The tribe recently disenrolled 250 members that did not meet membership requirements, thus cutting the number of people gaming revenues are distributed amongst. The tribe operates the successful Pechanga Resort & Casino on the tribe's reservation in Temecula, California.
"Each person that has been disenrolled now, 250 of us, has lost $1.6 million, our rights to vote, our rights to healthcare, educational system," Rick Cuevas, who was removed from the tribe, told CBS2.
An anthropologist hired by Pechanga to study the ancestry of the tribe and its members documented significant evidence that Cuevas and his clan are Pechanga. The anthropologist has said in several documents he is “surprised and dismayed that the tribe continues to maintain otherwise."
“Nobody has more of a right or is more Pechanga than us," Cuevas said.
Pala chairman, Robert Smith, told CBS2 that the issue at stake is lineage, not money.
“It has nothing to do with money. They can say what they want, but that is not true. Right is right, wrong is wrong, and they don’t meet the requirements to be enrolled in here,” Smith said.
In a related article, Indian Country Today Media Network examines how Indian identity is measured, and how the onset of casino gaming has, among some tribes, fueled intense feuds and mass disenrollments: Bitter Fight to Determine Who Is an American Indian Turns to DNA Testing.