Skip to comments.Casino Tribe Outcasts Claim They Were Unfairly Expelled Over Greed
Posted on 05/16/2012 7:19:02 AM PDT by BenLurkin
TEMECULA (CBS) A CBS2 News investigation has examined accusations that money pouring into Indian gaming casinos is bringing trouble to Southland reservations.
Two local tribes have been banishing members, stripping them of healthcare, education and monthly stipends. The tribes argue that it comes down to bloodlines, but those kicked out insist that it is really about money.
For more than a century, generations of distant cousins Rick Cuevas and Michael Madariagas families have walked the same dirt roads on the Pechanga Reservation in Temecula.
We have the original deed signed by President McKinley, Madariaga said.
Miles away at the Pala Reservation in Northern San Diego County, Gina Howard and her family have similar roots.
My mother, Teresa Denver, we were both born in that house, Howard said.
Although the two families have never met, they share a common story members of both clans find themselves without a tribe.
Youre whole community turns away from you. And they look at your like youre a pariah, Howard said.
Nobody has more of a right or is more Pechanga than us, Cuevas said.
It is called disenrollment. In both cases their tribal councils have questioned their bloodlines.
But the families believe that this is not about ancestry, its about settling old scores and about money.
Its about greed. I think its about control, Howard said.
Its about money and political power, Madariaga said.
Ever since the tribes got casinos, members have been entitled to a share of the windfall. Indian gaming is estimated to be a multi-billion dollar industry in California.
In July when Howard and seven of her relatives were disenrolled, she says that her cut of the Pala profits equaled about $9,000 a month.
At Pechanga W2 forms show that in 2005 members received $269,175.25 more than $22,431 per month.
After Cuevas and his clan were kicked out in 2006, he says that number jumped to $30,000.
Each person that has been disenrolled now, 250 of us, has lost $1.6 million, our rights to vote, our rights to healthcare, educational system. They threw a couple of our little cousins out of the tribal school, physically removed them from the school and told them that they could no longer be here again, Cuevas said.
In documents obtained by CBS2 News , an anthropologist hired by Pechanga itself to study ancestry said that there is significant evidence that Cuevas and his clan are Pechanga.
The anthropologist is quoted in the documents saying that he is surprised and dismayed that the tribe continues to maintain otherwise.
Pechanga refused repeated requests for an on-camera interview. But in a statement, the tribes chairman, Mark Macarro said that it was a question of ancestry.
Though deeply painful for our tribe and the people affected, this correction was necessary to protect the integrity of the tribal government, our culture and our history, Macarro went on to say.
Pala chairman, Robert Smith, did sit down with us. He said the issue boils down to lineage, not money.
It has nothing to do with money. They can say what they want, but that is not true. Right is right, wrong is wrong and they dont meet the requirements to be enrolled in here, Smith said.
He insisted that he had documents and records, that he would not show us, proving that Howards great-great grandmother was only half Native American.
That would mean Howard and her cousins do not meet the blood requirement to enroll as members of the Pala Tribe.
We asked Smith why he would not show us the documents.
Again, were a sovereign Indian Tribe, we shouldnt have to show you, Smith said.
But the Bureau of Indian Affairs disagrees. In a letter obtained by CBS2, the BIA recommends that Howard and seven relatives be put back on the membership rolls, saying that they meet the required degree of Indian blood.
Weve got a document from them that says that shes half, so they talk about of both sides of their mouth, the BIA. At the end of the day, under the tribes constitution, its the tribal council that determines membership, Smith said.
A few months ago Pala disenrolled about another 150 of Howards extended family. They accounted for about 15 percent of the tribes membership.
Its pretty clear that there are tribal members, who should be in the tribe who are being disenrolled, said Matthew Fletcher, an indigenous law professor at Michigan State University.
Fletcher has been studying mass disenrollments and says that he has noticed a pattern.
Were mostly seeing mass disenrollments in California and some of the other tribes around the country that have very successful gaming enterprises, Fletcher said.
For now the disenrolled have no legal recourse, because Indian reservations are sovereign. State and federal judges have ruled the courts have no jurisdiction and the BIA has said that it has no authority over membership decisions.
Its going to take an act of congress, said John Gomez Jr., president of the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization, who is a disenrollee.
Gomez says that congress must amend the Indian Civil Rights Act to allow courts to hear the cases.
There is no available recourse and those tribal officials understand that. Their attorneys understand that. So they can manipulate the process, Gomez said.
Everyone agrees that that will not be easy. Casinos pour money into campaign coffers and other tribes may not want the federal government meddling in tribal affairs.
In the meantime, Cuevas, Madariaga, Howard and others are left with memories and nowhere to turn.
Now we cant be buried here next to our relatives, Cuevas said.
They just threw us away like yesterdays trash, Howard said.
They have the Rolexes, but we have the time, Cuevas added.
Although disenrollments are taking place up and down the state, we want to be clear that locally it is specific to Pechanga and Pala.
Other Indian gaming casinos in Southern California, such as Morongo and San Manuel are not presently embroiled in similar disputes.
Dances with Slot Machines. Just think! In 100 years, the ground where these casinos stood will be considered “sacred” ground.
An Indian chief named Bob Smith is complaining about someone else's blood line? This is about the dough.
Now that has a ring to it.
Love of wampum is the root of all evil...
It is the ultimate punishment - there is no appeal for disenrollment, no authority other than the tribe itself. The standards applied to disenroll these two clans can be applied to even more families in the tribe, hence the very muted response on both reservations - first, there's the increase in tribal checks, but second, protest too loudly, and the ax could come down on you.
The biggest irony is that the Pala family was the one which fought so hard to prevent a full scale casino from being built on the reservation, stating that once it is built, the tribe will then start finding reasons to eject members to increase the take for those who remain.
As for San Manuel - their tactic is to delay enrollment for the children of tribal members, a delay that becomes even longer if a family has more children. And Morongo has already told some tribal members that if they have any more children, they too could find themselves on the bus to Pechanga, a reference, of course, to the disenrollment.
Let's have them elect their own tribal leaders who can interpret and administer these goodies. They would have a built-in incentive to kick as many out of the tribe as possible.
The people thus excluded might be bitter enough to leave the reservation, get an education, get jobs and contribute to the government revenue flow by contributing taxes rather than consuming them.
This worked pretty darn well for my father's people. We're now into the third and forth generations and, as far as I can count, there isn't a single bed-wetting liberal among us.
Gomez says that congress must amend the Indian Civil Rights Act to allow courts to hear the cases.
I'm not saying Mr. Gomez does or doesn't have a legitimate beef. But that's a very interesting solution he is proposing.
He's asking the Federal Government to overrule the Tribal Council and thereby effectively dissolve its sovereignty by said overrule.
The bennies the Tribal Council distributes are generated based on its sovereign immunity from the very courts to which Mr. Gomez is seeking relief from the rules of the Tribal Council. So, in the unlikely event he is successful, the entire tribal structure could come crashing down.
I think I have the name of a new band right there!
Sounds like what the Creek Indians did to my niece and nephews. My sister (now deceased) married a Creek Indian and later the tribe disowned the 3 kids them because they weren’t 100% pure Creek.
Thus they can’t take a share of the casino cash.
So let me get this straight. I am supposed to care what someone who doesn't know the difference between "Your" and "You're" thinks?
Some tribes are already in a bind when it comes to determining who is qualified to be a member. Their namesm (or the names of their ancestors) are on the Dawes Rolls. Even there they have problems with Indians marrying into the tribe and leaving descendants with less than 1/32 Cherokee (for example), even though they might be substantially more Indian than most Cherokees.
Pechanga was named by a white trapper/trader named (I believe) Jedediah Smith. The original Pechanga is actually located in Nikel Oblast in Russia. It's a river in the Sapma, or Sa'ami homeland ~ belonging, in general, to the Skolt tribe.
I still haven't figured out why Jedediah named the place. The Indians are mistreating the name and should be forced to quit using it.
Are there actually 100% Creek people?
I knew a guy in college, whose grandmother was said to be 100% Creek. He looked it, except that he Robert Goulet blue eyes. He was extremely good looking, with those blue eyes, high cheek bones, black hair and dark skin.
I wonder if he’s getting money for being a Creek.
They looked pretty doggone Indian ~ may be some schisms in Creekdom!
They should just go broke, like my wife’s tribe — Mescalaro Apache.
She’s 100%, born on reservation, Apache who came back to be the town doctor.
The only thing we’ve ever gotten is free ski lift tickets.
What does a Creek look like? I thought that my friend looked like an Indian, except for his blue eyes.
Some tribes exist because of treaty obligations.
Others because of political expediency and only casual connections to tribes recognized due to treaty obligations.
There really isn't a consistent across the board approach when you get down to evaluating the smallest of tribes, which are typical in California.
There isn't even total consistency among the larger tribes (Navajo, Sioux, Cherokee), but you get much more of it.
The west coast tribes, in particular, suffered the fewest deprivations from the white man (with the possible exception of the Utes and Navajos, but that was more a function of their religious white neighbors) but are among the greatest beneficiaries in scooping up bennies which tribal recognition makes possible. That, and the large concentration of paleface neighbors to patronize their casinos and gas stations.
More then just the Tribal Council for his own tribe, what he’s proposing would destroy the sovereignty of EVERY tribe in the US that has it.
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