Tribal Government & News

Letters to the Editor -- June 1, 2016

05.31.2016 Dean Rhodes Letters

Dear Smoke Signals:

It is time to vote on the proposed constitutional amendment. The membership’s voice is heard through their votes. By bundling the definition of Grand Ronde blood with the parent on the roll issues, Tribal Council is controlling the membership’s vote. This is not fair and this is not going to result in an accurate vote of the membership.

If you agree with one issue and not the other, you have to pass something you don’t agree with or fail something you do agree with. This is forcing Tribal members to compromise. This is a disservice to the voting membership.

Tribal Council members have publicly stated that they feel bundling these issues will give it a better chance to pass. How is this fair? This is a major decision and the membership should be able to vote on each issue separately.

In addition to saying “no” to bundled amendments, please consider the following. The proposed amendment:

  • Will allow Indian blood not currently defined as Grand Ronde blood to become Grand Ronde blood for enrollment;

  • Will create new split families;

  • Will not create equality. There will be those born before 1999 who can count all Indian blood and those born after 1999 who cannot count all Indian blood;

  • Will not fix all split families.

I will be voting “no” on the proposed constitutional enrollment amendment.

Ed Pearsall

Tribal Council

Roll #589


Dear Smoke Signals:

I would like to take a moment to express my opinion on the constitutional vote taking place. As a Tribal member who has lived here my entire life and been through a few constitutional votes, there are a few questions I believe each of you should ask yourselves before voting.

Is it really the right time to do this? No.

Do you know the impact to yourself and your family if it were to pass? No.

Do you know the impact to our endowments, which are the future for all Tribal members? No.

Do you know the impact it could have on the programs and benefits you currently receive? No.

Do you think blood from other Tribes should be used for calculating Grand Ronde blood? No.

Was the Enrollment Department or the Enrollment Committee involved in the development of the language put before you to vote on? No.

Do you believe bundling things together is really the best way to find out what the membership really wants? No.

Did Tribal Council, in its planning for possible lower revenues from some competition from other casinos, plan on a change in our enrollment? No.

Do you think it is right to move forward with an election when only part of our membership will be able to vote due to the short time frame? No.

I truly believe a vote of this magnitude should have had a whole lot of these questions answered before we ever put it out for the membership to vote on. Tribal Council’s top priority should always be what is best for the entire enrolled membership and not focused on folks wanting to become members. We are still a growing Tribe, so do we really need an enrollment change? In my opinion as a Tribal member, no. So join me in voting “no” on both of the choices put before you on the constitutional amendments.

Reyn Leno

Tribal Council Chair

Roll #453


Dear Smoke Signals:

I just wanted to put a special thank you into Smoke Signals for our meat donation for Coffee Creek’s spring celebration. Without the help of our Tribal volunteers and our people, the people in prison would not get anything.

The women here at Coffee Creek are very grateful for the deer and salmon that was donated. We get hands-on with the meat and fry bread. It was an honor to help cook and prepare the food that fed our people.

Thank you to the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde for helping us women in prison keep up our traditions.

Kristie Jeffers

Roll #1896


Dear Smoke Signals:

There is some confusion regarding the registration for the upcoming constitutional amendment election. Constitutional elections are administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They require a valid registration form of their own. If you are registered with the Tribe that will not count for the upcoming constitutional election. You will need to submit the new registration form you will be receiving from the BIA.

Please place the following dates on your calendar.

Registration and voting:

May 17 -- Voter registration forms were mailed out.

June 7 -- All registration forms must be returned by mail to the BIA. This date is extremely important. The forms must be in their office and postmarked received on this date. Plus, please note they are being mailed to Albuquerque, N.M., so I would allow at least a week for mail time. Get those registration forms back in the mail no later than June 1 please.

June 13 -- Ballots will be mailed to all registered voters.

July 8 -- Election Day. This is also an extremely important date. All voting ballots must be mailed back and in the Election Board’s hands by this date to be counted. These will be sent to Grand Ronde. So, depending on where you are I would be getting these ballots in the mail ASAP. I would suggest no later than July 2. Don't miss your opportunity to make your vote count.

If you do not receive a voter registration form or a ballot within five days of the specified date, please contact Lori Anderson at the Warm Springs BIA office at 541-553-2439. She is the person coordinating the election.

Remember this is a constitutional election and it takes two-thirds of the voting members to vote in the affirmation to pass. We need everyone to reach out to their family members and make sure they vote. 

Adrainne N. LLaneza

Roll #1715


Dear Smoke Signals:

I recently attended the constitutional amendment education meeting. I found it to be very informative and along with the presented materials we were allowed to ask questions to receive even more clarification.

Over the past several months there has been an aggressive smear campaign waged against the upcoming constitutional amendment, including attacks on the Tribal Council members who support it and loads of misinformation. Now that the education meeting has been conducted, I would like to share some of the information received and hopefully clear up some of the misinformation.

1) No change to 1/16th minimum blood quantum requirement.

2) Will only help descendants of Grand Ronde Tribal members. This will not open the floodgates for members from other Tribes.

3) Relinquishment from another Tribe for a minimum of five years will remain in effect. Basically, no Tribe hoppers (sorry I personally do not care for this term).

4) Grand Ronde Tribal members enrolled prior to 1999 included all Indian blood. The 1999 amendment changed that to “all Indian blood from a direct ancestor on the Restoration Roll only.” The purposed amendment will allow descendants of a direct ancestor on the Restoration Roll through the date of the 1999 amendment to claim all Indian blood and not only fixes the split family problems but creates equality for our membership.

5) A slide presentation was given during the meeting (I believe the Tribe will be posting this presentation on its website). Page 18 titled “Statistics: Net Membership Applications Denied by Reason for Denial September 1999 to March 21, 2016.” I wish I could include a copy of this page, but that is not allowed per Smoke Signals policy. Penny DeLoe (Enrollment Department) and the legal department compiled the data utilizing denied enrollment applications for the past 17 years in an effort to give some idea how many people we are actually looking at. Deneen Aubertin Keller (Tribal attorney) stated the majority of these are children.

Please note: There were seven different line items included. When I questioned Ms. Aubertin Keller about which statistics listed on the graph actually pertained to the proposed constitutional amendment, she replied the third one from the top covers Definition of Grand Ronde blood with 113 denied applications and the one at the very bottom covers parent on the roll at the time of your birth with 176 denied applications. Hardly the floodgates that some would like us to believe. However, they made it very clear that there will be more and they can’t be sure exactly how many, but these are actual applications they have denied due to the 1999 amendment over the past 17 years.

The others statistics listed will not be affected by the purposed amendment. This amendment in no way helps anyone who meets zero requirements. Really have no idea why they even included the other statistics.

I hope this helps clear up some of the misinformation that has been spread for the past few months.

Please vote “yes” for this upcoming constitutional amendment. It has been 17 years. This amendment is not about floodgates. This amendment is about equality. This amendment is about healing our split families. This amendment is about who we are as Native people.

Ann K. Lewis

Roll #3983


Dear Smoke Signals:

Fairness to all Tribal members

The Constitution of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde belongs to each and every Tribal member: the membership.

This is why I feel this BIA election in the shortened version is not fair to all the membership. If just one Tribal member is eliminated from the election process because of a shortened time frame, we have taken a Tribal right away from them. Each Tribal member should have the same opportunity to voice their opinion with a vote.

Many of the older Elders do not have computers or the Internet. This will take that Elder population out of most of the education process of the election. Many of these Elders still have a vivid memory of a shortened BIA election that ultimately terminated this Tribe. Regardless of any political agenda, an election process should be fair to the membership.

Bundling of amendments is also not fair to the membership. They should be given the opportunity to voice their opinion on each amendment alone and on its own merit. This would be fair.

The right thing to do

I was a small boy before Termination. I witnessed the hardships and bad treatment our ancestors endured to give us the sovereign rights to everything we have and enjoy today.

I hold the highest respect for the ancestors and the Grand Ronde culture, wisdom and history they passed down through verbal teachings. The teachings made me aware of just how sacred each bloodline was to all of our ancestors who enrolled here at Grand Ronde.

I feel it is very disrespectful to the ancestors to add other blood from other Tribes that did not endure the hardships here at Grand Ronde.

In my opinion, the discussion should be how to elevate, promote and extend the bloodlines from our ancestors who were here and enrolled in the Tribe before Termination and did without. They are the members who give you the right to call yourself Grand Ronde, not someone from another Tribe.

Jack Giffen Jr.

Tribal Council Vice Chair

Roll #182


Dear Smoke Signals:

The upcoming constitutional amendment has sure got everyone's attention. We have those who are for it and those who are against it, and in a way I’ve never seen before. I, myself, have watched the videos where members are voicing their concerns, have read on Facebook where members and non-members do the same and have talked directly to members who are for it and who are not. For the most part many members are not in support of changing our Constitution.

I have one thought: If this constitutional amendment passes what becomes of the programs that are currently offered and how will it affect the current enrollment?

Let's face it, there's only so many grants we can apply for and currently do. We stretch every one of those dollars to the best of our ability. The Tribe funds some programs, but again there are only so many dollars to assist with. Sure, we have the casino, but with competition of another one being built on our back doorstep, do you really think we won't take a hit? It's my opinion we probably will.

Let me ask this, do you enjoy your medical, education, housing, Social Services programs, Elders benefit and per capita? Because if you do, and this amendment passes, you may not be receiving them. Granted those programs will still be intact, but it doesn't mean you’ll receive them. Don’t get me wrong, you might receive a little, but not to the full extent we all receive now. Instead your medical coverage will go down and chances of receiving a scholarship will be affected. Keep in mind there only so many dollars and many members want and need assistance toward their educational goals. There’s only so many houses/apartments in the Housing Department. Social Services is only allotted so much; many programs are first-come, first-served. Elder’s endowment can only support so many and per capita payments will go down.

No instead, it could be someone else, someone who isn’t really a Grand Ronde Tribal member, but now is because of this amendment. Sure we have money in the bank, but we are not a rich Tribe when compared to others. Compared to some Tribes, we’re still fairly new.

It’s my opinion, if you want to make someone a Tribal member then you make my descendants one. At least they’ll have Grand Ronde blood. If this amendment passes, some will be enrolled who have none while others who do are left out. How fair is that? It's ridiculous.

As far as the referendum, no. All that will do is give power to a few. It’s totally absurd. Leave it as it is. Anything else is dangerous to our Tribe.

The parent on the poll amendment I agree with, but because this has been bundled I now have to vote “no.” Effectively my voice has been quieted and that’s not fair. Parent on the roll probably would have passed on its own merit, but there seems to be those who don’t think I’m intelligent enough to vote on several amendments at one time. Instead, I have to vote across the board, yes for all or no for all. Again, I vote “no.” What a shame for our Tribe and what an insult to me.

I was raised in Grand Ronde and lived there from the 1960s through the ’80s. Even before Restoration, we took pride in who we were. We were Grand Ronde Indians! No other but Grand Ronde! I think of all those who have walked on from that period, and feel at peace knowing they wouldn’t agree with what is happening. Instead, I believe in my heart they’d be crying out to stop it.

When I leave this world, when I am called home, I refuse to stand before my ancestors and answer to them why I think this constitutional amendment was right. Because it’s not.

Tammy C. Garrison

Roll #1669


Dear Smoke Signals:

I’m sure I won’t be the only one to make a recommendation on the upcoming constitutional amendments. But unlike some of those people telling you to vote “no,” I will provide my rationale based on fact, not wild speculation, rumors, exaggeration or statements like “our Tribe will be ruined.” Those couldn’t be further from the truth.

Please understand, I actually read the proposed amendments, attended a Q&A session and find both of these proposals long overdue and much needed within our Tribe.

For those of you on Facebook, I am an administrator for Grand Ronde Forum, a message board for our Tribal community. The attempts to misinform, scare and attack those supporting these amendments absolutely disgusts and saddens me. I hope for rational, fact-based debate on important Tribal issues, not childish arguments like presidential primaries.

Let me start with the low-hanging fruit: The amendments to lower the petitioning requirements on our General Council powers of initiative, referendum and the calling of special Council meetings. These are rights and powers we already possess as Tribal members, but they currently have such difficult requirements, needing 1,200-1,300 signatures, making them near impossible to meet. We barely have that many members vote in our Tribal Council elections!

As a Tribal member who wants to do more than just draw per cap checks and vote in Tribal Council elections, I like the idea of being able to propose our own Tribal laws and resolutions, or legally question those of Tribal Council. What is wrong with giving Tribal members a tool to make their own proposals and put them to a vote? Or to put a questionable law or resolution by Tribal Council to a vote? I am not comfortable with a system of government that provides absolute power to five members of Tribal Council, who can do whatever they want without explanation. These proposals are a step in the right direction. If you want more power as a Tribal member, then vote “yes” on these amendments. Personally, I can’t believe anybody even opposes giving the Tribal membership more power, but the split on Tribal Council was 5-4.

On the enrollment amendment: I see this proposal as cleaning up the unintended consequences of the 1999 amendment that have hurt many Tribal families. This does not open the “floodgates,” as many opponents have stated. Nor does it create split families. This was settled at the Portland Q&A session, when our Tribal attorneys, the ones who some Tribal Council swear by, acknowledged that no new split families will be created.

The amendment will mean a modest boost in our Tribal population. But they are people who should be Tribal members, who are descended from Grand Ronde ancestors, but have been disqualified by the technicalities of the 1999 amendment. Those ridiculous situations where one child is enrolled but the other is not, despite having the same biological parents, will be resolved.

I will be the first to admit the amendment doesn’t go as far as it should. There are longer term problems, such as blood quantum, that will need to be addressed in the coming decades. But everyone should recognize that this is a positive step for our Tribe. Please join me in voting “yes.”

Bryan Mercier

Roll #1357


Dear Smoke Signals:

I am writing today because I have grown very concerned about the direction our current Tribal leaders are leading our Tribe. The majority of Tribal Council appear to me to be more concerned about opening up our enrollment for outside Native Americans to join the Tribe than they are concerned about the overall well-being of our current Tribe. My concerns are substantiated by the two proposed constitutional amendments and the manner in which the registration and election are being administered.

First, let me begin with the election, which used to allow a total of 90 days to register and vote. Tribal members are now given 21 days to register to vote in the upcoming election and 25 days to cast their vote, almost cutting the overall time for registering and casting votes in half. These timelines include the amount of time it takes to receive your paperwork in the mail and the amount of time it takes to return the paperwork in the mail.

Consequently, if a Tribal member is serving in the military overseas or living outside of the continental United States, it will be very possible that there is not enough time to either register or cast a vote. Our current majority on Tribal Council has chosen to cut the time for the election almost in half against the recommendations of the BIA and the Enrollment Board. Upholding a fair and unbiased election is always far more important than any perceived urgency to propose constitutional changes.

Our election process is the only way that Tribal members can have a fair say in the Tribe’s future. Why would the majority not desire to ensure that all Tribal members who wish to cast a vote are given sufficient time to do so? If every Tribal member is not given ample time to cast a vote in an election, it is plainly and simply a form of censorship.

Now let me write about the amendments we are voting on, beginning with the proposed change to the definition of Grand Ronde blood. The new definition will be changed to include all Indian blood derived from a direct ancestor who appears on the official Tribal membership roll from 1984 to 1999 as opposed to the 1983 Restoration Roll. This means that any descendant from an enrolled member may count the Indian blood of their enrolled parent’s mother and father combined even though only one is a Grand Ronde ancestor. Personally, I do not agree that our Tribe should enroll people who do not have at least 1/16th Indian blood traced back to an enrolled Tribal member only. At what point will our Tribe become comprised with a majority of members with minimal blood lineage to the five Tribes of Grand Ronde and recognized Northwest bands? Will these new members care about the future of our Tribe or will they simply be here to collect all that they can until the well runs dry?

Next, I would like to address the proposed change to the requirements for initiatives, referendums and the calling of special General Council meetings. Is it necessary to reduce this requirement from 30 percent to 15 percent? Is 650 people, as opposed to 1,300, enough members to justify a proposal to create amendments to our Constitution, to recall previously approved changes by the majority of the membership, or to call for a special General Council meeting? I find this new number far too few to be given such great power over the entire membership. The Tribe and its leaders have far too many important tasks to perform to spend their time addressing organized efforts that do not reflect the overall mindset of the Tribe in general. In other words, expect a lot more elections requiring us to vote against changes to our Constitution that most of us feel are completely unnecessary.

Please join me by voting “no” on these proposed amendments in our upcoming election. Make sure to meet the stringent timelines that have been unfairly forced upon us. And while you’re at it, make sure to let the Tribal Council, including the majority, know that you do not approve of these unwanted elections and the efforts to open up our Tribe to outside Indian blood.

Brenda Gray

Roll #339


Dear Smoke Signals:

As most of you are aware, we soon will be voting on amendments to make changes to our Constitution.

First, I would like to remind everyone that if you have not completed and returned your BIA voter registration, be sure to do so by the June 7 deadline. If you do not return your BIA voter registration in time, then you will not receive a ballot for the BIA election.

Secondly, I would like to share some thoughts regarding the proposed constitutional amendment on enrollment requirements. As most of us know, the reason we even have to deal with this vote is an attempt to correct issues that resulted from the “bundled” 1999 amendment. As we discovered, bundling does not work. We should have been allowed to vote on each item individually on its own merit. I believe that if all of our people had been better informed in 1999, they would have joined me when I had voted against the “bundled” 1999 amendment.

To avoid duplicating the mistakes of the past, it is now more important than ever that we educate ourselves on all aspects of the proposed amendment changes. Earlier this year, when I heard the rumors of the proposed change to the definition of Grand Ronde blood, just as in 1999, I began researching the possible effects. I discovered some of the same facts that were presented during the BIA education meetings held May 17-19. This proposed change to the definition of Grand Ronde blood will in essence create a separate roll/class of those enrolled before 1999 from those enrolled after. This change will create splits in families that do not currently exist (for further clarification and examples, please review slides 21-31 of the presentation).

It has been said by those who proposed this change to the definition of Grand Ronde blood that it will not be able to pass without being bundled with the removal of the parent on the roll requirements. They also still cannot explain all of the ramifications of this proposed change. Does this sound like a well thought-out proposal to you?

If the real reason behind the proposed change to the definition of Grand Ronde blood is to assist those who do not meet an ancestor on the Restoration Roll requirement, then there is already a process in place for that. If that is not the real reason for the proposal, then what is the reason and why the push for a bundle?

I encourage all of my fellow Tribal members to educate themselves on all aspects of this upcoming BIA election. Help me send a message to Tribal Council that we deserve the right to vote on each item individually and that we do not want the definition of Grand Ronde blood changed by voting “no.”

Deborah M. Good

Roll #1227


Dear Smoke Signals:

Before I get started, I want to state clearly that I have wanted to see the parent on the roll section of the 1999 enrollment amendment removed for some time now. It saddens my heart to know that there are split families with one child enrolled and one not enrolled simply because of the year they were born, even though both children are at least 1/16th Grand Ronde blood.

I was overjoyed when Toby McClary spearheaded the motion to remove this section from the enrollment qualifications (Proposal No. 1), and his efforts at that time were supported by the majority of Tribal Council.

Suddenly, when Toby retired from Tribal Council and a new person was voted in, the new amendment that was set to move forward was brought to another vote with our current Tribal Council. The new majority opted to stop the amendment from going into effect, with the excuse given that there were other enrollment issues and it was unfair to fix just one of the issues.

Since this excuse made zero sense to me (Why not fix one problem and focus on the others?), I began to listen closely to the opponents of Proposal No. 1 and the answer became clear to me. The new majority on Tribal Council would be unwilling to fix any enrollment issues unless all of their enrollment-based agendas were supported as well.

In the May 15 issue of Smoke Signals, I couldn’t help but notice that a certain person from Tribal Council submitted a letter making reference to the parent on the roll issue. He stated that Proposal No. 1 was unfair because it changed both No. 2 and No. 3 of our enrollment requirements, which was a form of bundling in his eyes. Later in the same letter, he went on to say that No. 3 is an incredibly rare issue and there is little data to determine how many will be affected by removing the requirement. These contradictive statements only prove further that there was no valid reason to not fix the enrollment issue.

In the same letter, this person from Tribal Council quoted numbers of projected enrollees if three of the five enrollment requirements were to be removed. He stated that these numbers are based on rejected applicants. Since, in my opinion, most people will only apply for membership in a Tribe that they are qualified for, isn’t there a much higher number of people who haven’t applied and are willing to do so if the requirements are changed? I believe that a better estimation can be determined by looking at the enrollment numbers prior to the 1999 enrollment amendment.

In 1995, the year the casino was opened, there were 118 members enrolled. In comparison:

  • In 1996, 252 were enrolled.
  • In 1997, 304 were enrolled.
  • In 1998, 349 were enrolled.
  • In 1999, 403 were enrolled.

I believe that if the proposed changes to enrollment that we are voting on this year were to pass, it will be a very safe estimate that at least as many people will be enrolled in 2017 as there were in 1999, if not more because many have waited for up to 17 years for an opportunity.

I predict in 2017, if the enrollment amendment is voted in, there will be anywhere from 600 to 1,000 new people enrolled in the Tribe. In five years, if we continue the trend from 1996 to 1999, there will be a 50 percent increase in our Tribal membership, with more than 2,500 new people being enrolled. I also believe that my numbers are based on more sound data than the usage of rejected applicants.

It is clear to me that those on Tribal Council who support the newly proposed enrollment amendment do not know the impact that it will have on our Tribal membership and our programs and endowments. I will be voting “no” on both of the proposed amendments, and I hope that many others will join me.

Now is not the time to make drastic changes to our Constitution and to jeopardize our Tribe’s identity and overall financial well-being. Let us hope that in the near future we will have a majority on Tribal Council who care more about the well-being of the Tribe than their own political agendas.

Judith Myer

Roll #839


Dear Smoke Signals:

First of all, I am voting “no” on the proposed amendments to our Tribal Constitution. I’m certain that many people already know how I will vote, but may not understand why. I will explain why I don’t believe these proposed amendments are in the best interest of the “entire membership of the Tribe.” I will follow the order from the handout from May 18, which I’m sure many, if not all, Tribal members have at least heard about if not seen.

  1. Initiative and Referendum Petitions: This proposed amendment reduces the number of Tribal member signatures needed from one-third or 33 percent to 15 percent. The number of qualified voters from 30 percent to at least 20 percent. A vote of two-thirds of those who actually vote will still be required (if these members actually vote). The stated reason, from the five Tribal Council members who champion these proposals, is that it will reduce the number of members required to vote, which will also increase member participation if it passes.

While the number of members needed to vote is less, it could also cause great harm to the Tribe (and I hope it never happens) if only five unscrupulous Tribal Council members wanted to push something through. This sounds harsh, but if you think about it, it is entirely possible. What I find interesting is that Recall of a Tribal Council member is not specified; I have to wonder why. This is also a “right” of the entire membership, so why would the numbers needed not be reduced for this?

The number of Tribal member signatures needed for a General Council Special Meeting will drop from one-third or 33 percent to 15 percent, but also removes reference to the Secretary of the Interior’s regulations related to “initiative, referendum or recall” actions.

  1. Enrollment Requirements: The proposed amendment changes the current requirements dramatically. While it removes the parent on the roll at time of birth and at time of application, it also changes the definition of Grand Ronde blood (to enroll). If passed, the amount of Grand Ronde blood will still be taken from an ancestor on the Restoration Roll, but will allow all “other Indian blood” as well. But, this only applies to Tribal members enrolled between Nov. 30, 1984, to Sept. 14, 1999. This will allow people who have been denied (because of blood quantum or other issues) to re-apply and qualify for membership.

If passed this will create two different classes of members. One class will be those who can use all their Indian blood, and those who can’t claim all their Indian blood. True, Grand Ronde Tribal members will nearly cease to exist and the Tribe could become one where the “other Native blood” is dominant, and would change who we are forever. I hope and pray that is not what you want for our Tribe; I know I don’t.

We were on the brink of changing the parent on the roll issues months ago and half of the Tribal Council believed it would go forward. However

  1. , those who now champion these proposed amendments voted down the needed resolution and basically “rewrote” it, which also created a huge delay. What may have occurred in January is happening now.

These proposed amendments have also created great unrest and animosity between those who (for whatever reason) want the proposed amendments to pass and those (like me) who don’t. From what I’ve seen and heard, those who want this to pass have mentioned greed, bigotry, racism and many other ugly things. Those of us who oppose the proposed amendments do not want the definition of Grand Ronde blood to change, create two different classes of members or change the requirements for constitutional elections. It’s that simple. Those who champion them have done everything in their power to try and ensure passage, including shortening the time frame from 90 days, which we have historically done, to less than 60 days.

It should never be “easy” to change our Tribal Constitution. It was established this way for a purpose; to bring only those things that must have a vote of the entire membership forward and not every time someone doesn’t like the way part of it reads.

This does not allow a “fair” constitutionalelection. There are Tribal members across the United States, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Australia. We also have Tribal members in other countries overseas and in the military. I would say that the majority of these folks will not be able to receive their registration packets, get them signed, back to the BIA for approval, get their ballot and get it back in time to be counted. About the only way I know of to get a ballot here in time would be “Next Day Air” or whatever other means there may be. Relying on straight mail delivery is not likely an option.

Why the rush? What difference could it make to allow the 90 days, especially when that was recommended not only by the BIA but also the Special Election Board? I have no idea, other than that’s what they want and they’re doing it.

I am only one person, but I feel so strongly about this that it has caused me a great deal of unrest. And I know there are many others who feel the same way.

So, I will ask each and every one of our Tribal members to please consider voting “no” on the proposed amendments.

Dakota Whitecloud

Roll #1587


Dear Smoke Signals:

Based on recent articles and letters in various issues of Smoke Signals, I hope that most Grand Ronde General Council members realize that a BIA-conducted constitutional amendments election is underway.

A voter registration packet was to be mailed to each adult member of the Tribe on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. The completed voter registration form is to be received at a post office box address in New Mexico on or before June 7, 2016. A return addressed envelope is provided in the packet.

The important thing right now is that all eligible Tribal members get registered for this BIA-conducted constitutional amendments election. If you do not register you will not be sent a ballot when they are mailed out on June 13, 2016.

This BIA-conducted election is in regard to two proposed amendments to the Tribe’s Constitution.

One of the proposed amendments has to do with the powers of the General Council membership. The other proposed amendment has to do with enrollment requirements to become a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon.

Both of these proposed amendments are being presented to the Tribal voters as “bundles,” which, according to Chris Mercier’s letter in the May 15, 2016, issue of Smoke Signals, is “when items that can be separated are combined into one vote.”

The proposed amendment regarding the powers of the General Council membership is really several parts. The important thing to know about this amendment has to do with reducing the number of signatures on a petition that would be needed to call for:

  • An initiative to set forth a new proposed ordinance or resolution;

  • A referendum to set forth a Tribal Council proposed or previously enacted ordinance or resolution;

  • A special meeting of the General Council.

Presently, it takes the signatures of one-third (33 percent) of the General Council members on a petition for action to start to take place. The proposed percent is 15.

The interesting thing is the General Council’s power to present a petition for the recall of elected Tribal officials is not included in the proposed amendment and neither is the power to present a petition to amend the Tribe’s Constitution. Besides that, when have you ever heard of anyone even talk about doing an initiative, a referendum or wanting to do a petition to have a special meeting of the General Council, especially when the Tribal Council can call for a special meeting of the General Council with one week’s notice?

The other thing I would like to note is that presently there is no way for the members of the General Council to have access to the names and addresses of our 3,800 or more adult Tribal members so that a petition could be circulated. So to me everything presented in this proposed amendment is for naught and is a waste of our time and Tribal dollars to even be voting on.

Needless to say, I will be voting “no” on the bundled amendment regarding the powers of the General Council membership. I encourage others to do the same.

The other proposed amendment that has to do with enrollment requirements to become a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon. This has been written about a lot on social media (Facebook).

For those who are not on social media, this amendment consists of two or three changes depending on how a person looks at it.

Currently, a person has to have “a parent who was a member of the Tribe at the time of the applicant's birth and who, unless deceased, is a member of the Grand Ronde Tribe at the time the applicant files an application for enrollment.”

Also, the current definition of Grand Ronde blood is “all Indian blood derived from a direct ancestor whose name validly appears on the official Tribal membership roll prepared under the Grand Ronde Restoration Act.”

This proposed enrollment requirements amendment would remove the parent requirement and add additional words to the current definition of Grand Ronde blood. Those additional words are “or the official Tribal membership roll prepared by the Tribe between Nov. 30, 1984, and Sept. 14, 1999; provided that such roll may be corrected by the Tribal Council in accordance with the Tribal Enrollment Ordinance.”

In 2011, Tribal members voted on a bundled enrollment requirements amendment that had to do with the parent on a roll requirement and the definition of Grand Ronde blood and a couple of other things. Tribal voters rejected that “all or nothing” bundled amendment by 54 percent. At that time critics objected to the bundled approach, wanting to vote on each proposed change separately. I feel that the majority of Tribal voters still feel the same way today.

Without getting into all of the pros and cons of the current proposed enrollment requirements amendment, I want to say that I feel that each proposed change to our Tribe’s enrollment requirements needs to be voted on separately. Let each proposed change stand or fall on its own merits.

Because of the “all or nothing” bundled approach regarding our enrollment requirements, I will be voting “no” on the proposed enrollment requirements amendment just as I did in 2011. I encourage others to do the same.

The bottom line for me with this BIA-conducted constitutional amendments election and in any constitutional amendment election is: No bundles! Let each proposed change stand or fall on its own merits.

Leroy Good

Roll #892


Dear Smoke Signals:

I am hoping that by the time most of you have read this letter, you will have registered to vote in the constitutional election on both our enrollment requirements and the initiative and referendum petitioning requirements. These are very important elections, and if successful will have long-lasting effects on our Tribe.

This is a quicker election than normal, but we on Tribal Council were faced with a decision in early May to either conduct the constitutional election now or wait until after Tribal Council elections and quite possibly conduct a completely different election, if at all. I wanted to see this through.

The 1999 enrollment requirements election was one that had adverse impacts on some families, and little impact on others. Having an ancestor on the Restoration Roll, I am one of the lucky ones. But like Angie Blackwell wrote last issue, I don’t think my children are more deserving or better. I happen to be one of those families who did relocate, but maintained our ties to the Tribe and, more importantly, kept our names on the rolls.

Many families didn’t do this. After Termination in 1954, nobody really knew the Tribe would get restored, and would build and operate Oregon’s biggest casino. Between Restoration and 1999, many families did return. To penalize them for not getting their names on the Restoration Roll, or for their parents having children before enrolling in the Tribe, or for being born between 1954 and 1983, none of these seem right.

Adoption, disconnection from the Tribal community, such situations are simple twists of fate that since 1999 have been grounds to bar people entry into this Tribe despite clear ancestral connections and very often even the right blood. This enrollment amendment will help fix many of these unfortunate circumstances.

At the same time many Tribal leaders have always spoken of given the members a greater voice, of listening to the people and taking their concerns to heart. Right now Tribal Council runs just about everything. Council members say they want to be here for the membership, to listen. But aside from the occasional advisory vote or surveys, we rarely ever give our members a say in anything. Members vote for Tribal Council and pray they will do what they said while campaigning. Our Tribal Constitution includes rights for Tribal members, but two of the major ones, initiative (the ability to propose laws and/or resolutions and put to a vote of the people) and referendum (the ability to revoke resolutions of council or laws and put to a vote) are made impossible by petitioning requirements that are totally unrealistic. This amendment gives you, the Tribal membership, a tool through which your voice is heard and cannot be denied by Tribal Council. I honestly cannot think of a good argument against this amendment.

I am a Tribal Council member and, yes, this amendment gives you a means to undo one of my decisions. I am OK with that. I don’t want unchecked power, and I don’t want future Tribal Council members to have it either.

Please make sure you vote in this all-important election. These are major decisions being left up to you. As it should be.

Denise Harvey

Tribal Council

Roll #1874


Dear Smoke Signals:

I’m sure by now most of you have heard of the proposed constitutional amendments on General Council powers and enrollment requirements. Being proposed are: 1) The reduction of General Council participation required for exercising the power of initiative or referendum; 2) The reduction in General Council participation for the calling of special General Council meetings; 3) The elimination of the requirement that an applicant be born to a parent who was a member of the Tribe at the time of the applicant’s birth; 4) The elimination of the requirement that the applicant be born to a parent who was a member of the Tribe at the time of application; and, 5) An amendment of the definition of Grand Ronde blood, which would include all Indian blood (regardless if it is from a non-federally recognized Tribe) derived from a direct ancestor whose name validly appears on (1) The official Tribal membership roll prepared under the Grand Ronde Restoration Act, or (2) the official Tribal membership roll prepared by the Tribe between Nov. 30, 1984, and Sept. 14, 1999.

Setting aside the distinctly different issues being voted on, I would like to point out that this is being presented as a bundle, an all-or-nothing vote of “yes” or “no.” Why would you be forced to vote on all issues at once instead of breaking them up into several votes on the same ballot?

Bundle choice voting is a way of getting issues passed that may not have enough support to be passed on their own. It is a compromise in an attempt to pass something through that you don’t fully favor because the issue you do want passed is also included in the bundle. This amendment includes wholly separate, dissimilar issues that some may fully support, others may partially support, while still others may disagree with altogether. However, since they are bundled, we cannot vote on each and pass what we believe needs to pass without tacitly supporting all of the amendments presented. This is undemocratic, implicitly unfair and unconscionable.

I have strong opinions on all of the issues on this combined constitutional amendment, but I refuse to be bullied into voting on all the issues without an opportunity to vote on each one individually, especially as I agree with some and not with others. Since none of us are being given that opportunity, I urge you to vote “no” until Tribal Council separates these issues and we can move forward to protect and promote all Grand Ronde Tribal members. These issues are too important for the future of our Tribe, and there should be no compromise.

Charles G. Haller II

Roll #1032


Dear Smoke Signals:

I'm writing this letter to let other Tribal members know exactly why I am voting “no” on the proposed constitutional amendments on enrollment requirements.

First off I want to say that I agree split families need to be fixed. My concern is changing the definition of Grand Ronde blood. I don't feel that it is right to “increase some individual's Grand Ronde blood quantum” page 29 from the educational meetings handout prepared by our Tribe’s legal team. It’s pretty simple: Grand Ronde is Grand Ronde blood; it is not Chippewa or Navajo or any other blood. 

Another concern I have is timing. Rob Greene, in our presentation, made it very clear there is a short window here”; he repeated it several times. At the educational class I learned that the BIA was not ready for this proposal so it literally sat there for a few weeks. Also this proposal is bundled together which adds to the challenge of understanding it all. There were only three educational classes. Seven tribal members at the Portland meeting, 30 in Grand Ronde and about 15 in Eugene. My guess is that is about 1 percent of the membership or somewhere close. A lot more members need to know about this and not just read opinions from Facebook posts. I’m really disappointment at the turnout. I am also concerned that because of this short window, not all Tribal members will be able to vote.

My last concern is that we don't know was repeated many times in my educational class with regard to how many people this will affect. Page 18 from the handout clearly shows that 428 applicants were denied. I don't know why we can’t take our time, do an impact study and provide answers to what would happen with this much increased membership to our programs and budgets. There is no plan to deal with this because againwe don't know” how many people this will affect. There are too many unknowns for me to give a “yes” vote.

I want to fix split families, but I am not in favor of increasing individual blood quantum by using blood from other Tribes so applicants can qualify.

Let’s find another way to fix these split families now and together!

Rich Colton

Roll #1234


Dear Smoke Signals:

We have in my time on Tribal Council had multiple organizational charts. Generally these charts consist of a hierarchy. General Manager, Finance Officer, Chief of Staff and, of course, Tribal Council are usually listed atop these charts. Above that group is the General Membership, also known as the General Council, i.e. Tribal members. You.

I’ve long wondered whether that hierarchy is really accurate. Sure, you have the right to vote in Tribal Council elections and the rare but hopefully soon-to-be less rare advisory votes. And surveys, you get to do surveys. But beyond that, Tribal members have less say in our governance, in major policy decisions, than they should. You elect us, and we should represent you and your interests. “Should” being the operative word. I was reminded of that in February at the Portland General Council meeting when the issue of Native mascots dominated discussion.

Constitutional elections have been rare in Grand Ronde, perhaps occurring once every five years. But this one is different. Read our Tribal Constitution, and see that Tribal members have a section devoted entirely to them: Article II- General Council. Read Section 1. Powers. Under (b) is the power of initiative for General Council members, the ability to introduce ordinances (laws) and resolutions and put them to a vote of the people. Under (c) is the power of referendum, the ability to reconsider, to second-guess, any Tribal Council-mandated ordinance or resolution and also put to a vote of the people.

These are two of the most important powers Tribal members have. As is, they cannot be invoked because the petitioning requirements in place, the number of signatures needed to exercise these powers, are unrealistic and in my opinion impossible to meet. This amendment changes that.

If more than 500 Tribal members want an issue put to a vote, shouldn’t that be Tribal law? If more than 500 Tribal members dislike a Tribal Council decision embodied in a resolution, or feel a law is unjust or ridiculous, shouldn’t they have the power to put that to a vote? Personally, I believe so. In fact, I am quite adamant about it. If any decision I make riles up Tribal members to where more than 500 of them will petition, and then 66 percent agree the decision should be overturned, there should be no problem with that. That is how democracy should be.

Regarding our enrollment requirements, I think we finally have a solution to the harm inflicted upon our Tribal families by the 1999 amendment. This proposal does not open the floodgates, as many think. Yes, there will be many new members able to enroll. These new enrollees have family ties to Grand Ronde. They are not vagabonds wanting to join for the benefits. This is a far less liberal proposal in years past that addresses the negative impacts of the 1999 amendment, but also keeps intact the intent of Tribal leadership at that time, which was to keep Tribal population growth at a manageable level.

I have a niece and nephew, both of whom are half-Navajo, a Tribe that gets mentioned in the examples we’ve used during our educational sessions. Both were born after 1999, so their descendants will not get to use that Navajo blood. Should this amendment pass, they might harbor resentment to me one day. But at this time my goal was to help families impacted by the 1999 amendment. I would not propose amending the Constitution just to help my own family.

Above all, vote. One of these amendments could give you the right to more votes in the future. Another could help end the unfair situation into which some Tribal members have been thrust since 1999.

Vote your conscience. That is all I ask. I am voting “yes” on both.

Christopher G. Mercier

Tribal Council

Roll #1821


Dear Smoke Signals:

Grand Ronde blood is defined in our Constitution as “all Indian blood derived from a direct ancestor whose name validly appears on the official Tribal membership roll prepared under the Grand Ronde Restoration Act.”

The CTGR Tribal members listed on the Restoration Roll are CTGR Indian blood and this definition should continue to be used by their descendants for enrollment purposes.

The many bands and Tribes of Indian people who became the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde have lived on these lands since time immemorial. The Tribe itself has not been in existence since time immemorial. It was created as a result of the United States genocide policies throughout colonization. This makes the birth of our Nation complex and unique. There must be a place and time in history that we (today’s enrolled members) identify as the foundation of Tribal members in which we build.

As CTGR Tribal members we decide who we are, thereby we decide who we will become.

In the early years as the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde was being created, there were many Indian people who came to the Grand Ronde Reserve. There were many who were only here temporarily. There were many that never came. There were many that became CTGR Tribal members. There were many CTGR Tribal members who left the Reservation. There were many CTGR Tribal members who relinquished their membership.

CTGR blood is those Indian people who suffered genocide and relocation in the 1800s, became and remainedenrolled CTGR Tribal members, suffering atrocities and assimilation during that reservation era, and then suffered the Termination of the CTGR Tribe in 1954. The official record of these Tribal members is the Termination roll.

Tribal Council met one time to discuss this amendment. The proposed language is a result of that one meeting. We discussed the parent on the roll issues. We discussed the split sibling families. We discussed new Indian blood. We did not discuss the definition of Grand Ronde blood. It is my opinion that one meeting was not adequate to bring forward a change to our Constitution. The proposed language is unfinished work.

Regardless of my individual opinion on these proposed changes, my expectation is to present the membership with the best language and to present it in a way that will result in an accurate vote of the will of the membership. The lack of effort put into this language, bundling issues and the short election timelines make the final vote askew.

My vote will be “no”to the proposed constitutional amendments! I believe the current definition in our Constitution of CTGR blood is the correct legal language for enrollment purposes and should not be changed. The definition of CTGR blood is the identity of this Tribe and should not be a moving target.

Tonya Gleason-Shepek

Tribal Council

Roll #1282