By Monica Alonzo
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"I imagine it's chaos right now," Barber says. "I don't know that there's any real management efforts going on by either group."
Barber's blithe dismissal of their financial plight burns the dissident tribal councilmembers. "We've had meetings with them. We've written letters. It's like all our appeals are falling on deaf ears," says Irene Kellywood.
The dissident council has asked the BIA to approve changes in the tribal constitution that would allow it to call a new election, formally vote in an official government and get on with its business, but the requests have stalled in the bureaucracy.
From exile Walker has also submitted her own proposed constitutional changes, and the Department of the Interior, which must approve any elections on constitutional amendments, is weighing both requests, Barber says. "The requests from the interim tribal council and from Christine Walker's administration are currently in D.C. awaiting either approval or disapproval by the secretary of the Interior," Barber says.
@body:For now, the reservation can only wait and watch their tribe's financial ruin compound. The government in place can't rule, and the government that can rule is too scared to return.
That leaves plenty of time for members to gather at the Sail Inn and debate over beers why Walker behaved the way she did.
Two Crows, a leader in the efforts to oust Walker, believes the answer was among the paperwork dissidents found after they seized control of the council house.
The admitted conspiracy connoisseur believes that Walker was trying to push tribal members and non-Indians alike off the reservation to make way for a mammoth development, including gambling.
Among the tribal files, dissidents found a proposal from a California real estate company to build a $105 million resort, complete with casino, that was projected to draw more than $21 million a year in gambling receipts, of which the tribe would get a cut.
Osley Saunooke, Walker's adviser, says the council was not seriously considering the proposal. However, dissidents found another document that was even more disturbing. Just two weeks before fleeing the reservation, Walker signed a contract turning over management of the resort--and seeming to give carte blanche development rights--to a California company called Major Management.
Who signed the contract for Major Management? John Paul Nichols, son of the mysterious man who took over the Cabazon Indian tribe and led them into gambling and their other notorious activities.
"This could have been a carbon copy of what happened on the Cabazon Reservation," says interim council chairman Matt Leivas. "I truly believe she was masterminding this along with . . . company from the Cabazons."
John Paul Nichols says there was no Cabazon effort to take over the reservation. Walker's government approached Major Management about taking over the resort and exploring development prospects, he says, and the company agreed.
But after seeing how chaotic and unstable the Walker regime was, Nichols says, the company decided it didn't want anything more to do with the Chemehuevis.
"We had no clue that things at Chemehuevi were as bad as they were," Nichols says. "Otherwise, we never would have entered into that agreement."
Whatever Walker's intentions, they have been quashed as the tribe awaits its fate. Lawsuits and appeals are likely to drag on. The dissidents suspect they will have to sue the BIA to win recognition. The Walker administration, through the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles, is still pursuing eviction proceedings against leaseholders who would not sign new contracts.
Walker's administration is also pushing its way through California courts trying to win the right to establish its own armed police force.
In the meantime, the tribal community center and the airport have been reopened. The kids are again playing ball at the tribal field, where most of the graffiti has been washed away. Calm, even if temporary, has returned to the Chemehuevi Valley, and the flag is flying, every day, over the marina.
EXCUSE ME, IS THIS A UNIVERSITY OR A PRI... v9-16-92