Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
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Opinion
Column: Tribal nations evict their own people


"In recent years, the following tribes have or are in the process of banishing or disenrolling tribal citizens: the Las Vegas Paiutes (Nevada); the Sauk-Suitattle (Washington state); the Oneida Nation (New York); the Tonawanda Band of Seneca (New York); the Lummi (Washington state); the Mille Lacs Band, Grand Portage Band and Boise Forte Band of Ojibwe (Minnesota); the Sac and Fox (Iowa); and the Narragansett Tribe (Rhode Island).

The greatest concentration of disenrollments are occurring within the small nations of California, including the Redding Rancheria, Enterprise Rancheria, Maidu Barry Creek Rancheria, the Chukchansi of the Picayune Reservation, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, the Santa Rosa Rancheria and the Viejas Band of Mission Indians.

Why is legal, political and cultural termination of our own kin occurring at such a heightened level now? Are the tribal governments engaged in such harsh decisions acting in a manner that comports with the traditional notions of identity discussed above, or are tribal officials now acting like privileged and exclusive corporate clubs? What rights do the banished/disenrolled citizens have to contest this most profound of severances? What role, if any, should the federal government play in these difficult affairs, since those disenrolled also happen to be U.S. citizens as well and are entitled to basic civil liberties like all other citizens?

While I fully support the inherent right of tribal nations to decide their own citizenry, I do not support, nor does history or tribal tradition affirm, the oftentimes arbitrary power of some tribal institutions to categorically disenfranchise and disenroll tribal individuals, entire families and, in some case, large groupings of tribal members on specious and questionable grounds.

If tribal governments continue down the path of wholesale evictions of their own people on the most spurious of grounds, they may not only eventually provoke the federal government to comprehensively step in and interfere in this most private of tribal decisions; but more importantly, they will continue to be acting in a manner that profoundly violates the true spirit of what it means to be a tribal nation - a nation in which all are related by genealogy (culturally derived, not fractions of blood), by land, by language and by spiritual traditions."

Get the Story:
David Wilkins: Self-determination or self-decimation? (Indian Country Today 8/25)

Relevant Links:
Pechanga Tribal Disenrollment - http://www.pechanga.info
Bureau-of-Indian-Affairs.com, Disenrollment site - http://www.bureau-of-indian-affairs.com

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