Tribal Government & News

Tribal Council votes 4-3 to continue enrollment amendment election process

Tribal Council voted 4-3 on Wednesday, Sept. 14, to reject an effort to stop the current enrollment requirement amendment election and instead seek an advisory vote on whether the proposed amendment should be bundled as one proposal or divided into four separate votes.

Tribal Council Vice Chair Reyn Leno moved to overturn the previous council's June 2 decision to send a bundled enrollment requirement amendment to Tribal voters. On June 16, the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Northwest Regional Director authorized the calling of the election.

"I truly believe that this going out as one could be very dangerous to this Tribe," Leno said, warning that the Tribe could be flooded with enrollment petitions if it passes. "All the work that we've put into getting ready for the 2012 budget will be for nothing."

Leno said he also was making the motion because of the comments he has heard from Tribal members who would prefer four separate votes. He also said he felt it was important to seek the membership's input on how they want the amendment to be presented on the ballot.

In June, Tribal Council voted 5-4 to send a bundle of four proposed enrollment changes to the General Membership.

The all-or-nothing proposal would change the following requirements for Tribal enrollment:

  • It would reduce the relinquishment time from five years to two years that a person must wait to become a member of the Grand Ronde Tribe after officially leaving another Tribe;
  • It would eliminate the requirement that new members have a parent on a Tribal membership roll at the time of their birth;
  • It would redefine Grand Ronde blood as "all Indian blood derived from a direct ancestor whose name validly appears on any roll or record of Grand Ronde members prepared by the Department of Interior or the Tribe prior to or since the effective date of this Constitution."
  • And it would establish an annual quota of no more than 5 percent of currently enrolled members may be accepted as new members.

The "bundled" proposal was supported by Tribal Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy, who broke a 4-4 tie. Also in favor of sending the bundled proposal to Tribal voters were then-Tribal Council Secretary Kathleen Tom and Tribal Council members Valorie Sheker, Chris Mercier and Wink Soderberg.

Voting no were Leno and Tribal Council members Jack Giffen Jr., Toby McClary and Steve Bobb Sr.

Since then, Soderberg lost his re-election bid and Bobb was unavailable to attend the Sept. 14 meeting because of health issues. In addition, Giffen was elected Tribal Council secretary, replacing Tom in the officer position.

McClary encapsulated much of the debate and cast what might have been the deciding vote.

McClary said that he strongly supports giving the Tribal membership a say in Tribal decision making through advisory votes, but he also felt a responsibility to support previous decisions made by Tribal Council.

He added that although he favors splitting up the amendment package, he could not support overruling a previous council's decision in the "11th hour."

"I don't know that just because the makeup on council has changed, I don't know that that necessarily means that we should overrule a decision that has already been made by council," McClary said. "I think tonight I will be voting no to suspend this because I feel very passionately about supporting decisions that council has made."

Sheker said she has heard opinions on both sides of the issue, supporting both the bundled and separate approach.

"There are people on both sides. … We're just going to have to make an executive decision," she said.

Tribal member Denise Harvey, who finished fifth in this year's Tribal Council election, said how an amendment is proposed is the kind of decision that Tribal Council members are elected to make.

"We elected you guys as our Council leaders and when it comes to a decision on how something is put out to vote, it should be a decision the Council comes to terms with and makes a decision," Harvey said. "I believe you guys are elected officials and you should be able to make those decisions yourself. We'll live the consequences of that."

Tom objected to Leno's characterization that the Tribe would be flooded with new enrollment applications, noting that the bundled amendment includes a limit on how many new Tribal members can be enrolled in a year.

"It would be more restrictive than flooded," Tom said.

Giffen said he would support halting the election and sending out an advisory vote only if Tribal Council vowed to proceed immediately with an enrollment requirement amendment vote after receiving the advisory vote results.

Newly elected, but veteran, Tribal Council member June Sherer said she was against the one amendment approach before she left Tribal Council in September 2010 because it might cause Tribal voters to subvert their stand on one issue in order for another part of the amendment to pass, such as the parent on the roll clause.

"The only way for Tribal members to have a real vote and express their opinion on the different issues is to be able to vote on them separately," Sherer said.

Others, such as former Tribal Council member Angie Blackwell, said that Tribal Council held an advisory vote in September 2010 on the Tribal election process regarding a primary and term limits and has yet to act on those results.

"We've not seen any change or result from that," Blackwell said. "Saying that you want to give the Tribal members a voice by doing an advisory vote that you don't have to do anything with is nothing compared to giving the membership a meaningful voice by sending out the constitutional amendment and letting them decide there. That's where their voice will be heard."

"We have worked on this for a year or better," Sheker said. "We have asked for feedback from the membership. It's not like we have denied the membership a voice. We have asked them to please comment. … We're not blackmailing. We are not forcing. We are not doing any of that. … It's the membership that told us they want this to go out for another vote. We're just trying to proceed it through."

Leno, Giffen and Sherer supported stopping the current enrollment requirement amendment election while McClary, Mercier, Tom and Sheker voted against it.

The enrollment amendment election will be held on Nov. 15. Election registration packets from the Bureau of Indian Affairs were scheduled to be sent out on Friday, Sept. 16.

The video of the entire meeting can be viewed on the Tribal Web site at under the Videos link.