Possible human remains discovered at Chukchansi Crossing site

Some construction work on Chukchansi Crossing, a future fueling station in Coarsegold owned by the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians, was halted Wednesday after a technician discovered what appeared to be a human bone fragment on the site’s location at the corner of Highway 41 and Lucky Lane.

“After this discovery, we have taken all steps necessary including securing the area and notifying experts at Fresno State University, the Tribal Historical Preservation Officer of the Natural Cultural Resource Department, Madera County Sheriff’s and Coroner’s Office,” Tribal Chairwoman Claudia Gonzales said in a release. “In the area surrounding this find we have halted construction until we have a better understanding of what has been uncovered.”

Gonzales said all construction on tribal lands is “carefully evaluated and monitored” by Tribal Cultural Technicians to ensure the artifacts of the tribe are protected.

“Our heritage on Tribal lands is sacred and we take responsibility to our lands very seriously,” Gonzales said.

Spokespeople with the tribe said it was unclear thus far whether the bone fragment was from a human or animal, and whether or not foul play was involved.

There was no estimated time for when work could continue on the delayed portion of the gas station, which is expected to open by the end of the year.

Late Thursday afternoon Tribal Council Chairwoman Claudia Gonzales released the following statement about the situation:

“Today the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians are continuing to work with all relevant authorities including law enforcement on the investigation into the remains that were found at the fuel station construction site yesterday. As always we will continue to work closely with Madera County officials to make sure we all understand what the findings mean.”

At a groundbreaking ceremony in January, tribal officials outlined how Chukchansi Crossing will have 18 gasoline pumps, three fueling islands for buses and RVs, and two charging outlets for electric vehicles, as well as a car wash and retail center when completed as designed. There are also plans for food service and a smoke shop.

During construction, the station will create some 200 jobs, and have around 20 full-time positions when opened.

“This is an important economic development project for our tribe,” Gonzales said at the event. “This is another promise fulfilled by the tribal council to provide new revenue streams to continue to reestablish its economic and cultural strength.”

Some in the community are concerned, however, that the station will be able to offer substantially lower fuel prices than competitors.

Since Chukchansi Crossing will be located on sovereign tribal land near Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, it will sell gasoline without paying state or federal taxes, which could mean prices some 50 cents lower than surrounding gas stations.

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