SAN FRANCISCO — Authorities were back Tuesday at a Native American casino in Northern California that’s at the center of an ongoing tense tribal dispute.
Tehama County Sheriff’s deputies returned to the Rolling Hills Casino in Corning for a second day to “keep the peace” between rival factions within the tribe, Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said.
“There’s a standoff between the factions, and we’re monitoring the situation,” Johnston said Tuesday. “We have not aligned ourselves with any particular group or faction within the tribe. Both sides are pretty passionate about this.”
Tribal police officers representing one faction of the more than 300-member Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians want to shut down the casino. The officers have been kept at bay by casino security.
The faction, including four members of tribe’s governing body that was removed — and recently reinstated — said they have been kept off casino grounds by hired security and restraining orders by tribal chairman Andy Freeman.
While there has been some pushing, shoving and yelling, no arrests have been made, Johnston said.
Meanwhile, attorneys for the tribe said it was in its legal rights to remove its vice chairman, secretary, treasurer and an at-large member. The tensions began in April, when the tribe’s general council voted to remove more than 70 members, including three council members, from the tribe’s rolls. A fourth council member allegedly vacated his seat and joined the ranks of the three removed council members.
Late Monday, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs called on both sides to pull back and resolve the matter. The federal agency said it also recognizes the four ousted council members as part of the tribe’s governing body.
“Thanks to the letter from the BIA, and our coordination with local law enforcement, we are hopeful that order can be restored quickly,” Paskenta vice chairman David Swearinger said in a statement. “We have a long way to go to get our tribal government back on track. But taking back our assets and having clarity regarding our leadership is a strong first step.”
But Rob Rosette, the tribe’s attorney, said Tuesday that the tribe followed proper procedure when removing the members. The federal agency’s letter also allows for the tribe to formally file an appeal to the Interior Board of Indian Appeals.
“While the BIA’s letter will keep law and order on the reservation for the time being, an appeal with the IBIA will give both sides the opportunity to demonstrate to the government who is right and who is wrong,” Rosette said.