Law | Politics

BIA issues decision in Chukchansi Tribe leadership dispute

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has issued a decision regarding the leadership dispute within the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians of California.

Three factions have been battling for control of the tribe for more than three years. The situation has gotten so bad that federal agencies are withholding funds for key programs, BIA Regional Director Amy Dutschke said in a decision on Monday.

But rather than outright resolve the matter, Dutschke said she will conduct business "on an interim basis" with a council that consists of seven members -- including the three people who claim to be in control of the tribe.

"The situation at the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians has deteriorated to a point that recognition of a government is essential for the. purpose of contracting under the [Indian Self-Determination Act and to prevent any further hiatus of this government-to-government relationship with the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians," Dutschke wrote in the decision.

Dutschke said the council includes Nancy Ayala, Morris Reid, Reggie Lewis. All three claim to be the legitimate leader of the tribe and Lewis in fact asserted that he has been recognized as chairman by the BIA.

"Everyone was waiting for the BIA to weigh in, and now it has," Lewis said in a press release today. "Finally, there is no more dispute as to who is the leader of the tribal government and the BIA-recognized tribal council looks forward to re-establishing our government-to-government relationship."

Dutschke said she will ask the Interior Board of Indian Appeals to finalize her decision immediately.

Join the Conversation