Chukchansi Tribe cut membership in half after opening of casino

The Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold, California. Photo from Facebook

Gaming has been good for the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians in California, provided one can prove they still belong in the tribe in order to claim a per capita payment.

After being restored to federal recognition in the 1980s, the tribe's membership was around 1,800, Valley Public Radio reported. But in the years following the opening of the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, the rolls have been cut in half.

“It wasn’t even money; it was the idea of money,” Nancy Ayala, the co-chair of a tribal faction that has been in control of the casino, told Valley Public Radio. “There weren’t that many Indians up on the hill before then the casino came and people started moving in.”

Critics accuse Ayala of wanting to cut down the rolls even further. But the tribe has bigger problems right now -- the casino has been closed since October 2014 as part of a dispute among rival leaders, including some who are in jail.

“They didn’t want to do an audit,” Tex McDonald, the jailed leader of another faction, told Valley Public Radio. “Since they’ve been in power $11 million is missing. So we come in and want to know what happened to it. They stole money from us.”

Ayala and her co-chair, Reggie Lewis, hope to call a new election to resolve the dispute as early as May, Valley Public Radio reported .That could be the first step in reopening the casino.

Get the Story:
Money, Greed and Power Keep Chukchansi Casino Closed, Tribe Still Divided (Valley Public Radio 3/17)

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