Tribal Government & News
Letters to the Editor -- Nov. 1, 2011
Dear Smoke Signals:
It's hard to believe that the BIA would agree to putting four separate issues into one bundle to be voted upon. I truly wish Tribal Council would put each issue separately on the ballot to be voted on separately.
What is the problem in doing that?
Dear Tribal members:
When we voted on the 1999 enrollment proposal, many of us did not know what we were voting on. We thought we were stopping Tribal jumpers yet instead we were in a sense voting to keep out our own Grand Ronde people.
Now we are told the enrollment proposal has three or four changes to our enrollment. However, when you look closely at the proposed amendment changes, there are actually at least seven changes in total:
1. Change relinquishment from five years to two years;
2. Eliminate requirement the applicant needs a parent on the roll the year of the applicant's birth;
3. Eliminate requirement the applicant needs a parent enrolled, unless deceased, at the time the applicant files their application;
4. Use all Indian blood instead of only the current Grand Ronde blood from ancestors on the Restoration Roll to determine Grand Ronde blood definition;
5. Use any roll or record of Grand Ronde members instead of the current Grand Ronde Restoration Roll to determine Grand Ronde blood definition;
6. Use any ancestor, before and after Restoration, instead of using the current Grand Ronde ancestors on the Restoration Roll to determine Grand Ronde blood definition;
7. Place a limit on the number of adult members who can be accepted into the Tribe each year.
I advocate for knowing exactly what you are voting for. The proposed definition of Grand Ronde blood is poorly written so it could be interpreted differently by Tribal Council, Enrollment, Legal, the courts, etc.
What does "any roll or record" mean specifically? What are the ramifications if we keep changing from all Indian blood to Grand Ronde blood only then back to all Indian blood again?
Lastly, to take out the words "Restoration Roll" and add the words "or since" means you do not need Grand Ronde ancestors on the Restoration Roll anymore, and you can be a member using an ancestor who came to our Tribe in the 1980s or 1990s, apparently with no ancestors on Grand Ronde rolls before Restoration. To me, Grand Ronde blood is ancestral and given to us from our parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, etc., on the official Grand Ronde rolls before we were restored.
Dear Smoke Signals:
As we prepare to vote on a constitutional amendment to change the enrollment criteria, I am compelled to tell the story of my family in hopes that our Tribal membership will see how the 1999 Enrollment Amendment played havoc on our family.
I am the great-great-granddaughter of Tillamook Bobb, Henry Ki Ki and Antoine Metzgar, and the great-granddaughter of Catherine Ki Ki, Joseph Thompson, Levi Bobb and Lucinda Metzgar (Wacheno). I am the granddaughter of Annie Thompson and Wilson Bobb Sr. "Chupe" (many of you may remember him as "Willie"). I am the daughter of 100 percent Grand Ronde Indian woman Edna Bobb. You can find these names on over 150 years of Grand Ronde census rolls. You can go to the Grand Ronde cemetery and find the headstones of just about each person listed herein.
All my Tribal ancestors are there, some just laid to rest in unmarked graves. My uncles Joseph Gale Bobb and Wilson Bobb Jr. are listed on the West Valley Veterans Memorial. The Veterans Memorial that was designed and built by my first cousin and Tribal Councilman Steve Bobb.
With all these irrefutable ties to the Grand Ronde Tribe, my grandchildren were amongst those who were disenrolled due to the 1999 Enrollment Amendment. How did this happen? It began in 1954 during Termination when my grandfather, Wilson Bobb Sr., fought against the Termination of the Grand Ronde Tribe. He felt that it was wrong and that the federal government was filling them with lies, just as they had done his parents when they placed them on this reservation. He felt that they were making promises that they would not fulfill.
When he lost his battle, he was angry and sent a letter asking to have his name and the names of his children removed from the Termination rolls. He did not want one dime of the money that the federal government was promising our people. The end result being our family is all listed on the "1954" (and every census roll prior) proposed Termination Roll and was stricken from the "1956" final Termination Roll. This is the reason that my grandchildren do not meet the current criteria for enrollment. This is the reason my 13-year-old grandson is enrolled and his 10- and 11-year-old brothers are not.
My heritage runs deep in my veins. My mother was a proud full-blooded Grand Ronde Indian woman and she instilled that pride in each of her children. As a member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, I know what it is to be Indian, but not recognized as one.
We all know what Termination did to our people and 30 years later the struggle that was fought by our Elders to undo the Termination Act and give each of us respect and acknowledgement as Native people. I want this for my grandchildren. They are Grand Ronde and should be recognized as Grand Ronde Tribal members.
Ann K. Lewis
Dear fellow Tribal members:
Please consider this letter a follow-up to what I wrote in the last issue of Smoke Signals. I am voting "yes" on the proposed constitutional amendment and I hope that you will join me. Here are my reasons:
- Equality: All Tribal members are created equal. If your parent is a Grand Ronde Tribal member, and the blood quantum you derive from them is at least 1/16th, then you should be enrolled in this Tribe. That should apply to every member of this Tribe, not just people on the Restoration Roll. It should not matter whether your parent enrolled in 1984, 1985 or 1995.
- Controlling Growth: I understand what Tribal Council was thinking in 1999. The Tribal population was growing at a rate that would be nearly impossible to govern and realistically provide core services to our membership. This newest amendment will honor their intent while cleaning up the inconsistencies and the unintended consequences of our current enrollment requirements.
- Minimizing the Impacts: With the language for an enrollment cap, new members will be phased in over time allowing our Tribal government to plan accordingly.
- The Right Thing to Do: Because I enrolled in the Tribe in 1983 and I have an ancestor on the Restoration Roll, none of my family will be affected by this amendment. I am part of that special class. The problem is, I don't agree with it. No Tribal family is better than another, but the 1999 amendment states otherwise. I do not believe this is how Tribes are meant to be. We are descendants of the Indians who were marched on the Trail of Tears to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation in the 1850s and we all have the right to be part of this community so that we can build better lives for our children and grandchildren.
- Putting it to rest: We can finally stop hearing about this issue in elections, at General Council meetings, on Facebook. We can finally quiet the debate on enrollment. If the amendment fails, we will have to keep hearing about it, especially during Tribal Council elections because every candidate claims to support it. If every candidate meant it, wouldn't we see evidence of the council's support?
We may not have achieved perfection in this amendment, but perfect is a hard standard to live up to. If you are still on the fence, please ask yourself, "What do I really have to lose?" Clearly, none of us is getting rich on per capita; it will never make any of us independently wealthy. Please vote "yes"!
Dear Smoke Signals:
I would like to thank Wink Soderberg for his recent letter discussing the old, current and new proposed enrollment requirements. I know this has been a hot button issue for many on both sides of the fence.
I have been an enrolled member since 1989 and have taken great pride in my heritage. Although I may not live as close to the Tribe as I would like to, I have still made it a point to come down and enjoy this wonderful culture of ours on numerous occasions. But this letter is not about me or my three siblings or my father. This letter is about my nieces and nephews who share the same blood quantum as my daughter and two of my siblings' children, but they do not receive any of the benefits of this great Tribe because of a technicality. My oldest sister was registered after they were born. Not only is this not fair, but almost cruel. Four would-be Tribal members get to sit by and watch their cousins benefit from being a member of the Tribe and they themselves receive nothing.
My oldest nephew and I were only three years apart and grew up more like brother and sister. He would often talk about how upsetting it was that this Tribe that he and his siblings rightfully belonged in wouldn't recognize him as a member. And although he was never a member, he would attend dang near every powwow and just soak it all in. He looked forward to it every year. He brought his children and even some of his friends. He was so proud. Proud of his heritage and a Tribe that wouldn't even let him in. He never let the rejection of the Tribe stop him from enjoying what his grandfather and great-grandfather and so on gave to him.
In case you haven't picked on the fact that I refer to my bright-eyed nephew in the past tense yet, I do so because as of Oct. 10 2010, at the age of 32 he left this world and all three of his children and his parents and all the rest of us without his bright smile and love for Native ways.
The last time we were together was the powwow of 2010. While we were sitting around at "camp" waiting for the break to be over, he told me this horrific story. He said one night he woke up from a dead sleep and couldn't breathe. He tried everything, but he couldn't breathe in or out no matter how hard he tried. He said he didn't know how to describe it other than it felt like someone just stole his breath. Can you imagine? That must have been freaky.
After my nephew finished telling me this story I asked him, "Did you go to the doctor to get checked out?" I was shocked when he told me no! I started in on the lecturing as to why he should go and why didn't he go. That's when he looked at me and said, "I can't. I don't have health insurance and I cannot afford to pay out of pocket." I didn't know what to say. We all know how much health care is.
So I'm sure you can imagine I was sick to my stomach that not even two months after he told me this story I received a phone call saying that he had passed. Thirty-two years young. Father of three.
I am in no way blaming the Tribe, or its council, or its voters for my nephew's death. There is no way to know if there would have been any different outcome if he did have health insurance and was able to go to the doctor, but I bet his kids would have loved the chance to find out. Come to find out, he had a pre-existing heart condition (yes it runs in the family; his grandmother, my mother, passed away at 58 of a heart attack) that with proper diagnosis and treatment could have at least prolonged his life. I bet he would have loved to see his children grow up.
My nephew, Brian Lee Creed Jr., left behind three siblings. It was too late for him, but it's not for them.
The past cannot be undone. We all know that. But please, for the sake of your Tribal brothers and sisters, weigh the options before you deny them what's rightfully theirs. The money would have been nice, but the health care could have been lifesaving!
Dear Smoke Signals:
Regarding the proposed enrollment proposal, many members have not changed their minds from what they voted in 2008 on the relinquishment issue. That one issue being there again may mean there will be no justice for those who have a parent, grandparent, etc., on Grand Ronde rolls yet did not have a parent on the rolls the year they were born.
If this proposal does fail, I would ask Tribal Council to let the membership vote on each proposed change separately and let each issue pass or fail on its own merit. Let members have input with a comment period and give members voice through an advisory vote when you are proposing changes to our Tribal Constitution.
Through an advisory vote, you would know what the membership wants and will support. To keep throwing proposals out there when members were excluded from the process is a waste of time and resources.
Members care and try to work together for solutions to Tribal problems. If you will give us a voice before the proposal goes to the BIA for approval instead of Tribal Council trying to decide what we want and not hitting the mark -- just ask us first by an advisory vote. It is a win-win way to do business.
Dear Tribal Members:
I imagine you'll see a number of negative letters in this issue of Smoke Signals regarding the upcoming constitutional amendment asking you to vote "no." Those letters will make ominous statements about "problems" and "negative impacts" of the amendment without providing any details or facts about those things.
I ask you to demand proof from people attacking this constitutional amendment before you accept such statements as truth. I'm supporting the amendment because after much reflection and analysis I'm convinced it provides a fair and equitable path to Tribal citizenship for all Tribal members and their descendants.
Here are some further facts about the amendment:
- There are no "floodgates." The use of this term is a scare tactic. The fact is that there have only been a few hundred applicants denied since 1999 who would be eligible to enroll. Furthermore, the enrollment cap ensures that only 2 percent to 5 percent can enroll in any given year.
- There is little financial impact on Member Services and/or per capita. While the analysis provided in the recent Tilixam Wawa showed a small impact, the analysis forgot to include the additional funding we'll receive from federal programs for the increase in Tribal population. Nor did it take into consideration that many of the people who will be able to enroll are children. Children don't have an impact on housing, Elders pension or most Member Services programs.
- The definition of Grand Ronde blood is nearly identical to the definition the Tribe used from 1984-99. After our Restoration, many Tribal members, including myself, enrolled under a definition that included "all Indian blood" from "any roll or record" of Grand Ronde membership. That changed in 1999. Shouldn't we have the same definition for all Tribal members?
Thank you for reading my perspective on the constitutional amendment. And thank you for asking for those who attack this amendment to prove it.
Dear Tribal members:
We would like to take this opportunity to introduce ourselves. We are a group of dedicated Tribal members from all walks of life. Many of us are part of those "split families" who you may have read or heard about. Also, a number of us are family to that large group of children who were kicked out of the Tribe in recent years.
As you can tell, the constitutional amendment of 1999 had a very adverse and negative impact on many of our lives. Our goal is to correct that.
To be completely honest, we don't disagree with the intent of 1999 constitutional amendment. Like any other Tribe, government, business, organization or community, you must grow at a rate you can cope with and administrate. We understand fully why the 1999 amendment was brought forth for a vote of the membership.
However, like any major decision, there are always unintended consequences. In our case, the new requirements for enrollment divided our families, leaving some of our children able to enjoy life as Tribal members, and some of their siblings unable. We believe this scenario to be very unjust, and if many of you were in the same situation, you would probably feel the same way.
Like many of you, we don't want to see the floodgates to our Tribal membership opened. The new proposed amendment does not do that. It corrects the unfair situation for us and for many other Tribal families. While the amendment may loosen our requirements a little, it also includes a provision to limit growth so as to be more manageable. So if you are worried about a flood of new Tribal members and huge drain on services like per capita, think again.
The question we ask then is, if something costs very little to you, but would make a world of difference in the lives of others, would open up numerous educational and financial opportunities for the next generation of Tribal children, what possible reasons could somebody have to not support that? We can't think of any.
We would like to see the new amendment pass. It is the right thing to do. It corrects a situation without putting the Tribe as risk and having little impact on everybody else.
Please join us in voting "yes" on the 2011 constitutional amendment.
Dear Tribal members:
The last issue of Smoke Signals had many letters regarding the upcoming vote on the enrollment amendment. Through these letters, it was easy to feel the pain of the denied and disenrolled Tribal families. My family is one of them. My son is 7 years old and was denied enrollment due to the 1999 enrollment amendment, despite the fact that he has several cousins who have the exact same blood running through their veins as he does and are enrolled Tribal members. The pain this has caused our entire family is immeasurable. To explain this to him is impossible. What do I tell him?
One thing I noticed about the letter writers to the last issue of Smoke Signals is that many of them don't have a family member affected by the 1999 enrollment amendment. Yet they took the time to write because to correct the wrongs of that amendment is what is right. It is that simple.
When you vote "yes" on this enrollment amendment, you are being a Tribal member who says that yes, we include rightful Tribal members. And yes, we heal split families. And yes, we do the right thing when the choice is presented to us. Please vote "yes."
Lee Ann Huffman
Dear Smoke Signals:
To all the Tribal members who took the time and effort to register to vote in the upcoming Grand Ronde Constitutional Election, please take the next step and vote when your ballot arrives.
However, before voting, I would ask you to take the time to read and study the proposed amendment. It is not a "cure-all" as most of the letters in the Oct. 15, 2011, issue of Smoke Signals indicated.
In 2008, our Tribal membership voted by over a two-thirds majority to change the relinquishment time period from one year to five years. So why is a relinquishment time period from five years to two years included in the proposed amendment?
I had one Tribal member tell me that no one would give up their Tribal membership in another Tribe for two years so that at the end of the two years the person could apply to join our Tribe. The truth is giving up two years of no benefits in one Tribe for a Tribe that has helped its membership as much as ours has is a no-brainer. More people will try and do just that if the amendment is approved.
The removal of the requirement to have a parent on a Grand Ronde roll at the time of the applicant's birth and at the time of application is a good thing because we are a terminated Tribe. Since 1999, this requirement has caused the denial of many Tribal descendants who have ancestors on the Restoration Roll. This is the only part of the proposed amendment that makes sense to me.
The proposed definition of Grand Ronde blood moves it away from the Restoration Roll to any roll or record before or since Restoration that was prepared by the Department of the Interior or the Tribe. No one knows for sure what roll or records could be used. When our Elders worked for Restoration, it was for those on the Termination Roll, those who should have been on it and their descendants. I will go with the wisdom of our Elders at Restoration on this one as they were the ones that worked so hard for the people of the Grand Ronde Tribe.
The last proposed change is setting a limit on the number of persons accepted per year, no less than 2 percent of the membership and not more than 5 percent of the membership. It may keep membership growth down, but based on how the proposed definition of Grand Ronde blood is written, no one can estimate just how many new people will be trying to enroll in our Tribe.
In 1999, the membership was asked to vote on a bundled proposed amendment at the urging of the Tribal Council. It slowed enrollment, but resulted in unforeseen situations, one of them being the denial of those who Grand Ronde, in a sense, was restored for, meaning the descendants of our ancestors named on the Restoration Roll. To my way of thinking, this bundled amendment, if approved, could cause more unforeseen situations within our Tribe and for our Tribal people.
So I ask you, before you vote make sure you read and study the
proposed amendment and know exactly what this amendment would do if
approved by our Tribal voters.
Leroy R. GoodRoll #892
Dear Smoke Signals:
I will be voting "no" on the Constitutional Amendment Election. My main reason for voting "no" is because our Tribal leaders have chosen to put all of the proposed changes to our Constitution into one amendment, one vote.
In 2008, Tribal voters were able to express their opinion by being able to vote on each proposed change separately. Some of our Tribal leaders feel the 2008 election was a failure because all proposed changes did not pass. However, the election was a success because Tribal voters had an opportunity to vote on each proposed change as they saw fit.
I will not be persuaded to vote for the bundled amendment when I only agree with one of the proposed changes and that proposed change is to remove the requirement to have a parent on a Tribal roll at the time of the applicant's birth and at the time a person applies.
Dear Tribal members:
This is the first time I've ever written to Smoke Signals. I observe a lot of what goes on in our Tribe, but haven't had much reason to get involved ... until now.
As you know, we are all supposed to be voting on a constitutional amendment this month. Although this doesn't affect my family one way or the other, I am hoping that you will vote "yes."
I'm sure there will be unhappy people regardless of the outcome; enrollment seems to be one of those issues people feel very strongly about. Everyone has their reasons, but I think it is very sad that money appears to be the primary focus on many minds.
Although my family isn't affected, I can put myself in the shoes of somebody who is and imagine what it must feel like. I hope you will consider this scenario: My blood quantum is one-fourth, which means my kids are one-eighth and should be able to enroll. However, my parents enrolled in 1985, and our blood isn't passed on because only blood listed on the Restoration Roll (before 1985) is considered Grand Ronde blood. My kids' blood quantum is zero; they aren't Indian. How does this make sense?
Here is another possible scenario: My mother is a Grand Ronde Tribal member. Her blood quantum is one-quarter. So mine should be one-eighth, right? Wrong. She enrolled in the Tribe after I was born so I don't have a parent on the roll at the time of my birth so I have zero Grand Ronde blood. Crazy but true.
Our membership requirements have technicalities that have created these kinds of situations and I don't think they are fair.
The proposed amendment also has language to limit the number of people who can enroll every year, so arguments that the floodgates will open simply aren't true. If this amendment passes, population growth will be controlled and manageable.
Please consider voting yes on the upcoming constitutional election. It's fair and it's the right thing to do.
Dear fellow Tribal members:
I have been enjoying my life after Tribal Council. One of those things I enjoy especially is watching our members go back and forth on some of the hot-button issues, not just at General Council meetings, but on the World Wide Web and Facebook.
As usual, some people are making it a little too personal, and being very creative with "facts." This is definitely the case when people get to talking about the constitutional amendment we have coming.
It was very encouraging to see members come forward with their letters of support in the last issue of Smoke Signals, the Oct. 15th one. To me this issue is about having enrollment requirements that are consistent and, very importantly, fair for everybody who is an enrolled member of the Grand Ronde Tribe.
Since 1999, they haven't been either. You hear the talk about split families, but really our membership has been split into two classes of people: those who are allowed to pass on their Grand Ronde blood, like those with an ancestor on the Restoration Roll, and those who cannot, which is everybody else but specifically members who enrolled under the pre-1999 enrollment rules. Basically "haves" and "have nots." I'm glad they used Mike Wilson to demonstrate this point.
If I were a betting man, I'd bet there will be letters urging you to vote "no" on the amendment in this same issue of Smoke Signals. These letters won't focus on the real issue of this amendment, which is equality. Instead they will focus on how the amendments should be split up into four or five or six parts, which Tribal Council tried three years ago and mostly failed. Or they might write about the "flood of people" who will enroll, which is unlikely since the new amendment includes language to limit the number of people who can enroll every year, plus in 2008 enrollment staff estimated around 300 new people would join. They will claim our Tribe will go broke. Or they will try and dazzle readers with history, all the while ignoring the central issue of fairness. What would not surprise me in the least is if most of these letters come from individuals with an ancestor on Restoration Roll who belong to the "haves" class.
Keep in mind that if we really want to help solve the enrollment problems that have plagued our Tribe since 1999, you're going to have to loosen the restrictions somewhat. More people will be able to enroll. Whether you were voting on a bundle or separate amendments, that would not change. That is a fact. At least with this bundle we know that opening the rolls up will happen at the same time as a new policy to control enrollment. It's called a safeguard. Think trickle not flood.
I've yet to hear a convincing argument against this amendment that didn't involve confusing the issue or exaggeration. If people don't want this amendment to pass because they want their descendants to get a greater slice of pie, then just say so! But please don't resort to misinforming your fellow Tribal members on an issue that is really, really hurtful and divisive. We are better than that.
Regardless, I am voting "yes." It's the right thing to do.
Dear Tribal members:
My name is Steven Soderberg. I speak out once in a while, and this is just the second letter I've written to Smoke Signals. But right now the time seems right to say something.
I've now sat through one of those informational meetings on the enrollment amendment. The presentations they have given us are pretty straightforward and easy to understand. Members asked some good questions, and I feel staff and Tribal Council have done their best to answer them.
Facebook is loaded with lots of conversation on this topic. Some of it has gotten downright ugly, and I am not sure anybody has changed their minds. I think a lot of people have had their minds made up for years now.
Although I haven't been asked, I would like to share my own view of the matter. In 1999, we had a constitutional amendment which Tribal Council saw as necessary because they were worried about the Tribe growing too quickly. That amendment had some effects that were underestimated. Now we've got these odd enrollment situations, where you have the split families and the people who suddenly can't pass on their blood because of when they or an ancestor were enrolled. None of these situations are fair, but they've existed and we've known about them for 12 years.
The amendment before us fixes those problems, but doesn't open up the rolls too much. In reading Facebook it seems like a lot of people are worried about the "flood" of people. In fact I've read some "sky is falling" comments about how our Tribe is going to go broke and what not. I don't understand this because the amendment puts a limit on growth, plus during the last amendment three years ago we were informed only 300 or so new people would be able to enroll. I guess people will believe whatever they want, or those who want this to fail will say whatever it takes.
The information we've been given seems unbiased and reasonable. I think if we want to undo some of the 1999 amendment, we have to accept that doing this will loosen our requirements and allow more people to enroll. I don't think you can correct some of the problems caused by the 1999 act without opening the door a little, so I don't see why people who are making a big deal about it are acting as if there is some sort of magical alternative. I don't think there is.
I just think if you have a parent who is a Grand Ronde Tribal member and their blood quantum when passed to you is at least 1/16th, you should be able to enroll. It should be that simple. Right now, it's not. When it comes to whether or not our descendants can enroll, not all Grand Ronde Tribal members are equal. Not according to our present requirements.
I am voting "yes" because it is the right thing to do. We should all be equals in this Tribe.
Dear fellow Tribal members:
As I'm sure many of you already know, the Tribe is currently conducting an election to amend the Tribal Constitution with regard to the enrollment requirements. Although I am pleased that Tribal Council has taken the initiative to try and resolve some of the enrollment issues, I must admit that I do have some concerns with Tribal Council's approach.
- Bundled Amendments: There are four amendments to the current enrollment requirements being proposed. Due to varying impacts of each proposed amendment and the right that each Tribal member has to his/her individual opinion, my belief is that the four amendments should be separated into four votes thus giving Tribal members the right to exercise their opinions on each of the amendments. Instead, the decision was made to allow only one vote for the four proposed amendments. As a concerned Tribal member, this decision has limited my right to voice my opinions in each of the four proposed amendments.
- Change to the definition of Grand Ronde blood: The proposed change would allow one to use "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 the Tribal Constitution" to prove their Tribal lineage. My concern is not necessarily the proposed change of the definition but rather the accuracy of the "rolls or records" that one would be allowed to use. With the emotions, heartache and turmoil that come with disenrollment, I don't understand why we would put ourselves in a position to later disenroll members who potentially proved their Tribal lineage from inaccurate "rolls or records." Tribal Council has already voted to move forward with an audit of the membership rolls. To proceed with anything prior to the audit, in my opinion, is putting the cart before the horse.
- Fairness: I've read and heard from various Tribal members that to be fair, Tribal members should vote "yes" on the proposed amendments. I have to disagree, at least with regard to one of the proposed amendments. As part of the bundled amendments, there is one clause that would limit the number of persons accepted as members of the Tribe each year. The limit would be no less than 2 percent and no more than 5 percent of enrolled members. My question is how "fair" is it to make somebody who meets all enrollment requirements wait (potentially years) to become enrolled? In my opinion, anyone who meets the enrollment requirements should be able to enroll with no limitations on the length of time they have to wait. I do understand the intent of this clause and I feel it would be beneficial for planning purposes, but let's be honest, it is not fair.
- Long-term Impacts: While I feel I am well-versed in this upcoming election, I have yet to hear about the long-term impacts. I know, if passed, there will be individuals immediately eligible for enrollment. I know that Tribal Council will have to make immediate amendments to the Enrollment Ordinance. I also know that budgets (maybe as soon as the 2012 budget) will be impacted by these changes. What I don't know is how the Tribe will be impacted 10, 20 or 30 years down the road. Or even more importantly, seven generations down the road. I don't remember our Tribal leadership telling us in 1999 that, if the amendments pass, it will create "split families." However, we did know about the immediate impacts of our decision in 1999. If the long-term impacts had been a focus, I believe the outcome may have been different.
In closing, I will say that there is no doubt in my mind that as a result of the constitutional amendments of 1999, enrollment issues need to be addressed. It seems that the current members of Tribal Council are committed to enrollment and are working hard to find ways to help those who rightfully belong on the Tribal membership rolls. Although I am thankful that Tribal Council recognizes the need to work on enrollment, I am disappointed in their most recent approach.
Thank you for your time,
Dear Tribal membership:
I have heard a lot of comments on the upcoming election regarding the enrollment amendment, so I thought it was time to voice my opinion on the proposed amendment.
In reading the letters lately in Smoke Signals, I have to question, are people voting to address their own individual needs or are they really looking at what is best for the whole Tribe? It should and I hope people are voting with the entire membership in mind.
Regardless of what side of the vote you are on, everyone should vote "no" in the upcoming election simply because of the unresolved issues that this amendment doesn't address and the lack of education to the membership. During the educational meetings, members have asked several questions that nobody has the answers for. This only shows what I already knew and that is that this amendment was put together with very little thought as to how it would actually be implemented. People always need to remember the saying "be careful what you wish for." Don't make your situation worse by an uneducated vote.
Here are some of the unresolved questions and issues that I have concerning the proposed amendment:
- How can we vote to have a cap on enrollment, but no one knows what that cap will be from year to year? That will make planning and budgeting impossible for both staff and Council.
- I believe the proposed definition of "Grand Ronde blood" was chosen out of about three or four different definitions because it was meant just to help certain people and families. Again we should be looking at the impact on the entire membership, not just a select few.
- I believe the proposed relinquishment language is not really about relinquishment at all, but was added to the "package" because it was necessary to get at least five votes on Council to approve the proposed amendment and get something out the door. It is insulting to ask the membership to vote on an issue they overwhelmingly spoke on last time.
- The proposed language for "parent on the roll" is by far the most widely supported portion of this package, and therefore will suffer the most when this amendment fails as I believe it will. It is my belief that all nine Council members agree with the amendment as it pertains to "parent on the roll." Therefore, I ask the question as to why could it not have stood alone and had a real chance to pass?
I ask for your "no" vote on the upcoming proposed amendment. Enrollment issues should be about Grand Ronde People being enrolled as Grand Ronde Tribal members, not about political or personal agendas.
Dear Tribal members:
I am hoping that by the time you read this letter, your ballot for the constitutional election on enrollment will be nearby. I see this as another opportunity to let you know why a Tribal member might consider voting "yes."
It has been said that no matter what the outcome of this election, there will always be enrollment problems. I heartily disagree. The heart of this constitutional amendment we are asking people to vote on stems from the unintended consequences of the 1999 amendment. In 2005, Tribal Council called for the creation of the Enrollment Requirements Ad Hoc Committee to convene, research and subsequently identify problems with our enrollment requirements, which they did. Their recommendations moved forward in 2007-08 with another constitutional election of which only one of three proposed amendments passed. The two amendments that failed, proposed changes to language involving the definition of Grand Ronde blood and parent on the roll, both received majority support with roughly 60 votes separating them. The 2011 constitutional election still deals with those two issues, and includes a provision on enrollment limits to ease whatever fears voters may have over the supposed floodgates opening and wreaking havoc on our Tribal budgets.
In a nutshell, the amendment before you deals with the foremost problems we know were created by the 1999 amendment. It eliminates the technicalities that have caused the split families, but keeps intact the spirit of the previous amendment, which was to curb Tribal growth to a manageable level. Most important of all, this amendment brings consistency to our Tribal enrollment criteria. How our blood gets passed on will be equal for everybody.
I have yet to hear any reasonably good arguments against this amendment, mostly just innuendo, exaggerations and nitpicking over specific words. The obsession with the "bundle" is understandable, but if voters didn't support the separated amendments three years ago, what makes them more likely to pass now? Furthermore you'll hear arguments against what rolls and records would be used, or adding other Indian blood. The fact is we've used the wording "any roll or record" in the past, and we presently allow some members to count all their Indian blood.
I might also add that in 2008 the proposed definition of Grand Ronde blood would have only accounted for a fraction of the several hundred new enrollees. The vast majority who would be able to enroll would do so if the parent on the roll language was changed. But it's all a moot point because if with the enrollment limit we have the ability to control how many people get enrolled every year.
My point is that aside from the financial impacts, which would be greater if there was not language for an enrollment limit, there really are few solid arguments for a "no" vote. Most "no" votes, my observation is thus far, come from people who have an ancestor on the Restoration Roll. This is a perfect example of two classes of people, one more fortunate than the other. I am part of that privileged class, if you want to call it that. But I don't want there to be classes of Tribal members. We were all meant to be equals, and have the same enrollment requirements apply to us as such.
Christopher G. Mercier
Dear Tribal members:
Let me begin by saying I felt a compelling need to let you know my opinion on the upcoming constitutional election on enrollment. I would like to make several points.
Probably every Tribal member has noticed that per capita isn't what it used to be. There are numerous reasons for that, but regardless the amount has gotten progressively lower. I have always believed that per capita should be a high priority and 45 percent at the minimum 25 percent as it is the only benefit this Tribe provides that is equal for each and every Tribal member, regardless of your age, where you live and, most important of all, especially in Grand Ronde, your last name. Lastly, per capita, along with the Tribal health plan, is one of the few benefits we give to every Tribal member.
When Council was debating how to proceed with the Constitutional amendment, there were several Council members who had issues with changing the definition of Grand Ronde blood, which is one of the major changes. I do not understand why, as the proposal would make how Grand Ronde blood gets passed on equal for everybody. It seems weird that any Indian person would object to equality given our struggles historically, but truth is always stranger than fiction and that seems doubly true when it comes to Tribal politics. There appeared to be a lot of support for the "parent on the roll" language, which according to statistics provided us during the 2008 language would open up the rolls and allow five times as many new people to enroll. The exact numbers if anybody is interested was 249 new enrollees for "parent on the roll" changes, and 49 for the proposed definition of Grand Ronde blood. That is a ratio of 5 to 1.
Both numbers have probably increased since then, but the fact remains that just changing the "parent on the roll" language alone would mean hundreds, I repeat hundreds, of new Tribal members eligible to enroll immediately. This would have a huge impact on the services we provide, would drastically affect our plans for the endowments and probably a reduction in per capita of several hundred dollars every year permanently from here on out.
We had to consider this when looking at how to address the enrollment dilemma and that is one of the main reasons why Council agreed to bundle the language, including the enrollment "cap," the limit on the number of people who can enroll every year.
I am writing this because our motivations for bundling the amendments have been questioned, when in fact the reality is Council agreed to the bundle to lessen the impact of the "parent on the roll" language, which would allow hundreds of new enrollees, as opposed to dozens for the new definition of Grand Ronde blood.
Anybody who believes Council was more worried about the few dozen people who could enroll with the new definition of Grand Ronde blood as opposed to the hundreds that would enroll due to changing "parent on the roll" needs to study a concept called logic and, for that matter, math.
I don't have any immediate family members impacted by this amendment. I already have an ancestor on the Restoration Roll, so really, I don't benefit at all from this amendment, other than knowing that I am helping to heal some of the damage done by the 1999 amendment. For me ultimately, this is about righting a wrong, but also doing it in a way that accounts for the concerns of many Tribal members about opening up enrollment, which is a legitimate concern.
Who knows when we'll get another chance to put all these issues away. So I am voting "yes" on this amendment. I don't think you will find a more balanced solution to our enrollment problems.
Dear Tribal members:
Please read this letter with an open mind. For those of you who go on to Facebook and read the different message boards, I am sure you've come to the conclusion that this is a highly divisive issue. Given some of the dynamics, I think that would be the case regardless of whether the amendment was bundled together or split up into what some people think could be as many as six or seven parts. Anybody could conclude that the actual language itself is not as big of a problem as the real issues, which I think are feuds between warring political alliances and even families, which sadly certain members of our Council appear to be sucked into.
While I understand that some people want to be able to choose the amendments they like, we must consider lessons from history. The 1999 amendment was passed overwhelmingly, and while some of those changes have led to the present predicament, it was the most successful constitutional amendment to date. Being a numbers person, I would like to offer a different view. Now consider the 2008 amendments, of which only one passed.
- Amendment A (five-year relinquishment) passed (880 yes, 277 no) or 76% of the vote.
- Amendment B (parent enrolled at time of birth) failed (700 yes, 450 no) or 60.9% of the vote.
- Amendment C (definition of Grand Ronde blood) failed (636 yes, 513 no) or 55.3% of the vote.
The average of the three amendments would have been 738 yes votes, with 759 being needed to pass. They would have failed, but two of them would have gained substantially more votes.
Based on what I've read online, especially Facebook, most people who are voting "no" are doing so because of the fear of the enrollment floodgates opening up and bankrupting our Tribe. This gets me thinking that had there been language for the enrollment "cap," that is a limit on the number of people who could enroll every year, perhaps the 2008 amendments would have passed. The driving force behind "no" votes, thinner slices of pie, would have been neutralized quite a bit.
Keep in mind that in 2008 the numbers given us were 249 new members would be eligible to enroll just with the "parent on the roll" language alone, and 49 for the proposed definition of Grand Ronde blood. The numbers on both have increased since then, according to the informational meetings.
I believe the latest approach makes a lot more sense now. There was conflict on Council because several of them wanted to proceed with only the "parent on the roll" language, even though the immediate impact from that approach would be probably several times greater than the present amendment bundle with the included annual enrollment limit. That approach makes little sense to me, but that is often the case when backroom politics are involved.
People can fret over the greatly exaggerated floodgates all they want. However, if we are going to in any way reverse the unintended consequences and problems of the 1999 amendment, it will require us allowing more people to enroll, whether the approach was a bundle or separate votes. With the bundle at least, I know we'll be able to control that, especially the "parent on the roll" part that while the popular one to support also has the biggest financial impact.
I see now why Council is proceeding this way. For more information or to discuss this with other members I encourage you to visit the Facebook group "The Grand Ronde Tribe." You can find it by searching for it in Facebook. Also, I welcome any and all friend requests from other Tribal members.
This amendment is a good compromise and I plan on voting "yes." I pray that you will too; it's the right thing to do!
Dear Tribal members:
As we get into the final days of this constitutional election, I am hoping that those of you who haven't voted by now will consider voting "yes." That is what I plan to do.
I will be honest in saying that originally I was skeptical of this constitutional amendment, mainly because a number of Tribal Council members seemed intent on cramming the whole "parent on the roll" part down our throats. That bothered me because we are in a recession, and just the sheer amount of people who would be eligible to enroll in our Tribe from the "parent on the roll" language alone would strain our Tribal government greatly.
If you read the Tribal Facebook pages, you can see that some of the most adamant opposition comes from people worried about draining our resources should the amendments pass, the biggest impact of which would come from "parent on the roll" folks. So fairness issues aside, it didn't seem like the best time to force that language on us given the huge financial impact it would have. I would guess millions of dollars in permanent additional costs to accommodate those new members, and probably their descendants. This did not seem like something voters would support during a recession. But, when I learned about the cap on annual enrollment, which is a part of the bundle, my fears were alleviated.
I am not worried about the proposed definition of Grand Ronde blood because, from what we've been told at the informational meetings, staff and Council know of 70 to 80 people who would be eligible to enroll, as opposed to roughly 300 for "parent on the roll." If those numbers aren't accurate, nobody on Council bothered to dispute them. Also, that language makes all of us who are Tribal members equal when passing on our Grand Ronde blood. Honestly, I am not sure what the arguments are against it. Maybe some people don't want equality? The civil rights movement was only 40 years ago, I suppose.
My point is that if the amendment passes as is, we will finally settle the fallout from the 1999 amendment. Not only that, but we will still honor the intentions of the Council at that time who foresaw future problems with a rapidly growing Tribal population and acted in what they thought was the best interests of our Tribe.
So all told, this amendment is being conducted the right way from my point of view. We can afford to gradually add the new enrollees. It is the right balance for those of us who want enrollment justice and for those scared of the potential flood of new members and what that would cost. Plus, it addresses all the present issues for the next few decades.
We have the chance to settle this once and for all. Please vote "yes."
Dear Grand Ronde Tribal members:
We as Tribal members are being forced to make a choice that is not really a choice. It is a flat yes or no vote on a multifaceted amendment to our Constitution.
Those of you who received and read my campaign letter know my stand on the bundled amendment. I firmly believe that our Tribal members should have had the opportunity to vote individually on all the issues. That alone, without a doubt, would have resolved the issue of the parent on the roll at the time of birth. This is something I believe with all my heart would have passed. But to try to force us to compromise our beliefs and our values on other major issues in this amendment is just an attempt to cram it down our throats and steal our voice. I firmly believe that it is a maneuver to manipulate us into voting for an amendment on which we have not been properly educated.
My question is why are we voting to reverse the Tribal jumper amendment we passed in 2008 with such an overwhelming majority? To vote on this again only makes us look foolish and unstable and as though we will flip-flop on important issues. Inserting this again into the amendment along with the other totally unrelated issues only serves to create a bungled amendment that is a strategy for failure.
What is right and fair about limiting enrollment from 2 percent to 5 percent of our total membership each year? We are told it is about controlling growth. All I can see is that the yearly membership growth could more than double any given year depending on the whims of council (as council changes every September). This is not stability. When I see such a broad disclaimer about the effects of the amendment as is written on page 12 in the October issue of the Tilixam Wawa, it makes me question the validity of the numbers presented.
Does anyone truly understand what the effects on our enrollment would be with the new definition of Grand Ronde blood? Do you feel you have been educated enough to understand what the new definition is or means? None of us will truly know until it is challenged in court and a smart lawyer will paint a whole new definition which will undoubtedly have immeasurable impacts on our Tribal membership. There is not enough money in our budget to accommodate all the cases that will be challenged when the enrollment audit is completed and implemented.
The "right" and "fair" way to control membership growth would have had a built-in control factor if we had been allowed to vote on these measures independently.
Radical overnight change is not always what is best in our Constitution.
The membership has not been fully educated about the total effects of this vote should the amendment pass.
We are building upon an enrollment base that is flawed.
The enrollment audit should have been completed and corrected before attempting to force this bungled amendment on our people.
Using "any" roll or record knowing the flaws already inherent in them just opens the door for more enrollments and then disenrollments as we have already experienced in our current roll.
I ask you, before voting on this constitutional amendment, contemplate these issues and concerns. Then ask yourself if this is the change that is needed. Don't be fooled into voting for change you can't believe in.