Video Highlights Divisions In Chukchansi Leadership
Last month, 500 members of the Chukchansi tribe met in Fresno to try and iron out their differences and reopen the group’s casino. But video taken of the meeting, however, is proof that the discussions are not going as well as some tribal members would have the media believe.
In the video, members of the tribe can be seen pushing, shoving and interrupting each other while speaking on stage. The purpose of the meeting was to vote for potential temporary leaders who would help settle the legal difficulties which have prohibited the Chukchansi Gold Casino from reopening to the public. Three months have now passed since state and federal regulators ordered the resort closed after it was stormed in a violent assault by a faction run by Tex McDonald last summer.
Another group, headed by Reggie Lewis, won the vote at the meeting, but some argue that not all of the factions inside the tribe had been represented. Lewis, however, played down the reports that violence had erupted during the get together. “We are no different from anybody else, there’s always going to be friction,” he said. “You get 900 people together you think everybody’s going to think the same? I beg to differ.”
At the time, cochair of the so-called Unification Counsel, Nancy Ayala, lauded the vote which would give her and Reggie Lewis temporary powers to conduct tribal business. “As a proud people, the Chukchansi have had to endure hardship and harsh conditions in order to survive, and the overwhelming support that the general council bestowed upon us as tribal leaders is an honor which we take seriously,” she said in a press release.
But the video paints a different picture. In the clip uploaded to YouTube, the meeting seems to devolve into chaos, with many apparently not accepting the decision to put the Lewis faction in charge. Lewis now hopes to be recognized by the government as the group who will be responsible for the tribe’s business dealings.
At the moment, the casino is in a sort of purgatory. After the building was raided by the Tex McDonald faction, those involved were later arrested and charged with various crimes. McDonald himself is currently in jail on a multimillion dollar bail.
Even though the tribe voted during the Fresno meeting, finding a true consensus among the group will not be an easy task. Other members have already spoken out against the Lewis faction, like McDonald’s new chairperson, Donna Featherstone, who called her rivals a “rogue leadership group.” She assured that it would not be recognized by anyone.
Lewis is confident that as time drags on, the tribe will rally behind his faction. The casino is vital to the tribe’s budget, and is currently sitting empty, making no revenue for Chukchansi members.
Yet another faction, led by Morris Reed, has also rejected the recent vote, and says that nothing will get done until the government appoints someone to lead the efforts to reopen the resort.