Gabe Galanda: Every tribe should be troubled by disenrollments

Attorney Gabe Galanda. Photo from Facebook

Despite pressures being placed on some tribes, the disenrollment epidemic continues in Indian Country. Attorney Gabe Galanda, a member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, discusses the harmful effects of disenrollment on sovereignty and federal-tribal relations:
In 2011, Cedric Sunray wrote a column here simply titled, “Disenrollment Clubs.” He opened with a quote about the Cherokee Freedmen, from Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilwoman Cara Cowan Watts: “This is not a club; you can’t just claim to be Cherokee and show up and be included.”

Sunray then deconstructed her position, observing “disenrollments are not the work of the community at large, but rather those who control the power structures within them.” He concluded that tribes who disenroll their kin “sink to the level of the Lions, Kiwanis, or . . . Knights of Columbus, in terms of function and stature in the international community.”

Indian legal scholar Robert Clinton, in a ruling he delivered as Acting Chief Justice of the Las Vegas Paiute Court of Appeals, likewise once compared disenrolling tribes to “social fraternities or sororities.”

Over the last five years, several high-profile disenrollment controversies have proven Sunray’s assessment right and borne out Judge Clinton’s comparison, making tribes look more like social clubs or fraternities rather than sovereign nations.

Every tribe should be troubled.

Read More:
Gabriel S. Galanda: Don’t Join the Disenrollment Club (Indian Country Today 11/16)

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