The Latest: Town asks for help with tribal standoff

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Posted: Dec 22, 2016 9:48 PM
The Latest: Town asks for help with tribal standoff

CHARLESTOWN, R.I. (AP) — The Latest on the Narragansett Indian power struggle in Rhode Island (all times local):

9 p.m.

Rhode Island's governor says she's working with federal officials to request an independent mediator to help resolve the dispute between two factions of the Narragansett Indian tribe.

A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo said Thursday night she has spoken to Chief Sachem (SAY'-chem) Matthew Thomas to urge a peaceful resolution to the tribe's disputed election.

Members of a recently elected Narragansett Tribal Council say they took over a tribal administration building Tuesday because Thomas has refused to relinquish power after they impeached him in October.

Raimondo's spokesman David Ortiz says the governor is working with U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island Peter Neronha to request that the U.S. Department of Justice send an independent mediator to resolve the dispute.

Ortiz says the governor and state of Rhode Island don't have the jurisdiction to become involved in the tribal election

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5:30 p.m.

The police chief of a Rhode Island town where two factions of the Narragansett Indian tribe are locked in a standoff says he's asking for help from the state and federal government.

Charlestown Police Chief Jeffrey Allen said after sundown Thursday evening that he's sought guidance from the office of Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo.

Allen says he's reducing the police presence outside the tribal administration building that's been occupied since Tuesday morning by a group of tribal members seeking to oust Chief Sachem (SAY'-chem) Matthew Thomas.

The occupying group is led by elected tribal council members who impeached Thomas in October, in part because they say he spends too much time in Florida.

Thomas says the tribe's own police force will retake the building if the occupiers don't leave.

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4 p.m.

The chief of a Rhode Island Indian tribe says he's still hoping for a peaceful resolution to the occupation of a tribal administration building by a rival faction as sunset approached and his supporters started a campfire near the building.

Narragansett Chief Sachem (SAY'-chem) Matthew Thomas said Thursday afternoon that he's letting his tribal police force make the call on what happens next. He says an elder's attempt to mediate didn't work.

A rival group of elected tribal council members who impeached Thomas in October have been occupying the building since Tuesday.

Councilwoman Chastity Machado, one of the occupying members, says she's concerned about the group's safety as night falls. She says she's relying on protection from the Rhode Island State Police and Charlestown Police Department. Police have monitored the dispute all day.

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2:55 p.m.

An elder from a Rhode Island Indian tribe is trying to end a standoff between two factions that's led to the occupation of a tribal building.

Charlestown Police Chief Jeffrey Allen said Thursday that the elder went inside the administration building that a group of mostly female members of the Narragansett Indian Tribe has occupied since Tuesday.

The standoff comes in a power struggle against impeached Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas.

Tribal member Bella Noka says it's mostly women because they don't want the men getting hurt if Thomas supporters try to forcefully regain the building. She says they won't leave until the federal government intervenes.

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs said Wednesday that it won't step in.

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12:30 p.m.

The leader of the Narragansett Indian Tribe says he will forcefully take over his tribal administration building unless a faction occupying it since Tuesday leaves immediately.

Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas (SAY'-chem) said Thursday afternoon that he was on his way to the occupied tribal administration building in Charlestown, Rhode Island.

Both sides had filed temporary restraining orders but U.S. District Judge John McConnell ruled Thursday morning that his court lacks jurisdiction because it's a question of tribal sovereignty.

Thomas then received a tribal court ruling that he says allows his side to regain control of the building.

A lawyer for the faction inside the building says Thomas supporters were gathering outside it early Thursday afternoon. Attorney Misty Delgado says she's concerned the situation could become physical.

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10:12 a.m.

Members of a Rhode Island Indian tribe are in their third day of occupying their tribal government headquarters in the latest round of a power struggle with the chief they ousted.

Members of a recently elected Narragansett Tribal Council said they took over the administration building Tuesday because Chief Sachem (SAY'-chem) Matthew Thomas has refused to relinquish power after they impeached him in October.

They changed the locks on the building and slept on couches on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Councilwoman Chastity Machado says she's hoping for a resolution Thursday when a federal judge holds a conference call with lawyers representing both factions.

The conference is to consider a temporary restraining order filed on Wednesday by Thomas and his supporters who say the building occupation is unlawful.