A legal dispute between a member of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians and the Chukchansi Indian Housing Authority (CIHA) has resulted in a Madera Superior Court Judge taking jurisdiction in the case, notwithstanding the Indians’ tribal sovereignty and insistence the Madera court has no authority to take the case.
On Nov. 6, Judge James E. Oakley of Madera County Superior Court’s Department 5 issued a judgment for the defendant, Patrick Hammond III, in Hammond’s fight with the tribe over the house in which he lives and claims tenancy, but that the tribe owns.
The house is one of several pieces of property located outside the boundaries of the reservation, but not held in trust for the tribe, an important consideration. Properties held in trust are considered to be part of the tribal reservation for legal purposes.
According to court documents, Hammond’s difficulty with his own tribe began on June 2, 2008, when he entered into a “Mutual Help and Occupancy Agreement” with the Chukchansi Indian Housing Authority. Under the terms of the agreement, Hammond leased the 1935 Ivory Court property for a period of 25 years with an option to purchase. The agreement also allowed for a reduction in the monthly rent based on a formula calculated on Hammond’s income...