Top row, left to right: Thomas Pisano, Member-at-Large, Ruby Peterson, Member-at-Large & Janet Bill, Member-at-Large. Bottom row, left to right: Amy Dutschke, BIA Pacific Regional Director & Claudia Gonzales, Chairwoman. Chukchansi tribal photo
Written by Edward Smith
The U.S. Department of Interior has accepted 283 acres of land into federal trust for the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians.
On Wednesday, the tribe announced that two parcels known as Bible Story and Safari World near Coarsegold would be folded into sovereign land for use by the tribe.
“Placing this land into trust is an exercise of our sovereignty,” said Chairwoman Claudia Gonzales. “This was the culmination of hard work by the Tribal Council and our staff to complete a complex administrative process. We will now exercise jurisdiction and utilize this land for tribal government purposes such as housing and economic development to benefit tribal members and future generations.”
The release did not specifically state how the land would be used. But housing has been a concern for the tribe. The land use would focus on community development.
The Tribal Council has been working on acquiring these two parcels for some time, according to the tribe’s economic development fact sheet published in August. They are also working on acquiring Hawkins Valley and Chapel Hill, which, combined with Safari World, would add more than 650 acres.
“The Tribal Council is creating and finalizing a Master Plan that will help promote a more efficient use of our land and resources for economic and community ventures,” the fact sheet stated. “The acquisition of these additional lands will continue to build our economic, social and cultural strength.”
In June, the tribe was awarded enough low-income housing tax credits to construct 17 single-family tribal homes in Oakhurst, according to a separate press release. A dollar amount was not included, but was described as being in the “millions.”
The 17-unit development includes 13 three-bedroom homes, four four-bedroom homes and a community playground.
They were expected to break ground on the development this month.
The tribe currently has 1,200 members.
The addition of a Sonic Drive-In in June at the Chukchansi Crossing Fuel Station & Travel Center added 55 new jobs for the community.
The release described the 283 acres as having “open space and rolling hills with oaks and conifers.”