A tiny California Indian tribe named Alturas Rancheria has adopted white members in an attempt to head off a takeover from other members during an internecine war, the Sacramento Bee reports.
In 2008, sister and brother Wendy and Phillip Del Rosa, the only two members of the tribe tracing their blood line to an original member of the tribe, brought in Calvin Phelps, a white cigarette manufacturer from North Carolina, who is currently in jail serving a 40-month federal prison term for fraud. They also adopted and Donald Packingham of New Mexico, another white cigarette manufacturer. Their goal was to stave off a takeover by their cousins, Joseph Burrell and his sister, Jennifer Chrisman, who had joined with Darren Rose–who had been adopted into the tribe in 2003 because he had plans to build the tribe a new casino on Indian land he had inherited.
The tribe currently rakes in $2 million a year in revenue: around $700,000 from the Desert Rose Casino, which encompasses 5,000 square feet; $1.1 million from revenue sharing with the other casino tribes; and the rest from federal funds, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The story of the Alturas Rancheria, who are Achumawi Indians, and also known as Pit River Indians, began in 1924, when the federal Office of Indian Affairs bought 20 acres east of Alturas for about 40 Indians who owned no land.
In 1971, The Bureau of Indian Affairs assigned the votes on the tribe’s constitution to five people, two of whom were Judy “Babe” Allen and her daughter Violet Del Rosa, grandmother of Phillip and Wendy. Additional members were enrolled into the tribe in order to boost eligibility for federal health and education grants, which are based on the number of enrolled tribal members.
Dale Risling, deputy regional director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said the BIA can do nothing about the inner warfare of the Indian tribe, telling the Bee, “The courts have held that tribal disputes are internal to the tribe, and only tribes have the authority to resolve them, so basically we’re told to keep hands off….There’s a lot more money at stake, and that makes them more intense.”