Feuding California Gaming Tribe Agrees on Unification Council

A “unification” council comprised of all factions of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians of California has been elected to reopen the tribe’s Chukchansi casino (l.) and oversee council elections in May.

The feuding factions of California’s Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians meeting in the largest ever general council meeting agreed overwhelmingly last week on an interim “unification” council with leaders from all three factions.

The election confirmed six tribal leaders who will be able to reopen the casino, closed since October. This was the fourth time in the tribe’s history that the General Council had a quorum enabling it to conduct the tribe’s business.

All adult members of the tribe were invited to attend.

The unification council includes Chance Alberta, Nancy Ayala, Nokomis Hernandez, Tracey Hopkins, Reggie Lewis and Karen Wynn. They were given legal authority to conduct elections for the tribal council’s seven seats in May.

Besides being able to reopen the casino, the tribe will be able to repay bondholders, who have become increasingly restive over the forced closure of the casino after an armed incursion by one of the factions in October.

Lewis, who was elected co-chairman of the council, declared after the election: “This was a historic moment for our Tribe in charting a path to reopen our casino, to restore order to our government, to provide services to our members and to silence any group attempting to sew confusion and discord.”

Nancy Ayala, also elected co-chairman, stated, “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.”

Ayala added, “With the support and recognition of the adult members of the Tribe, the six members of the Unification Council will continue in its efforts to reopen the casino, restore community confidence and resume honoring its obligations to the community.”