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Deputies on patrol near Yosemite after Chukchansi tribal factions clash

February 29, 2012 |  3:01 pm


Sheriff’s deputies and security guards were on patrol Wednesday after rival factions of a tribe that runs a casino tangled in a violent skirmish that left two people hospitalized, including one who suffered a stab wound.

The fight Tuesday was described as "absolute pandemonium" by authorities and was apparently triggered by an ongoing dispute between rival members of the Chukchansi tribe, ABC News is reporting.

The tribe owns the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino in the Sierra foothills near Yosemite National Park.

According to ABC, some tribal members say the scuffle has its roots in a disputed December election and a subsequent quarrel over which members get a share of casino proceeds.

Supporters of the rival group say their candidates would overturn the tribe's recent decisions to expel dozens of members. The expulsions excluded tribal members from a share of the casino’s profits, which can amount to $1,000 a month per member.

Critics say thinning the ranks is motivated by greed.

But tribal officials denied that accusation and said the dispute stems from the election of a candidate who was disqualified after he used an invalid tribal badge in the casino, the Fresno Bee reported.

The skirmish came after the rival group took over tribal offices in Coarsegold, about 200 miles southeast of San Francisco, according to Madera County sheriff's officials.

About 100 deputies and other local authorities were called to the scene, which sheriff's spokeswoman Erica Stuart described as "absolute pandemonium."


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-- Steve Marble

Photo: A patron feeds slot machine. Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times