In Indian Country today, we are divided in a lopsided mess of haves and have-nots. The haves have control of their Tribe, their Tribal casino and their vast fortunes. The have-nots are those with no casinos, those who have been terminated from their Tribe thanks to the haves or the real majority of those Native Americans who have never been recognized from the outset.
"How has this come to pass?" you may have asked yourself on one or more occasion as I know I have. The simple truth is that we have no one to blame but ourselves. I am one of the have-nots, having been terminated from my Tribe, the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians in Coarsegold CA.
Even though I was the Chairman of the Enrollment Committee at the time our casino opened, and at the time the Tribal Council first directed the Committee to begin an audit that would eventually lead to the termination of 2/3 of the Tribe (to date), the membership failed to grasp the gravity of the situation that was about to befall them as a result of the order to audit. I did as best as I could to spell it out for the Council and the membership to alert them to this slippery slope we were now heading down, but it fell on deaf ears and greedy hearts.
Rather than become alarmed and defensive when I raised the red flag, the membership instead began to look around at each other as if their brothers, sister, aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors and friends were the interlopers that were going to keep them from getting rich, therefore they had to be rooted out like some sort of terrorist sleeper cell and dispensed with as soon as possible. So, instead of bringing the membership together at a time of great peril, the cry of audit split the Tribe even further.
Now, the final group of who felt they were beyond reproach and couldn't be terminated from their membership with the Tribe are about to get theirs as the political factions that control the Tribe slice the rolls to the bone. They are all stunned, shocked and appalled that this could be happening to them, the "elite" of the Chukchansi people, the members who were signed up by Jane Wyatt herself in 1989. This just isn't possible to them.
They have no where to turn now that the Chukchansi people who would have backed them up are no longer in the Tribe. They are at the mercy of the greed and political folly of a two or three family groups who now control the Tribe and its future. It's a sad day for them and a greater loss for the Tribe.
In their haste to get rid of everyone, they have instigated a drive to take control of the selection of membership away from Tribes. Yes, it would seem that the Tribes are not capable of making decisions that are clearly "conflicts of interest."
Even though the Chukchansi are now listed as one of the most offensive Tribes in American history by percentage of their own people terminated from their membership, they are by no means alone in their aberrant behavior. Tribes across California and the Nation have had similar purges of their memberships, especially when casino gaming income is in the mix.
Unfortunately, the Congress is a spineless institution in this day and age and they have declined thus far to take any real action against the now powerful and rich Tribes who have no limits to their lobbying income (unlike every other individual or business in this country). A Tribe can donate as much as it wants to Congressional members, political parties or political causes. This has allowed them to purchase a large following of elected friends in the Capitol Building and on down to the local City Halls of America.
There are some fighters for the have-nots still at work in America and they have been standing up for you for some time now. These people are Steve Haze, Democratic candidate for California's 21st District;
Laura Wass, American Indian Movement leader; Cathy Corey, former Chukchansi; me, former Chukchansi; AIRRO leaders and many others (too many to list here). Steve and Laura wrote a resolution that was passed by the Democratic Party's Native American Caucus group which basically demands that the Indian Civil Rights Act be reinstated to give Native American's the right to sue when their rights have been trampled, by anyone, including their own Tribes.
What this has started is an avalanche of protesting from the Tribes here in CA who are all screaming "sovereignty." The ironic part of their argument is that they are claiming the needs and rights of the "state" which is the Tribal government in this case, supersede the needs and rights of the individuals of that state, which would be the members. Doesn't this sound alot like a dictatorship or communist regime? Since when does America support those kinds of governing principles within its own borders?
It's time for a change and this change needs your help. Even the have-nots can afford to help out by sending in some money to assist Steve Haze in his fight for a Congressional seat so that he can bring our issues into the Congress first-hand. If every have-not in California gave just $10, it would help his campaign out tremendously.
Just to keep you apprised of what is at stake, Steve has vowed to not accept any money from a gaming Tribe, and he has received the support of the Democratic Central Committee's for Fresno and Tulare Counties who have also agreed to not accept any donations from the gaming Tribes.
Now, its up to us to stand up and be heard. If our heritage and our rights mean anything to us at all, we cannot allow the gaming dollars of the major Tribes to drown out our voices! DONATE TO HELP SAVE OUR HERITAGE AND OUR RIGHTS! DON'T WAIT, DONATE! CLICK HERE TO BE TAKEN TO STEVE HAZE'S WEB SITE so that you can see he means what he says.
I hope we can pull it together so that we can join the haves where we all belong. It's up to each of you out there to make it happen.