ANADARKO — Armed guards loyal to Apache Tribe Chairman Alonzo Chalepah took over the tribal headquarters by force on Tuesday, a rival official said. The takeover occurred three days after tribal members voted to remove Chalepah and Vice Chairman Mary Rivera from office. City, county and federal law officers were monitoring the situation Tuesday afternoon, said Terry Bruner, acting regional director for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
What's the fight about?Two factions within the tribe have been at odds since June, the month after Apache Tribe voters re-elected Chalepah, said Ron Ahtone, who serves on the tribe's five-person business committee with Chalepah and Ahtone. At a June meeting of tribe members, Chalepah "called the meeting null and void and walked out” when voters began calling for his ouster, Ahtone said. At a special meeting Saturday, the tribal council — consisting of adult tribe members — voted 70 to 0 to recall the chairman and vice chairman, Ahtone said. He said under the tribe's constitution, 50 voters is a quorum. Monday, Ahtone's faction took control of the tribal headquarters, and a few spent the night there. Shortly before dawn Tuesday, armed security guards from a company apparently hired by Chalepah's faction showed up, Ahtone said. "They busted down the two front doors, put people on the floors and handcuffed them at gunpoint. A couple people tried to get away, and they pulled them out of their vehicles,” Ahtone said. He said those people later were allowed to leave. Chalepah and Rivera didn't return phone messages Tuesday.
What the agency can doAs of Tuesday evening, no arrests had been made and the building remained in control of people loyal to Chalepah and Rivera, although the two elected leaders weren't inside, Ahtone said. The tribe's headquarters isn't on federal trust land, so the BIA lacks jurisdiction, said Bruner, the BIA official. Typically in such cases, the bureau tries to help the two factions iron out an agreement, he said.