Small protest highlights rift in Dry Creek Pomo tribe

  • Angelina Manuel, left, and Alexis Elgin explain their dissatisfaction with current Dry Creek Rancheria tribal leadership to River Rock Casino visitor Jill Chavez, from Hawaii, on Sunday afternoon, March 8, 2009.

GEYSERVILLE ? A small group of Dry Creek Pomo Indians protested the disenrollment of six dozen of their family and friends Sunday at the entrance to the tribe?s cash cow, the River Rock Casino.

With signs reading ?Corruption+Greed=Disenrollment? and ?No Disenrolling for Dollars,? the group quietly engaged passersby and those dropping off their cars for valet parking.

Casino management sent an emissary outside ? who is related to some of the protesters ? to tell them they wouldn?t be kicked off tribal property if they didn?t obstruct anyone or disrupt traffic. He declined to comment and refused to give his name.

The peaceful protest was the latest turn in a contentious fight for leadership of the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians, whose members receive $600 monthly checks from casino disbursements and other benefits of tribal enrollment.

Tribal Chairman Harvey Hopkins and the governing board voted in January to remove the names of 73 adults and 70 children from the rolls of the 565-member tribe. Elections in December were cancelled and infighting between Hopkins and other board members led to recall efforts started ? then abruptly cancelled ? between leaders.

Protest leader Ross Cunningham of San Francisco, who was told he will be disenrolled, said the leaders are ignoring what tribe members want.

?Our board is valuing this casino rather than our members,? he said.

The tribe?s casino in Alexander Valley posted $32.3 million in revenue for the third quarter that ended Sept. 30.

Alexis Elgin said she was told she will be removed from tribal membership, and then was fired from her casino job after presenting Hopkins with a petition against the disenrollment.

She said she was given the run-around when she went to tribal headquarters to view an audit that supposedly shows she doesn?t qualify as a member.

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