Tribal members protest at Picayune Rancheria

Carmen GeorgeAugust 30, 2012 

A group of tribal members protested suspension hearings at the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians Tuesday by holding signs along Picayune Road (417) across from Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino.

An estimated 10 people had hearings scheduled Aug. 28 tacking on additional penalties for alleged involvement in a February tribal office occupation to seat four elected leaders against recent tribal disenrollments. The four elected in December have not been allowed to take their seats on tribal council by those now in power.

Over the past several weeks and throughout this year, the acting tribal council at the rancheria has held a slew of different hearings for many of its members, stripping Chukchansi people of tribal services and monthly stipends from casino profits, debarring them from tribal meetings, revoking their gaming licenses so they can no longer work at the casino, or permanently disenrolling them from the tribe. Suspension sentences range from 10 years to life.

"My sister Rosie tried to go into her hearing today," said Chukchansi woman Nicolette Griffith. "These people are scary to us, they really tried to hurt us during the occupy (of the tribal office), and there was a security guard holding a gun on his lap in the back of the go-cart that escorted her. That's how she's escorted into her meeting? For an unarmed woman, it's a harsh reality ... How many places do you go in America where you get treated that way?"

Many Chukchansi said they don't know why those outside the building on the night of the February tribal office occupation -- who smashed out windows and sprayed bear mace inside, along with reportedly throwing in smoldering logs and a brick -- have not received sanctions against them, while people who peacefully occupied the area have. Others reported that some Chukchansi who were not involved in the occupation, but were related to someone who was, have received tribal sanctions against them.

"Who should really be suspended or even disenrolled for these hideous crimes?" wrote Chukchansi woman Rosie Livingston in a letter to tribal council. "Today, I will have no due process and am striped of my civil rights and human rights."

"They revoked my gaming license, and only two of five gaming commission board members voted," Debben Beesley said.

"They say I still have the right to vote and be on tribal lands, but they've moved everything into the casino and debarred me for life from the casino," Griffith said.

Tribal officials at the rancheria were unavailable to comment for this story.

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