FRESNO, Calif., Nov. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- On Saturday, November 16 nearly 500 Chukchansi Tribal members gathered at the Tribe's annual Thanksgiving celebration to petition the Tribal Council to call a special election to amend the Tribe's Constitution to prevent future disenrollments and end the tiered membership criteria that currently exists under the Tribe's Constitution.
The meeting came just one day after Nancy Ayala, who with a small group of Tribal members took control of the Chukchansi Casino in February by force, released a statement putting the Tribe's most precious asset at risk of default and closure. A New York Court had previously ordered the Ayala group to abide by a Trustee approved plan that required a $2.78 million interest payment on the Tribe's debt by November 15, but Ayala violated the plan by not making the payment, while still taking at least $2 million in cash from the casino cage. Ayala continued the dishonesty that has alienated Tribal members and the Tribe's business partners by improperly stating in documents filed with the SEC that the federal government had recognized her as Tribal Chair, which is false.
Under the Tribe's Constitution, a petition signed by 30% of Tribal members compels the Tribal Council to call a special election to amend the Tribe's Constitution. At the meeting Saturday, attended by about 500 members, a petition was signed compelling a special election to amend the Constitution as well as a second petition requesting a special General Council Meeting. The amendments to the Chukchansi Constitution will eliminate the reference to "special relationship" and provide equal membership status for all Chukchansi Tribal members.
"No one will be disenrolled or treated any differently as a result of these Constitutional amendments proposed to the Tribal Council by the Tribal membership," said Reggie Lewis, Chairman of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians. "We are one people – Chukchansi and our Constitution should reflect that. While Ayala is lying to our lenders about decisions by the federal government and harming the Tribe by only providing services and benefits to a small group of Tribal members, the Tribe's General Council and the Tribal Council are taking action to prevent the mass disenrollments that she has already commenced."
Tribal members also heard statements from Tribal members formerly employed at the Chukchansi Casino describing their unfair and unlawful termination by the Ayala Faction. The Tribal members stated that subsequent to attending the Tribe's General Council meeting in September, the employees were shown pictures of themselves attending the meeting and told that if they did not give Ayala the standard $1,000 cultural stipend they received for attending the meeting, the Tribal members would be fired. The Tribal members told the hundreds of Tribal members gathered that when they refused to pay Ayala the money, they were fired and told they were ineligible to work at the casino ever again.
Candidates running in the Tribe's December election also gave speeches urging Tribal members to vote in the election. Among the candidates are current Tribal Chairman Reggie Lewis, and former Tribal Chairs Dixie Jackson and Morris Reid.
The Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians is a federally-recognized Indian Tribe that has lived continuously in California's Central Valley and Sierra Foothills for more than 12,000 years. Today, the Chukchansi Tribe operates the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino on its ancestral territory in Coarsegold, California. The casino employs over 1,200 individuals making it one of the largest employers in Madera County.
SOURCE Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians