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Tribe still divided, after all these years

STAFF WRITER

So, the Timbisha Shoshone are united at last, and they can proceed full steam ahead, toward getting a casino in Hesperia at last, right? Not so fast.

The March 17 edition of the Hesperia Star included an interview with Timbisha Shoshone tribal council member Erick Mason, who said that five years of disputes over who was the rightful tribal council are "now finally resolved."

Or maybe not.

There's another tribal council, as there has been since the early days of the 21st century, and that council's chairman George Gholson said that the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is supposed to resolve tribal government disputes, hasn't settled the matter by a long shot.

"They've made five decisions since October," Gholson said Thursday.

And the decisions have a tendency to overrule the previous decisions.

"For the reason stated above, I am reversing the Superintendent's February 29, 2008 decision," a February 17, 2009 legal decision by BIA regional director Dale Morris reads in part. "Consequently, the Bureau of Indian Affairs continues to recognize ... the governing body of the tribe that was recognized prior to the February 29, 2008 decision."

And it's not ending any time soon: Another legal appeal is currently sitting on the desk of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, whose department includes the BIA beneath its umbrella.

"It's going to be faster for him to make a decision," Gholson said. "The problem is that we have an appeal right behind that one. We have two more appeals, in fact."

And while Mason's faction searches for a developer to get the planned casino project on Main Street, next to the High Desert Gateway Shopping Center, going again, Gholson's faction has a developer, but the project can't go forward until there's legal certainty over who really leads the Timbisha Shoshone tribe.

"We just stay in limbo," Gholson said. "We've been in limbo, probably, since 2002 and 2003. ... If they could have made up their mind, we would have our casino."

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.


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