UKIAH, Calif. - The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians have finally
succeeded in removing Chairwoman Pricilla Hunter and four other council
members from office after an earlier effort failed.
On Sept. 11 the Coyote Valley General Council, or the adult voting members,
voted to have Hunter, her son and tribal historian Michael Hunter, Vice
Chairwoman Iris Martinez, Secretary Darlene Crabtree and Treasurer Michelle
Campbell removed from their offices.
The move was accepted by the BIA's Sacramento offices, whose superintendent
Dale Risling issued a letter essentially validating the move.
This is the latest chapter in what has proved to be an eventful spring and
summer for Coyote Valley. The tribe was the target of a late May raid in
which more than 100 law enforcement officials participated at several
locations. The five deposed council members had been the prime targets of
Shortly after the raid Hunter issued a video statement in which she claimed
that law enforcement had used heavy-handed tactics in conducting the raid
and claimed that elders and small children were fingerprinted and
Hunter claimed in the video statement that the reason for the raid stemmed
from Coyote Valley's refusal to sign a gaming compact with the state while
continuing to operate their casino.
The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) ordered the casino to shut its
doors in early June. A few weeks later the court issued a preliminary
injunction against the NIGC that allowed the tribe to keep its casino open
though the tribe was admonished by a judge to sign a compact with the
In late August the tribe came to an agreement with Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger and was one of five tribes to sign a compact in that round.
Also at issue were charges of fiscal mismanagement, specifically that the
tribal council had used tribal money for personal use. According to an
earlier report in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, most of the money in
question was spent at hotels during intertribal meetings and conferences in
Southern California. A relatively small amount was spent at a department
store and at Disneyland.
This was not the first time that an attempt was made to depose the council.
Dissident tribal members point to a disputed 2002 election in which Hunter
and the tribal council were voted out. The result of that disputed election
and previous attempts by the council to amend the tribal constitution led
to a dissident faction in the tribe variously estimated to have 60 to 100
The tribal council disputed that election and were allowed to remain in
charge until a decision could be made as per BIA procedures for determining
an outcome in a disputed election. The old council was allowed to remain at
the tribal helm because BIA procedure allows the current council to remain
in control when an election is in dispute.
Former dissident and current tribal spokesman John Feliz Jr., said that the
tribal businesses will remain open and that the vacated seats do not mean
their discontinuance. There is no word yet on when new elections will be
held although Feliz was quoted in the Ukiah Daily Journal saying that the
tribe was hoping for a December election date.