About a dozen Meskwakis picketed outside a Marshalltown bank to protest the bank’s decision not to release the tribe’s money. Rhonda Pushentonqua, a spokeswoman for the picketers, says Wells Fargo is refusing to release tribal funds to the elected council. She says that newly-elected council has been recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. A rival group has filed an appeal, and Pushentonqua says Wells Fargo is using that as an excuse to hang on to the tribe’s money. She accuses Wells Fargo of delaying because the newly-elected council intends to withdraw its money and place it in another bank. Pushentonqua says the tribe has about 120-million dollars sitting in the Marshalltown Wells Fargo bank and every day it remains there, it’s more money for the bank’s pockets, not the tribe’s.Pushentonqua says some people may think the tribal dispute is over because the election was held and the feds recognized the newly-elected council. But Pushentonqua says this dispute with the bank is preventing the tribe from re-opening its casino and putting over a thousand people back to work. Jim Lowrens is the president of the Wells Fargo branch in downtown Marshalltown where the picket was staged. Lowrens says Wells Fargo has a responsibility to protect the tribe’s fund for the rightful owner, and so the bank has asked the district court to issue a ruling as to just who is the rightful owner and who should have access to the money. Lowrens says they hope the court’s decision is made “fairly soon.”Lowrens says it’s unfortunate that some tribal members have chosen to picket a private business rather than let the courts decide the matter. The Meskwaki Casino near Tama has been closed since May. A bitter tribal leadership dispute led to a special election earlier this month that saw rival factions open separate polling places. Federal officials sanctioned one of the polling places, and recognized results from that site.
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