there may be more cooperation.

Another tribal faction headed by Morris Reid is also fighting. They don't believe the election held two weeks ago picking a temporary tribal council is valid. Reid told Action News he doesn't believe the casino can be reopened until someone is recognized by the government as being in charge.

One reason the casino was shut down was to insure the safety of the public, and the video showing physical conflict between tribal members is not likely to help any faction's case to reopen the place.

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