The Buzz: Federal court reopens Calaveras County tribe challenge

12/14/2013 12:00 AM

12/14/2013 8:30 AM

Federal judge wants review of a tribe’s membership

A bitter and long-running fight over a small Calaveras County tribe has taken a new turn, as a Washington, D.C.-based federal judge has ordered Interior Department officials to take another look at its past decisions.

In a 23-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein sided with Yakima Dixie and his allies with the California Miwok Indian Tribe. Dixie has been competing with Silvia Burley for tribal control of what was once called the Sheep Ranch Me-Wuk.

Money, among other things, is at stake; as Rothstein noted, “the California Gambling Control Commission notified the Tribe that it would withhold distributions from the California Revenue Sharing Trust Fund until the tribal leadership was established.”

In 2011, the Obama administration effectively sided with Burley. On Friday, though, Rothstein concluded that it was “unreasonable” for the administration to declare that the tribe consisted solely of Yakima, Burley, Burley’s two daughters and Burley’s granddaughter.

Rothstein remanded the case to the Interior Department for reconsideration.

– Michael Doyle

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