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Supreme Court turns down another tribal disenrollment dispute

Filed Under: Law | National
More on: 9th circuit, bia, california, disenrollment, nooksack, pala, san pasqual, supreme court, washington
     
   

Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills, a citizen of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, explains why he supports the #StopDisenrollment campaign. Photo: StopDisenrollment.Com

The #StopDisenrollment movement continues to gain steam across the nation but there's still one place where it hasn't caught on.

Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned down a petition in Alto v. Jewell, a tribal disenrollment case from California. The action marks the second time this year that the justices have refused to get involved in the controversy.

The hands-off approach from the nation's highest court stands in contrast to the growing concern about tens of thousands of people who have lost their tribal citizenship across Indian Country. More and more prominent voices, including Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills (Oglala Sioux), Washington State Sen. John McCoy (Tulalip) and Arkansas Law School Dean Stacy Leeds (Cherokee), have joined the #StopDisenrollment campaign to draw attention to what has been called an epidemic.

The efforts are slowly paying off after years of inaction. In one notable example, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, during the final months of the Obama administration, questioned the ouster of more than 300 people from the Nooksack Tribe.

The BIA and other federal agencies have since withheld an estimated $14 million for health, housing and other programs on the reservation in Washington. The tribe is now suing the new Trump administration in hopes of securing the funds, ensuring that the dispute, which has drawn consistent media coverage, will continue to gain attention.

Not everyone has been so fortunate, though. Dozens of people who were ousted by the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians and the Pala Band of Mission Indians turned to the BIA for help but were ultimately unable to prevent their removals from the two tribes, both based in southern California.

In the Alto case, the one denied by the Supreme Court on Monday, the BIA actually took part in the removal of former citizens of the San Pasqual Band under a provision in the tribe's constitution. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in an unpublished decision last September, said the BIA acted lawfully when it determined that Marcus Alto Sr. had been incorrectly enrolled.

In the Aguayo case, the one denied by the Supreme Court in January, the BIA refused to get involved because the Pala Band changed its laws to keep the agency out of citizenship matters. The 9th Circuit sided with the agency, ensuring that the descendants of Margarita Britten will remain off the rolls.

Turtle Talk has posted briefs from both cases, Alto v. Jewell and Aguayo v. Jewell.

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Decisions:
Alto v. Jewell [San Pasqual Band Disenrollment] (September 20, 2016)
Aguayo v. Jewell [Pala Band Disenrollment] (July 8, 2016)

Related Stories:
Gabe Galanda: The Obama administration's disenrollment legacy (01/25)
Disenrollment epidemic affects dozens of tribes across the nation (1/18)
Nooksack Tribe tries to evict family amid mass enrollment purge (12/22)
Leader of Nooksack Tribe defends purge of 'non-Indians' from rolls (11/23)
Indian Health Service warns Nooksack Tribe about disenrollees (11/22)
Bureau of Indian Affairs rebuffs Nooksack Tribe on disenrollment (11/17)
Gabe Galanda: Every tribe should be troubled by disenrollments (11/17)
Nooksack Tribe moves to disenroll 306 after holding referendum (11/10)
Bureau of Indian Affairs questions Nooksack Tribe's government (10/18)
Nooksack Tribe creates new court and puts chairman in charge (10/14)
Nooksack Tribe ignores court orders as disenrollment dispute stalls (08/01)
Disenrollees of Pala Band ask federal appeals court for rehearing (07/14)
Court sides with Bureau of Indian Affairs in disenrollment dispute (07/08)
Nooksack Tribe fires elder who spoke out against disenrollment (06/29)
National tribal judge group questions firing in disenrollment case (05/11)
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Washington rally draws attention to tribal disenrollment epidemic (04/18)
Peter d'Errico: Nooksack Tribe fuels bad stereotypes about courts (03/25)
Nooksack Tribe slammed by judge for disbarring lawyer and firm (3/22)
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Al Jazeera program focuses on tribal disenrollment controversies (3/4)
Chase Iron Eyes: Real sovereigns don't disenroll their own people (02/10)
National campaign launched to stop tribal disenrollment epidemic (02/09)
Nooksack Tribe loses bid to prevent some from voting in election (01/27)
Gabe Galanda: The tide keeps turning against disenrollment (11/16)
Gabe Galanda: The growing chorus against disenrollments (11/13)
Disenrollment from Pala Band affects children in ICWA case (11/12)
Gabriel Galanda: Banish drug dealers but don't disenroll them (09/08)
Nooksack Tribe disenrollment proceedings placed on hold again (07/14)
Indian attorneys take a stand and denounce tribal disenrollment (04/13)
9th Circuit won't interfere in Pala Band's disenrollment dispute (03/17)
Judge tells Nooksack Tribe to delay disenrollment proceedings (02/24)
Nooksack Tribe moves forward with disenrollment proceedings (02/10)
Gabe Galanda: The legal consequences of tribal disenrollments (2/3)
Gabe Galanda: Tribes are carrying out the wishes of the colonizer (01/16)
Gabe Galanda: Disenrollments are bankrupting our tribal nations (01/15)
Court tells Nooksack Tribe to stop disenrollment proceedings (06/13)
Nooksack Tribe attempts to resume disenrollment proceedings (6/4)
KUOW: Nooksack Tribe election shows divide on disenrollment (03/18)
Disenrollees of Nooksack Tribe to seek recount after election (3/17)
Opinion: Nooksack Tribe engages in deadly disenrollment trend (3/14)
Opinion: Nooksack Tribe's election affects disenrollment dispute (03/03)
Michelle Roberts: Open letter on Nooksack Tribe disenrollment (2/27)
Nooksack Tribe heads into election amid disenrollment dispute (2/18)
Court puts hold on disenrollments within Nooksack Tribe (01/23)
Michelle Roberts: Nooksack Tribe persecutes its own people (12/17)

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