Monday, 15 July 2024

Factions develop over tribal recall election

CLEARLAKE OAKS – A dispute over a recall election has led to conflicts at Elem Indian Colony.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office received three separate calls and responded each time to the rancheria on Monday, according to Capt. James Bauman.

Batsulwin Brown, Elem Colony's vice chair, said the conflict had arisen over the Nov. 14 recall of Tribal Chair Geraldine Johnson.

He said Johnson is contesting the recall.

Elem Colony has about 100 members. Johnson told Lake County News earlier this year that about 40 of the tribe's members live at the colony.

Brown said a faction of tribal members who oppose Johnson and who don't live on the rancheria were trying to take over Elem's new community center, which was dedicated in April, as Lake County News has reported.

“They actually tried to force their way in,” said Brown, which resulted in a call to the sheriff's office.

Bauman said the calls from Elem started coming in at about 8:30 a.m. Monday.

On that first call, the reporting party said there was a meeting at the tribal community center “and things were getting heated up,” with yelling reported inside the community center.

Bauman said a deputy responded to the situation, in which tribal members allegedly were threatening to jump others in the building's parking lot.

At about 9:15 a.m., a second call came in, reporting that a tribal elder had been shoved down the building's stairs, according to Bauman.

A deputy went back and took a report, spending about half an hour at the rancheria, Bauman said. The elder wasn't injured and no arrest was made.

The last call came in around 12:30 p.m. At that time, tribal members were reportedly taking equipment from the community center office. Bauman said the caller asked that a report be filed.

Brown said the tribe has provided information about the disputed recall to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and is awaiting a decision, which is expected in the first or second week of January.

Troy Burdick, superintendent of the BIA's Central California office, did not return a Monday call from Lake County News seeking comment.

The BIA's time lines for decisions in tribal disputes are hard to predict.

Late last year, Robinson Rancheria disenrolled 67 members. Forty-six tribal members appealed the decision to the agency, according to BIA official Fred Doka.

Doka told Lake County News last week that the BIA is still working on the Robinson case, and that they're trying to get to it as soon as possible, but they have no time frame for completion.

In late 1995 and into 1996, intertribal factions at the Elem Indian Colony were responsible for a series of shootings and violent crimes as part of a larger struggle over the tribe's casino, which was closed in October of 1995. The tribe's leadership even issued a emergency declaration.

More recently, the rancheria was the site of a large cleanup effort by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2006, during which the houses were rebuilt and contaminated fill from the nearly Sulphur Bank mercury mine was removed. The cleanup has sparked controversy, with some tribal members alleging that the EPA did significant archaeological damage during the operation.

The following year, the tribe disenrolled 25 members, including the last native speaker of the Elem language, as Lake County News has reported.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

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