Gabe Galanda: The Obama administration's disenrollment legacy

The Nooksack Tribe in Washington has removed hundreds of people from the rolls. Photo: The Nooksack 306

Will the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other federal agencies sing a different tune when it comes to tribal disenrollments? Attorney Gabe Galanda thinks some actions taken during the final months of the Obama administration signal a change in course:
During President Obama’s first year in office the Trustee—the U.S. Department of the Interior—began to ignore disenrollment. From the late 1970s until 1988, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) policy proclaimed that “disenrollment actions are subject to approval by the Secretary or his authorized representatives.” The BIA remained closely involved in disenrollment in the 1990s and early 2000s.

But in 2009 the BIA opted out of the disenrollment business. From behind closed doors and “[w]ithout any tribal consultation or administrative rulemaking,” the BIA Central Office in Washington, D.C. proclaimed a new disenrollment protocol: “The BIA adheres to a policy of Indian self-determination and self-government.” The U.S. District Court in Timbisha Shoshone Tribe v. Kennedy (E.D. Cal. 2009) construed that pronouncement to mean “the BIA will not interfere in the disenrollment issue.”

The BIA’s new hands-off disenrollment policy proved to be a disastrous federal over-correction for Indian country.

During the next seven years of the Obama Administration, several thousand Indians were terminated by their own relatives—upwards of 9,000 tribal members have now been disenrolled from 79 tribes in 20 states according to Professor David Wilkins.

Read More on the Story:
Gabe Galanda: Obama’s Disenrollment Legacy (Indian Country Today 1/25)

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