Tribal Corruption and citizens' right to know are

"Confidential Family Matters" ???

Read about what Enterprise Rancheria Tribal Officials didn't want you to know

With no civil rights protections for American Indians, individual Indians that expose tribal corruption often times are punished severely. Such was the case for 72 tribal members of the Enterprise Rancheria in Northern California, who in late 2003, were removed from the tribal rolls because they tried to hold their Tribal Officials accountable for their actions.  This disenrollment was reported in a January 31, 2005 Indian Country today article titled “Disenrolled tribal members recall tribal council” by James May. Below are a few excerpts. 


"in the fall of 2003 several members of the tribe, including the then-Vice Chairman Edwards tried to oust the tribal council through a recall election that was backed up by 70 tribal members.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the same 70 people who signed the recall petition were then informed that they were subject to disenrollment. Additionally, two other members who spoke out against the tribal council were added to the list bringing the total number of tribal members facing disenrollment to 72.”

"…The recall attempt stemmed from charges against members of the tribal council for alleged mismanagement of funds in which one tribal council member had made several        withdrawals purportedly draining a tribal emergency fund."

< Feb. 2004- Disenrolled Enterprise Rancheria Protesting at the Sacramento State Capital

Robert Edwards former Vice-chairman speaking with reporters

"…Most tribal councils involved in disenrollments have shrouded their actions in secrecy, and despite a long history of American Indian press, tribes involved in disenrollments have time and again veiled themselves in a revisionist culture that they claim is antithetical to the media. This is a point the Enterprise tribal council made no bones about in a letter sent to Edwards:


'We as the General Council have determined to keep with our cultural ways and not publish our business on the front page of newspapers,' stated the letter, which goes on to call the issue a ''confidential family matter.''

According to confidential documents previously released to the press and a local congressman, Enterprise Rancheria Tribal Officials think building a casino 60 miles from the Enterprise Rancheria is a “confidential family matter”, one where local area residents and their local Congressman Wally Herger need not know that the Tribe had adding language to a congressional bill that would have allowed the tribe to bypass the section 20 guidelines of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).  Those guidelines specify how land can be taken into trust status after 1988 for the purpose of putting a casino on it.  These previously released documents from a disenrolled tribal member illustrate the need for tribal governments to remove the veil of secrecy they operate under and the need for civil rights protections for tribal members who expose tribal corruption.

In a December 11, 2002 email from James Cohen to Enterprise Tribal Council, "Here is the language we're trying to get introduced:  Any land acquired in trust by the Secretary for the benefit of a tribe named in Public Law 88-453 shall be deemed for all purposes to have been acquired in trust as of the date of sale of rancheria land pursuant to Public Law 88-453."

"The reason we refer to Public Law 88-453 is to avoid naming Enterprise.  If the bill were to give away the Tribe's name, or to specify Yuba County, we are afraid it would come to the attention of Rep. Herger or our other opponents."


In a May 13, 2003 email from CILS Attorney James Cohen to Alan Waskin, President of Yuba County Entertainment and Roger Stone of Drake Ventures,  "Our Washington lobbyist Bill Brack, sent a proposed retainer agreement to me…There’s been no movement on the legislation front since his meeting with Sen. Campbell.  Our next task is to work on the language of our bill some more." 

GOP operative admits hatchet job on Wayne Smith
Thursday, April 22, 2004

A Republican operative who helped Neal McCaleb and Aurene Martin get their jobs at the Bureau of Indian Affairs admits to orchestrating the campaign to fire former BIA deputy Wayne Smith. Smith was ousted after letters from Phil Bersinger, a former business partner, surfaced in the spring of 2002. In the letters, Bersinger touted his close connections to Smith, who handled land-into-trust, federal recognition and gaming issues for the BIA. At the time, Smith was trying to resolve a leadership dispute within a small California tribe. Republican operative Roger Stone worked with one faction of the Buena Vista Rancheria that wants a casino. According to The Village Voice, this faction has a contract to pay Stone a $250,000 retainer plus 7.5 percent of annual gaming revenue from the proposed casino.


To read more about Roger Stone click on A dirty trickster.  To view Roger Stone's projected take for signing a management contract with Enterprise Rancheria click here.

In a March 24, 2003 email from CILS Attorney James Cohen, Mr. Cohen proposing two versions of the language to be added to the bill, Version 1…This is my preferred, for the following reasons.  First, as you see the language is about as unremarkable as can be, and hopefully would not attract any negative attention."

Version 2…This version mirrors language found by the Solicitor to have been "mandatory" in nature in another trust situation.  Although this version still tries to remain low key by not naming Enterprise or Yuba County, it may draw more attention because it does mandate a trust acquisition, whereas version 1 merely makes an innocuous date correction.  In addition, with this version we would be faced with the difficult choice of limiting the mandatory acquisition to Yuba County, which would be more likely to come to Rep. Herger's attention, or leaving out any limit, which might invite opposition from anywhere in California where there is opposition to tribes moving in.

In a March 25, 2003 email from Senior Staff Attorney James Cohen of California Indian Legal Services (CILS), "Our legislative expert has advised me to drop the word “rancheria” from our proposed language: it will serve as a lightning rod for attention from Harry Reid and or Wally Herger."


In a “Confidential” May 23, 2003 letter from lobbyist Christopher Changery and William Brack, to Enterprise Rancheria and CILS attorney Jim Cohen, "Our goal is to enact legislation, as soon as possible, to enable the Tribe to use newly acquired trust land for gaming …Our meetings with Congressional Staff have been very positive.  In fact one key staff member responded to our location of the land and the relationship with Yuba County Entertainment as an ideal situation."


Lobbyist Christopher Changery is the former press secretary of Senator Nighthorse Campbell, then Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs.  Senatory Campbell would add Enterprise Rancheria’s “technical” language to a proposed bill, which coincidently was removed after confidential documents were leaked to the press and Congressman Wally Herger.


Tribal did not find any lobbying reports filed by Mr. Changery or Mr. Brack on behalf of Enterprise Rancheria or Yuba County Entertainment (YCE).  Tribal was able to find Lobbying reports that Christopher Changery filed on behalf of the Buena Vista Rancheria, another tribe that Roger Stone had a gaming management contract with. 

The tribe’s other lobbyists, Chesapeake Enterprises' Scott Reed (a former campaign manager for Senator Bob Dole) and John Fluharty,  filed lobbying reports for Feb of 2003, Jan 2004 and June of 2004 totaling $320,000.00 on behalf of Enterprise Rancheria and Yuba County Entertainment.  The reports show they lobbied the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and congressional members of both the House and Senate on issues regarding Indian trust land and gaming. 

Parties Bicker Amid Abramoff Inquiry

Washington Post

September 29, 2004

Abramoff was defended earlier this week by Grover Norquist, a conservative activist who heads Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington anti-tax group. He told National Public Radio that part of the controversy may stem from a rivalry between Abramoff and lobbyist Scott Reed, a McCain backer who began working as a lobbyist for the Saginaw Chippewas earlier this year, after the tribe fired Abramoff.

Click here to read about former National Indian Gaming Commission employees who now lobby on behalf of Indian tribes.


In a previously released May 26, 2003 “Highly Confidential Attorney-Client Communication” from CILS Attorney Jim Cohen to Chairman Harvey Angle and Tribal Council, detailing a retainer agreement between the tribe, YCE and lobbyist Changery and Brack, it stated "our main task is to achieve a solution to our “section 20” problem, that is, the legal prohibition on tribal gaming lands acquired by tribes in trust after 1988."

" ...Please note a change to the budget by Roger Stone: instead of $40,000 per month for a likely 3 months (he thought it was $20K for each of Brack and Changary, but it's $20K for both), it is only 20,000, but we expect this process to take up to 6 months. They began working on April 1. and the retainer will be retroactive to that date.  They will also be trying to set up a meeting for one or two tribal leaders with Senator Cambpell to firm up his support for our legislation."   (where are the lobbying reports?)


In the August 6th, 2006 Sacramento Bee article titled Banished Indians fighting back in, Enterprise Rancheria Tribal Chairwoman Glenda Nelson commented as to why the 72 Enterprise Rancheria tribal members were stripped of tribal citizenship, “It was really a shame,” said Nelson. “They were basically trying to divide the tribe.”

Citizens of California who voted to recall Governor Gray Davis should be thankful the Governor can not kick them out of the California because he felt they were trying to divide the state.  Californians and other Americans have basic civil rights protections that allow them to redress their government without fear of losing their citizenship.  Indians don't.