The Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians seated a tribal council Thursday that mirrors the 2010 elected council.
In so doing, the tribe followed a directive by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. With recognition from the BIA, the tribe can receive federal money.
The council is made up of tribal council members Reggie Lewis, Nancy Ayala, Morris Reid, Dora Jones, Chance Alberta, Jennifer Stanley and Nokomis Hernandez.
The members from 2010 were chosen because that was the last uncontested election, the BIA said in its order last year. That order was upheld by the Interior Bureau of Indian Appeals earlier this month.
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A new council election is scheduled in early May. The BIA will assist the tribe in the election, said Lewis, the tribal chairman.
He said that the BIA might send ballots to the tribe. It is not yet worked out who can vote and run for the council.
Lewis said he would have the BIA oversee every part of the election to avoid accusations of favoritism. “If it was up to me, I would let them do everything,” he said.
The BIA’s recognition of the 2010 council allows the panel to serve as the contractor for federal grants.
The BIA’s recognition, Lewis said, will allow the 2010 council to begin building a relationship with the National Indian Gaming Commission, which closed Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in late October. It has been shut down since.
“Our people are in contact with them,” Lewis said, referring to the NIGC.
Officials representing two rival factions, one led by Luke Davis and the other by Donna Featherstone (formerly the Tex McDonald group), oppose the federal government’s action and are considering their options under the federal Administrative Procedures Act.
Davis said his group plans to seek a review of the Interior Board of Indian Appeals’ decision.
Les Marston, who represents the Featherstone group, said he thinks the decision to name the 2010 council as the tribe’s leadership is limited to federal contracts, but also is “arbitrary.” He said the group is considering its options under the Administrative Procedures Act based on how the Bureau of Indian Affairs handles tribal issues over the coming weeks and months.