January 04, 2008

More Pechanga bashing

Tribal Flush:  Pechanga People "Disenrolled" en Masse

On the eve of what could be the largest gambling expansion in U.S. history, a tale of power, betrayal and lost Indian heritageGomez, a 40-year-old paralegal, helped birth the Pechanga mega-resort, which opened in 2002 and today grosses as much as $1 billion a year. He worked as a legal and cultural adviser to his tribe, a representative and lobbyist, and, along with several of his family members, served on key tribal committees as the Pechanga moved, almost overnight, from obscure poverty to a position of awesome political and economic power.

But it’s Gomez’s tribe no more. At least as far as the tribal leadership is concerned. Gomez and 135 adult members of his extended family (and 75 or more children) have been purged from formal Pechanga membership; they have been “disenrolled.” They were accused of no crime, no misbehavior, no wrongdoing, no disloyalty. But a series of tribal kangaroo-court hearings, bereft of even the pretense of due process, ruled that one of the family’s deceased elders was not an authentic tribe member and, therefore, not withstanding their years of service to the tribe, they were all to be banned.
Comment:  This article raises troubling questions. Unfortunately, the Pechanga tribe once again declined to respond to these allegations. Therefore, we have only one side of the dispute, which is never good.

If I were the Pechanga tribe, rebutting these charges would be one of my top two or three priorities. The top priority might be ensuring the passage of Proposition 94 in February, which will let Pechanga's casino expand. But this is directly related to that. Bad publicity on disenrollment and other issues is exactly what is hurting the prospects of gaming tribes.

On the other hand, Cooper is a rabid critic of Indian gaming, so you have to take his claims with a grain of salt. He's appeared in the Stereotype of the Month contest four times for portraying Indians as greedy and corrupt. He didn't say anything that was clearly stereotypical this time, but he frequently used biased and inflammatory language.

For a bit of balance, see my comments at the end of the article. For more on the subject, see The Facts About Indian Gaming--Disenrollment.

P.S. For the record, I'm paid by a Pechanga tribal member for working on PECHANGA.net, but I'm not paid by the tribe.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Interesting that today (Fri., 1/4), as writerfella watched a seven-episode 'marathon' of USA's comic series PSYCH, the characters in one story (ostensibly being from Santa Barbara) decided to head for the Pechanga Casino for a poker tourney. It likely was not filmed at such a location, as no Natives nor any Native motif ever were shown. But still it must have some prominence for the region if it fictionally was used as a setting...
All Best
Russ Bates

OPechanga said...

Pechanga cannot respond to this report because it would just open more questions. There IS no good response, except: "We made a mistake, we are rectifying the situation and we we rescind the disenrollments." If you look at Chairman Macarro's responses in KNBC's Without a Tribe, it is CLEAR that he is not being truthful.
What may happen here, is for Pechanga to lose it's proposition 94 and the other tribes win. That is terribly embarrassing.
In THIS situation Pechanga IS greedy and corrupt, the evidence is clear.
Thanks for allowing comments

'aamokat said...

Pechanga won't respond to the article because they just want this issue and us to just go away.

I am a Pechanga Indian who was kicked out of the Pechanga tribe on weak, flimsy evidence that wouldn't stand up in a real court of law.

We were not kicked out of some country club we lost our citizenship in the Pechanga nation and our rights were violated in the process.

Readers: how would you feel if you were summoned to hearings to decide if you were going to still be a citizen of the United States and you weren't allowed to have an attorney to come with you to your hearings?

How would you feel if you were not allowed to have copies of transcripts of the hearings or you were not allowed to even take notes at hearings?

How would you feel if there were documents key to the case against you that you never saw before the Record of Decision against you and if you were never allowed to respond to them?

How would you feel if the only evidence against you was purely hearsay or was based on historical documents being missing that nobody else, including those charging you, couldn't find either?

Also, how would you feel if the government ingored any evidence that supported you continuing to be a U.S. citizen.

And how wold you feel if the United States didn't even follow their own rules and procedures when they determined you were no longer a citizen?

Finally, how would you feel if the whole country voted to outlaw taking away citizenship from eveyone but you lost your citizenship the following year anyway?

Well that is what happened to us when we were disenolled (kicked out) from the Pechanga nation.

Again, the tribe will not respond to the disenrollment issues and if they do it will be a generic fluff piece saying how the tribe has a sovereign right to determine its own membership and that due process was followed in disenrollment cases even if in reality due process wasn't followed for any of the disenrollees.

Rob, I invite any Pechanga officials to refute any of the facts from Mr. Cooper's atricle but they will have a hard time doing so as the facts as presented there are essentially correct.

P.S. I hope Mr. Rocha continues to pay you for your services but don't be surprised if he doesn't as other than your title of "More Pechanga bashing," even your piece doesn't spin Pechanga in a good light.

Rocha himself seems to delete or bury many stories that don't follow the "company" line.

Rob said...

My comments at the end of Cooper's article spin Pechanga in a slightly better light than Cooper did.

I saw Mark Macarro's response on the KNBC segment. It wasn't at all obvious to me that he was lying.

What's "embarrassing" is how the Pechangas keep reelecting Macarro even though (you claim) he's such a bad chairman. What is he on...his fifth term? How do you explain his repeated victories?

Other than the disenrollment issue, what have you got on him? Why aren't you posting reports on Macarro's malfeasance on websites and sharing them with local newspapers? Could it be because he hasn't done anything worth reporting?

If the tribe keeps reelecting Macarro--if it won't elect an anti-disenrollment candidate instead--what does that tell you? That the tribe as a whole supports disenrollment? Why are the Pechangas voting for Macarro and (implicitly) against you if the facts so clearly support your position?

Are you saying everyone in the tribe is greedy? And you want to rejoin these allegedly greedy people who are keeping you out...why? Because you're greedy too?

You see, your position doesn't quite compute. Which is why I suspect there's more to the story than we've heard. Even George W. Bush has a side to his story, and I doubt the Pechangas are worse than he is.

As I said, Cooper's past stories were biased enough to be included in my Stereotype of the Month contest. But you're telling me this one is 100% true? His previous stories weren't 100% true, so why should this one be any different?

Rob said...

You've got to be kidding about PECHANGA.net's deleting or "burying" stories unfavorable to the tribe. I can't think of any stories we've deleted or failed to post for any reason. That just doesn't happen.

I don't even know how we'd bury a story. Post it lower on the page than you think it deserves? That's not burying, that's making a news judgment. Sorry, but the Pechanga disenrollment issue isn't as vital to our nationwide readers as other issues.

Victor posted Cooper's story on PECHANGA.net. It was there for a day, same as every other story. You're sadly mistaken if you think we eliminate stories because they're too negative.

If you think we failed to post a legitimate disenrollment story, send it to me now and I'll post it. Otherwise, spare me the insinuations about censorship. Stick to the real arguments and don't make up phony ones.

I plan to vote for Proposition 94 and I suggest readers do the same. Until we sort out the facts of the disenrollment conflict, it's irrelevant to the issue of approving the compacts.

'aamokat said...

Rob, the whole tribe voted to stop all disenrollments in 2005 but we were disenrolled in 2006 anyway just before the election despite the law outlawing disenrollments.

Thus eliminating about 12 percent of the tribe, a significant oppostition to Macarro's reelection.

In 2004 about 13 percent of the tribe had been kicked out (also just before the election) so for at least two of Macarro's reelections, significant opposition to his reign that very well could have defeated him were gone (twenty five percent of the tribe).

Before 2004, a lot of us thought he was fair and that he was doing a good job.

I didn't say Mr. Cooper's article was 100 percent correct but I did say on the whole that it was essentially correct.

I apologize if I implied censorship as while I do seem to remember at least two instances when articles from the Riverside Press Enterprise and/or the Californian were posted on Pechanga.net for part of the day and then not there later in the day that were unfavorable to Pechanga's official position, I could be mistaken about this and I may have let my emotions get the better of me about this.

Again, I sincerely apologize for my insinuation and I appreciate the forum you have provided for us to comment.

I completely welcome any challenges to our postion as it keeps the issue out there and I will do my best to reign in my emotions and to just stick to the facts.

I wish the tribe would address the specifics instead of the general P.R. about sovereignty.

For example, Macarro keeps saying that there were disenrollments before there was ever gaming but the fact is that before 2004 while there were isolated instances of disenrollment, there was never whole scale disenrollments of entire family lines.

I wish the tribe would specfically address the issues such as the one directly above.

'aamokat said...

Add on to my last post, I actually have letters on tribal council letterhead that say we couldn't bring writing implements, pens or pencils, to hearings and in those same letters it says we could not have legal represenatives (attorneys) come with us to hearings.

I know the official position is tribal sovereignty trumps everything but aren't we still American citizens with rights?

A lot of the tribe may not be aware of what went on at our hearings and they all they may be hearing is the official position.

I hope Victor R himself comes here to explain why the tribe ignored the census records, allotment records, testimony from other Pechanga Indians from the historical period of the late 1800's who gave testimony at our probate hearings for our Pechanga land in the early 1900's and why the tribe ignored notarized testimony from current tribal elders who said they have always recognized us as being Pechanga people.

I truly believe that if he hasn't seen the evidence that supports our claim to membership that if we showed him those records that he very well would see that we were wronged.

I would also like to ask him why we were disenrolled when we have the same kind of family history information that his family and many other Pechanga families have.



writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Tsk, tsk, that tribal members forget that their original forms of 'tribal' rule were maternalistic or socialistic or both. And that though tribes may formulate a Constitution and by-laws and even adopt Robert's Rules of Order, they still follow 'traditional' directions in how they affairs are run. And the only explanations for continuously re-electing the same leaders for decades at a time or for ignoring the rule of law in various intra-tribal confrontations are those very same 'traditional' directions in how their affairs are run. Were it not for term limits, Billy Evans Horse continuously would have been Business Chairman of writerfella's Kiowa tribe, instead of serving two terms out of every three that have passed since the 1970s...
All Best
Russ ates

'aamokat said...

Rob, while I know you have to move on to other issues, I am still hoping someone comes and tries to refute what I have said about the disenrolled at Pechanga being kicked out on weak evidence that in no way contradicts the much stronger evidence that support that we are who we say we are, true Pechanga people.

Again, if Victor R of anyone else who may be familar with the specifics of our case and if in fact he or they support the tribe's action (it is possible they don't support the tribe's actions), please answer my points.

'Amo'kat by the way means Hunter in Luiseno so obviously I am a desecendant of Paulina Hunter so someone please explain why a slim majority on the enrollment committee and on the tribal council ignored the following evidence:

1. Testimony from the 1915 probate hearing for Paulina Hunter's Pechanga land allotment in which known Pechanga member Dolores Tortuga said when asked if she was "acquainted with the deseased Pechanga Indian allotee Paulina Hunter?"

She said, "yes, I knew her as a neighbor when we Pechanga Indians lived on the Pauba Ranch near Temecula, California."

This was the village before the Pechanga reservation was created, before the eviction which led them to their present location.

This was collaborated during the same 1915 probate hearings by known Pechanga Indian Jose David Rodriguez who added that he knew Paulina Hunter as a neighbor on the Pechanga reservation.

This was also collaborated by the fact that Paulina Hunter is listed on every census for the Pechanga reservation from 1893 (the first year the census was taken) until 1899, the year of her death.

2. known Pechanga Indian Antonio Ashman when asked if he knew Paulina Hunter as a member of the Pechanga band said, "yes, I knew her as such."

3. five current elders are listed in the Record of Decision against us as giving notarized testimony that they have always recognized us as Pechanga Indians.

Why was their testimony ignored in favor of three current elders from the CPP faction who said we are not Pechanga people?

Why did Pechanga ignore the conclusions of Dr. John Johnson, the enrollment committee's own hired expert who said in his report, "the perponderance of the evidence gathered from surviving documents leads to the conclusion that Paulina Hunter was a tribal member of Temecula and Pechanga by virtue of her ancestry from the Luiseno villages of Toulepa and Temecula."

Dr. Johnson who has said, "there are no people today who more deserve to be Pechanga Indians than that family" (my family, the Hunters) and who was hired by the tribe, not us, clearly makes our case stronger but his is not the only evidence we have in our support.

Of course people may say that I haven't listed anything, other than referring to testimony by three tribal elders who say we don't belong, that was presented against us but I welcome anyone doing so and I will answer their questions.






Rob said...

If the Pechanga tribe voted to stop disenrollments and Macarro violated this policy, I'm not sure why the tribe keeps reelecting him. Why is that, pray tell? Because they're all so greedy?

I think people at disenrollment hearings should be allowed to have pencils, pens, and paper. Maybe even paper clips and rubber bands. For good measure, I'll throw in staplers and Scotch tape.

But I'm not so sure about lawyers. For instance, if you get called into the IRS, do you have the right to have a lawyer present? I doubt it.

Not all government proceedings necessitate lawyers. And how many lawyers are versed in Pechanga tribal law? Not that many, I suspect. A non-tribal lawyer might do nothing but raise pointless and time-wasting objections.

As I said at the end of the Cooper article, if a tribe decides to disenroll people whose ancestors forfeited their membership, it doesn't matter if they're still Pechangas biologically. That's one explanation for how the tribe could ignore expert reports and testimony on the disenrollees' biological ties. Repeat: Ancestry doesn't necessarily matter if someone abandons tribal membership.

Rob said...

FYI, even though I work for Victor, he doesn't tell me the internal workings of the tribe. That's probably for the best, since I'd be in a tricky conflict-of-interest situation otherwise. So don't look to me for answers, because I just know what I read.

But I'm not exactly going by the tribes' "fluff statements." I'm saying I've heard only one side of the story. Until I hear both sides, I'm reserving judgment.

And since the tribes haven't explained themselves, I'm interpreting what little I know of their thought processes for the public. Readers deserve to hear the other side, even if the tribes won't provide it. Journalistic ethics require us to be as fair and balanced as possible.

You're waiting for better disenrollment articles and so am I. I want to see hard evidence that tribes are disenrolling people for monetary reasons. Steal some documents or tape some conversations, but let's have more than one side's claims that the process is biased.

Rob said...

As I've said before, I think it would be in the tribes' best interest to explain themselves. Transparency, not secrecy, is the source of good government. Federal, state, county, and city governments explain themselves, and only the bad ones suffer. Why should tribal governments be any different?

I've also said that tribes should find another solution besides all or nothing. Give the disenrolled members some sort of associate status with partial benefits such as health care. Or give them a generous severance package with several years' worth of benefits. These people were friends and relatives for decades, and a technical decision shouldn't change that. Even a game-show participant gets a parting gift.

This is the perfect solution to the disenrollment controversy. You read it here first, tribes...now act on it. Let me know if you have any other PR problems you need me to solve.

'aamokat said...

Rob, I wasn't directing my comments about "fluff P.R." to you, I was saying that is all you are likely to get from those in the tribe who support our disenrollment.

I agree that the other side of the issue should be presented, beyond the official generic pieces put out by the tribe, and I welcome articles defending the other side of the issue but will we get them?

If we don't get any pro disenrollment articles I think that says a lot.

Yes there is another side of the story and if there are some people who thought we don't belong, once we presented evidence to answer the questions they may have had, that should have been the end of it as we should have been cleared.

I could present the case against us and although I believe it was weak and our evidence showing we are true Pechanga people is much stronger, I will let those who support what was done to us come and defend it if they truly believe it was right to kick us out of the tribe.

Rob, that is who my comments are directed at, not you.


There were two family lines kicked out of the tribe in the last four years and my ancestors never stopped identifying themselves as Pechanga, and I believe that the other family also never left the people either, regardless of what a slim majority of tribal officials say.

Rob said...

If you have letters on tribal council letterhead, why don't you scan them and post them online? That's exactly the kind of hard evidence I want to see. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and do it.