Law

9th Circuit dismisses Colville descendants' enrollment lawsuit





Three descendants of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington can't challenge the tribe's enrollment procedures, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said in an unpublished decision on Monday.

Shawn Lawrence Desautel's was denied enrollment shortly after his birth in 1965 because he didn't meet the tribe's one-quarter blood quantum requirement. His father was 7/16th Colville and his mother was non-Indian so his blood quantum was considered 7/32nd.

He tried to enroll again in 2000 after his uncle's blood quantum was corrected by the tribe's court to be one-half Colville. Since his father and his uncle shared the same parents, the change would presumably boost his blood quantum to one-quarter.

But the tribe declined to enroll him although he was listed as "adopted" under a provision of tribal law. He challenged the decision in tribal court and lost, prompting the federal court lawsuit.

The 9th Circuit, however, said it is unable to resolve the dispute because doing so would "impermissibly require the court to evaluate the merits of the tribe’s membership determinations." The unpublished decision cited the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, which effectively barred federal courts from intruding into internal sovereign matters such as enrollment.

10th Circuit Decision:
DesAutel, v. Dupris (November 26, 2012)