Disenrollees of Pala Band ask federal appeals court for rehearing


A sign on the Pala Reservation in California. Photo from Waymarking

Hundreds of people who have been removed from the Pala Band of Mission Indians are asking a federal appeals court to rehear their case.

The tribe changed its constitution and enrollment laws to keep the Bureau of Indian Affairs out of membership matters. The lack of federal oversight directly contributed to the disenrollment of more than 150 people, a petition filed with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday reads.

"These days, the decimation of federally recognized Native American Indians is aided by the Department of Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs, when the government ignores its legal trust responsibility to federally enrolled tribal members," the petition, a copy of which was posted by Original Pechanga, a blog that focuses on disenrollment issues, states.

The BIA used to review the tribe's membership decisions, a role that at one point ensured the descendants of Margarita Britten, a revered Pala basket weaver who was born in 1865, remained on the rolls. But once tribal leaders eliminated the agency's role, they lowered Margarita's blood quantum in 2011 even though she had been dead for more than 80 years.


Indianz.Com SoundCloud: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Oral Arguments in Aguayo v. Jewell February 5, 2016

Margarita's eight great-great-grandchildren were removed after their ancestor's blood quantum was lowered. But tribal leaders didn't stop there.

"Shortly thereafter, the executive committee sent similar disenrollment notices to 150 of Margarita’s descendants," Judge Milan D. Smith wrote for the 9th Circuit last week.

The case went before a panel of three judges and their decision was unanimous. That might make it harder for the disenrollees to justify their request for a rehearing.

The removals constituted a significant percent of the tribe's membership -- about 15 percent. A group of 27 Margarita descendants tried to fight their disenrollment by suing individual tribal officials but lost their case before the 9th Circuit in March 2015.

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Aguayo v. Jewell (July 8, 2016)

Another 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Allen v. Smith (March 16, 2015)

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