Turtle Talk Poll: The enduring legacy of Supreme Court decision

The Nooksack Tribe of Washington is trying to remove 306 people from the rolls. Photo from Facebook

A U.S. Supreme Court decision issued in 1978 continues to remain a popular topic in Indian Country.

In Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, the high court held that the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 did not authorize a lawsuit against Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico. The case arose in response to a discriminatory tribal law that bars membership to children of women who marry outside of the tribe while children of men in the same situation are not affected.

Although disenrollment was not really a word uttered at the time, federal courts have repeatedly cited the decision in refusing to get involved in internal membership disputes. Still, 80 percent of respondents in an ongoing Turtle Talk poll believe the justices made the right call back in 1978 and a large majority -- 62 percent -- believe they would decide the case in a similar manner in 2015.

At the same time, a growing number of people believe tribal disenrollments must be addressed in some fashion. Responses to other questions in the poll indicate support for looking at new ways to enforce the Indian Civil Rights Act or strengthen tribal courts and tribal institutions that handle membership matters.

The National Native American Bar Association already has taken a big lead on the issue. A resolution and ethics opinion explained that tribes -- while retaining the sovereign right to determine their own identity -- should protect the due process rights of people who face disenrollment.

Get the Story:
Turtle Talk Poll — The Enduring Legacy/Aftermath of Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez (Turtle Talk 8/28)

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