Both sides on the tribal dispute over the Meskwaki Casino claim some affirmation from an opinion this week by the National Indian Gaming Commission. The commission regulates Indian gambling operations and in May ordered the Tama casino closed when two sides fighting for control could not reach a compromise. This week the Commission announced the casino will remain closed. Eric Woolson’s the spokesman hired by Alex Walker, the winner of the tribe’s last official election. Woolson says the NIGC calls the Homer Bear group that controls tribal and casino offices is an “unrecognized faction” and Walker’s council is the elected and recognized council. But the Gaming Commission also notes in its ruling that Homer Bear’s supporters held a recall petition drive, which was ignored by Walker in 2002. The only way for the casino to be reopened, he says, is for the Homer Bear group to step aside. But the Gaming Commission’s opinion does not say that. It calls for proof that a “duly elected” tribal council is operating the casino. Last month the Bureau of Indian Affairs ordered the tribe to set a date for an official election, and that date is set for October 21st. The Alex Walker group, in the meantime, says it wants to resume payments to tribal members from casino profits. In addition to monthly per-capita payments, Woolson says they’ll issue another payment of three-thousand dollars to help with the loss of casino jobs. It’s not clear they can do that, since banks frozen tribal accounts back in April. The Walker faction charges that the Bear faction isn’t paying tuition-assistance, per-capita or other tribal aid to members. Both sides have asked law enforcement officials to throw the others out of tribal offices, but the authorities have taken no action. Each faction has also agreed to abide by the results of the October 21 election.
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