By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
Amid the threats, gunfire sometimes erupted, though no one was hurt. One night more than 40 shots were reportedly fired between two houses at the tribal housing complex.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office, which along with the federal government has jurisdiction over the reservation and keeps two deputies stationed there, was repeatedly responding to disturbance calls.
"We probably arrested an equal number of both sides," says Sergeant John Massey. "It was emotional. There were a lot of feelings that were running at a high level."
Eventually, Walker was driven into hiding as a virtual recluse. She stepped up her use of the 86 list, barring tribal members and non-Indians alike from businesses and firing those who joined in the protests against her government, tribal members say.
Walker also tried to bring in her own security force, and in the eyes of tribal members that is when the chairman made a pact with the devil.
One day, armed members of the Cabazon Indian tribe police force arrived at the reservation to guard Walker and her dwindling group of supporters.
The Cabazons, a Southern California tribe even smaller than the Chemehuevis, carried with them a notoriety well beyond their limited numbers.
The Cabazons had been linked in newspaper reports to several killings and bizarre schemes. In the late 1970s, the tribe turned its management over to John Philip Nichols, a mysterious, onetime Evangelical with purported ties to the Central Intelligence Agency and other governmental bodies.
Within a period of years, the Cabazons were transformed from a dirt-poor unknown tribe to international entrepreneurs, thanks to Nichols' connections and inventive spirit.
The tribe opened a bingo hall on its reservation and defied California authorities to shut it down. Their successful lawsuits eventually led to the U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the way for gaming on Indian reservations.
But there was reportedly a darker side to Nichols and the Cabazons as well. The tribe bid for government contracts to manufacture munitions and biological weapons on its reservation, an investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle reported in 1991. Nichols also tried to involve the tribe in the business of manufacturing night-vision goggles, presumably for the Nicaraguan contras.
Nichols was eventually imprisoned for soliciting murder contracts on five people who he claimed were selling heroin to his girlfriend. His sons, Mark Nichols and John Paul Nichols, took over the day-to-day affairs of the Cabazon tribe.
These Cabazon tribal police were hired by Walker to guard her and restore order on the Chemehuevi Indian Reservation. Their arrival put the reservation on edge.
"It was real scary," says Irene Kellywood. "There were a lot of people who were frightened. There were a lot of people that feared for their lives. They had weapons, shotguns and pistols."
Alerted by tribal members, San Bernardino sheriff's deputies came out and disarmed the Cabazon police officers. "They were not recognized as a law enforcement agency," says San Bernardino County sheriff spokeswoman Nancy Wegner. "They were carrying weapons illegally, and that's why we confiscated them."
Although disarmed, the Cabazons stayed to protect Walker because that's what she was paying them for. In all, tribal members say, Walker paid the Cabazon police as much as $85,000 to provide security for her.
In that charged atmosphere--with hired guns guarding the tribal government from its members--the feds briefly stepped into the fray. Agents from the FBI and the Inspector General's Office of the Department of the Interior raided the reservation, seizing documents from tribal council headquarters and Walker's home.
To date, the raid has produced no criminal charges or indictments, and the agencies involved did not wish to discuss their investigation. "The case is simply ongoing," says one agent familiar with it. "The voluminous materials are being analyzed, and that's about the size of it at this point in time."
Asked if the BIA, as well as the tribe, was a target of the investigation, the agent said all allegations were being checked, "and that is one of the allegations."
Glenn Feldman, a Phoenix attorney who represents both Walker's exiled government and the Cabazon tribe, thinks the government is blowing smoke.
"They've had that stuff for more than four months and nothing has come out of it," Feldman says. "I view it as more of a fishing expedition. If they were looking for something specific, you'd think they could have found it in four months."
After the raid, Feldman says, Walker and her council fled for their lives, and he won't reveal their whereabouts. "They're off the reservation. I'm not going to tell you where they are," he says. "They have some concerns about their personal security."
In exile Walker has retained BIA recognition as the tribe's official leader, and recently won a lawsuit to have the tribe's mail forwarded to her through a post office box in Parker.
That has left the reservation hanging in the balance. Technically, the dissident government has no money. It is using cash flow to try to keep the resort and other businesses open but is barely scraping by.
A $104,000 payment on the loan that helped the tribe buy the resort was due July 1, but hasn't been paid to the BIA. Wilson Barber, the Phoenix area director, says the bureau has talked with Walker and is considering calling the note and taking over the resort.