Nez Perce Tribe investigating wasted bison
LEWISTON (AP) — The Nez Perce Tribe is investigating after the discovery of a bison carcass apparently dumped and wasted in a canyon in northern Idaho near the town of Stites.
Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman Silas Whitman tells the Lewiston Tribune in a story on Thursday that the tribe wants to determine if a tribal member is responsible.
He says the wasting of the bison tramples on the beliefs and values of the Nez Perce Tribe as well as other tribes.
The tribe has bison hunting rights in Montana near Yellowstone National Park. The tribal bison hunting season started Nov. 8 and runs through March 18.
The tribe's Conservation Enforcement Division is leading the investigation.
Ex-Navajo lawmakers plead guilty in criminal cases
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Two former Navajo Nation lawmakers have acknowledged that they participated in a scheme to divert tribal funds to their families and said they knew it was wrong, according to tribal court documents.
Raymond Joe and Harry Williams Sr. pleaded guilty this week to single counts of conspiracy to commit bribery. In exchange, prosecutors dropped the six bribery charges each was facing.
The agreements on the criminal charges represent the first in which tribal officials say they authorized payments to colleagues' families with the understanding the lawmakers or the lawmakers' families would benefit in return. Joe said he conspired with five lawmakers to dole out nearly $25,000 from a discretionary fund intended for Navajos in need. Williams said he provided $7,300 to two lawmakers' families.
“At the time I did this, I knew this agreement to try to circumvent tribal law was wrong,'' the men stated in court documents.
The plea agreements allow Joe and Williams to avoid jail time if they cooperate with prosecutors in cases involving other tribal officials. The tribal government could request that Joe and Williams pay up to $55,000 in restitution combined.
Under the agreement, they won't be sentenced until after the other cases alleging misuse of tribal funds have been resolved. The Window Rock District Court has set aside trial dates from March through June.
Prosecutors have charged about a dozen others with bribery and conspiracy in the case, and filed ethics charges against three. Joe and Williams are among at least a handful of former and current Tribal Council delegates who have settled allegations against them ahead of trial.
Williams' attorney, David Jordan, initially denied that his client made deals for financial assistance to other lawmakers shortly after Williams was criminally charged in August. He declined to comment Thursday.
A telephone listing for Joe could not be found. He does not have an attorney listed in court documents.
Window Rock District Court Judge Carol Perry signed off on the plea agreements earlier this week. If Joe and Williams don't meet the terms, the original charges against them will be reinstated. They also cannot seek elected office in 2014, a year in which 24 Tribal Council seats and the tribal presidency is up for grabs.
Joe, a former Navajo Nation police sergeant, represented the community of Chinle on the Tribal Council. Williams represented Tuba City and nearby Coalmine Canyon.
Community members in Tuba City and Chinle said Friday that allowing Joe and Williams to be sentenced to probation was too lenient of a punishment. Sentences for any crime under Navajo Nation law, whether it be homicide or conspiracy to commit bribery, carry a maximum penalty of a year in a jail and a $5,000 fine.
Tuba City resident Delilah Endischee said Friday that Williams was right to acknowledge wrongdoing and that she is glad to see the case moving toward a resolution. But people living on the western portion of the reservation have struggled with the lack of power and water lines, she said.
“We have people, a lot of deficiencies in terms of where people need assistance,'' she said. ``That's where the money should have been going, not to people who probably didn't even need the funds, yet it was given to them as favoritism or nepotism.''
Walton Yazzie, the manager at the Chinle Chapter, said community members who desperately needed help were turned away by lawmakers who said no money was available from the discretionary fund. He said lawmakers who acknowledge guilt or are convicted should pay back the money and spend some time in jail.
“I don't know why Navajo Nation law isn't strict enough,'' he said.
Ex-tribal chair accused of killings, faces hearing
CEDARVILLE, Calif. (AP) — For Cherie Lash Rhoades, an appeals hearing was her last chance to keep her small house on a tiny American Indian reservation in the high desert of northeastern California. During the eviction meeting at tribal headquarters, the former Cedarville Rancheria chairwoman is accused of killing four people, including three relatives.
Court documents allege she opened fire with a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol at the building in Alturas, Calif., on Thursday, killing four and wounding two. She was arrested as she stabbed one of the wounded, whom she had chased into the parking lot with a kitchen knife, the documents say. She stopped when a man tackled her and the undersheriff of Modoc County handcuffed her, authorities said.
She has been held without bail at an undisclosed location since her arrest outside the headquarters. She was expected to be arraigned Tuesday in Modoc County Superior Court on a criminal complaint alleging four counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder, with enhancements for using a firearm and causing great bodily harm. If convicted, she will face the death penalty because of the multiple victims, District Attorney Jordan Funk said.
She was to be represented in court by counsel qualified to handle a capital case, Funk said.
Cedarville Rancheria attorney Jack Duran said that just three weeks before the shooting, Rhoades had been suspended as tribal chairwoman pending a federal embezzlement investigation, and the meeting where the shooting broke out was being held to consider her eviction appeal. Rhoades’ son, Jack Stockton, also was ousted as vice chairman, and evicted from tribal housing, on the same grounds, Duran told The Associated Press. Stockton was not at the hearing when the shooting broke out. He had no listed telephone number at which to contact him for comment.
Killed in the shooting were Rhoades’ brother Rurik Davis, 50, who was serving as interim tribal chairman; Rhoades’ niece, Angel Penn, 19, a member of the tribal council; Rhoades’ nephew, Glenn Calonicco, 30, another council member; and tribal administrator Shelia Lynn Russo, 47.
Duran said Penn was holding her newborn baby on her lap when she was killed. The baby was not hurt and was being placed with a family member.
Two women who were wounded survived bullet wounds and were also cut with a knife.
The Cedarville Rancheria is a federally recognized tribe with 35 registered members. The Rancheria owns 26 acres in Cedarville, where most members reside in nine small, one-story houses built in the 1950s on lots on the outskirts of the town of 1,500.
Investigators have been looking into whether Rhoades took at least $50,000 in federal grant money meant for the Cedarville Rancheria, a person familiar with the tribe’s situation told The Associated Press last week on condition of anonymity.
The tribe had received an Indian housing grant for $50,399 in 2012 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to a press release on the department’s website.
Duran said he could not confirm or deny that was the money in question, adding the amount could be less, “or a lot more.”
Though police have said they are still working on a motive, a nephew who lived with Rhoades, Jacob Penn, said she snapped under the pressure of her brother’s attempt to evict her.
Eviction from tribal housing is among the most serious punishments for American Indians. But Rhoades and Stockton were not being removed from tribal rolls and would continue to receive their share of $1.1 million in gambling revenue shared by casino tribes with the Rancheria, which does not have a casino, Duran said.
He acknowledged Rhoades’ reputation in Cedarville as a bully.
“Cherie was rough around the edges,” he said. “She had a rough life. I think her personality reflected that roughness.”
The tribe was busy cleaning up the headquarters building and was not sure if it would resume using it because of the slayings, Duran said.