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Tribe to donate $1.3 million

John Rieping/The Madera Tribune Members of Cal Fire honor Madera County supervisors with plaques in thanks for keeping promises on fire-fighting funding.


The Picayune Ranch-eria of Chukchansi Indians announced $1,289,701.95 in grants Tuesday for 32 county projects, including 17 in Oakhurst, nine in Madera, four in Coarsegold and two in Chowchilla.

The tribe also set aside a $10,000 grant to Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold to pay for a recipient award banquet there on Dec. 14.

“We can’t think of a better way to kick off the giving season than to support these 33 deserving organizations that do such important work in our community,” said Tribal Council Chairwoman Claudia Gonzales at a regular meeting of the Madera County Board of Supervisors.

The grants fulfill an agreement with county supervisors that required annual charitable donations for the casino’s initial years of operation. Grants for 2014 were combined with this year’s grants due to the shutdown of the casino in October 2014 following an armed dispute between tribal factions. The casino reopened on New Year’s Day this year.

Recipients were chosen from grant applications submitted in 2014, according to the Sierra Star, and about two out of three applications came from eastern Madera County.

Nearly all of the 2014-2016 grants announced Tuesday are for $25,000 but four are quite a bit larger. The tribe will give $312,494.65 to Manna House of Oakhurst, a Christian ministry that provides free food and clothing to those in need, $50,000 to Rivergold Elementary School in Coarsegold for a technology upgrade and hiking park, and $112,494.65 each to Community Medical Providers in Oakhurst and Oak Creek Middle School in Bass Lake.

Madera recipients accepting $25,000 are the library and museum for a joint Madera Historical Museum Photographs Preservation Project, Golden Valley Unified School District for a Sierra View Elementary School playground, Self Help Enterprises for rural outreach, the city’s Neighborhood Revitalization Department’s Adopt-a-School Program, Madera County Food Bank, Madera County Arts Council, Salvation Army, Community Action Partnership for Fairmead, and the city’s Parks and Community Services for soccer field lighting at Sunrise Rotary park.

Chowchilla recipients are Chowchilla Elementary School for its music program and Chowchilla VFW Post 9896 for its kitchen.

Oakhurst recipients receiving $25,000 are Griswold Detachment 1121 Marine Corps League, Indian Lakes Estate Property Owners Association, Sierra Ambulance Services, Caring Veterans of America, Sierra Senior Society, Macarena Health for Oakhurst dental services, Wild Wonderful Women-Positively Full Pet Food Bank, American Legion Post #110 for a concession trailer, Children’s Museum of the Sierra, Sierra Historical Sites Association for the restoration of Fresno Flats Historical Village, The Positive Living Center, Madera County Film Commission, Boys and Girls Club of Oakhurst, and the Eastern Madera County Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Coarsegold recipients of $25,000 are Sierra Lions Club for eye exams and eyeglasses and Coarsegold Community Center for repairs and upgrades.

“These grants are timely and critical contributions for our community and demonstrate the importance of a successful partnership between the Chukchansi tribe and Madera County,” said Supervisor Max Rodriguez, District 4.

The relationship between tribal factions and local government is not always harmonious however. Various county officials have been sued in recent days by nine former tribal faction police officers in federal courts on charges of false arrests without probable cause, malicious prosecution, economic and emotional distress, and excessive bail.

The tribe itself faces a lawsuit filed Oct. 28 by River Palm Partners, which alleges it hasn’t paid $749,699 in rent and interest, according to the Fresno Bee. Two leases were signed in 2013 and 2014 by Reggie Lewis, then chairman of a tribal faction, and the second partly waived the tribe’s sovereign immunity, enabling the lawsuit.

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