A bitter and long-running fight over a small Calaveras County tribe has now taken a new turn, as a Washington, D.C.-based federal judge has ordered Interior Department officials to take another look at its past decisions.
In a 23-page decision, U.S. District Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein sided with Yakima Dixie and his allies with the California Miwok Indian Tribe. Dixie has been competing with Silvia Burley for tribal control of what was once called the Sheep Ranch Me-Wuk.
"Both Yakima and Burley laid claim to the role of 'Chairperson' of the Tribe and attempted to organize the Tribe... by submitting multiple competing constitutions that purportedly had been adopted by the tribal membership," Rothstein noted.
Money, among other things, is at stake; as Rothstein noted, "the California Gambling Control Commission notified the Tribe that it would withhold distributions from the California Revenue Sharing Trust Fund until the tribal leadership was established."
In 2011, the Obama administration effectively sided with Burley. On Friday, though, Rothstein concluded that it was "unreasonable" for the administration to declare that the tribe consisted solely of Yakima, Burley, Burley's two daughters, and Burley's granddaughter.
Rothstein remanded the case to the Interior Department for reconsideration.
PHOTO: Silvia Burley, who claims she's the official chairwoman of the California Miwok tribe, inside her Stockton mansion, which she says is tribal headquarters, on March 30, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo