Miwok Membership Rolls Opened For Casino
The regional BIA officials opened the membership against the traditional leader’s wishes to include members from two other bands in the area. Federal officials then oversaw an August 2002 election that swapped the old leadership for a pro-casino group which includes some BIA officials themselves.
Before the BIA officials became involved, The Ione Band had about 70 members living on land some 40 miles southeast of Sacramento in the rolling hills of one of California’s wine districts. Now, the band membership has swelled to 535. None of the new members is related to the original 70.
Amy Dutschke, a member of another American Indian group whose family has roots in the Ione area, was the BIA’s acting regional director in June, 2002 when she authorized the Ione’s Band’s last leadership election.
Now, Dutschke and 68 of her relatives are on the tribe’s official list of registered voters, which include an uncle and a niece who also work for Indian Affairs. The election produced five new tribal leaders, four of whom are related to Dutschke.
The election was overseen by Indian Affairs employee Carol Rogers-Davis, whom the BIA named chairman of the elections board. Davis, now, has three relatives on the tribal roll.
Opposition members are challenging Dutschke’s standing within the tribe stating that her association with the Ione Band is based on the information that a second cousin of Dutschke was once allowed to live on the Ione Band’s property because his sister was married to the tribal chief at the time.
The tribe is now potentially eligible for millions of dollars in federal benefits. Its new leaders have been given $1.9 million from the state’s Tribal Revenue Sharing Trust Fund in which tribes with casinos contribute to non-gaming tribes. The money is being used to offer members emergency assistance with housing, health care and energy bills.
Four congressmen have called for an investigation though federal officials have declined to intervene. The Department of Interior’s inspector general also declined to investigate telling the complaining congressmen who have called for that investigation that it was an internal tribal matter.
The Ione Band is seeking permission to acquire 208 acres in Plymouth, California to build a 2,000 slot machine casino which is estimated to bring in $185 million a year to the tribe. Permission has to come from the Department of the Interior Secretary Gale Norton and California Gov. Arnold Schwarszenegger.
This article has been edited from a February 23rd AP Story bylined Don Thompson.
Native Unity - A place for Native American Peoples to solidify their tribes to make a positive impact on the cultural, social, economic and political fabric of American society and a place for non-Natives to better understand the ways of the American Indian.