Tribal Government & News
Letters to the Editor -- Oct. 15, 2016
Dear Smoke Signals:
A recap of recent events at our Tribe. On Aug. 5, 2016, the appellate court decision came in on the Alexander disenrollment case (the Chief Tumulth descendants). The family lost their case in Tribal Court. They went on to the appellate court where the appellate court decided our Tribe had waited too long to disenroll them for no ancestor.
This historic decision will affect other Native Tribes in the future, not just our own.
In my opinion, the appellate court forced our Tribal judge and Tribal Enrollment Board to break our Tribal laws by forcing them to re-enroll people with no ancestor on the Grand Ronde rolls.
The court’s decision should have agreed with our Tribal Constitution and laws. Any court should not force a sovereign nation to break its own laws.
This court said we do not have a right to determine our own members.
This court said there was some kind of a timeline – “lache” (that we waited too long) when our Constitution and laws have no lache or timeline in them. The enrollment audit discovered the enrollment errors in 2013. The disenrollments were in 2014. That is not too much time going by.
The appellate court used lache against our Tribe that is not used against federal governments, so this court ignored our Tribal sovereignty. On the other hand, our Tribal judge did not use lache against our Tribe.
Will the appellate court use lache against Tribes concerning their ceded lands and take them away? Will it use lache against Tribes concerning fishing and hunting rights? Our Tribe hired this court and this court should protect the Tribe’s rights and sovereignty as well as individuals.
The appellate court did not say this family belongs. They merely said our Tribe waited too long to disenroll them. The court should have made a decision concerning this family as to whether they are Grand Ronde or not. We deserved more. We expected more. What we got was a defense remedy that makes it illegal for us to disenroll and correct our rolls.
This court's decision is final and cannot be appealed higher to federal courts. This remains a serious flaw on our books to this day and needs corrected immediately as well as the answer to the burning question, “How long is too long?”
A Tumulth family member has already suggested at a recent Tribal Council meeting that she believes all treaty signers have rights and benefits not just their family.
The Nooksack Tribe in Washington state disenrolled 306 members for no ancestor. Those disenrolled in Washington have the same lawyer, Mr. Gabe Galanda, as the Chief Tumulth. The Nooksack Tribe ignored the court’s decision. We did not ignore the court because our current majority on Tribal Council supports the court’s decision.
In 1954, it was a higher power (Congress) that told us we are no longer Indian. That was wrong! It took 30 years to repair that damage done to our Tribe plus the signature of the President of the United States of America to restore our Tribe after Termination. Not an easy task; far better if the damage is not done to our Tribe in the first place.
In my personal opinion only:
1. We need to consider our Tribe’s hard-won independence; this court does not know our Tribe, our Elders or what they endured.
2. Part of being a sovereign nation is determining our own membership, our own citizens.
3. We have an inherent right to govern our own people.
4. This disenrollment was not about hate or greed; rather, Tribal officials are simply trying to protect the integrity of Grand Ronde’s membership.
5. Each member will have to consider if the Grand Ronde Tribe is a victim of ethnic fraud.
I am hoping members will decide to stand up for our Tribal rights, our Tribal sovereignty and our Tribal Constitution and laws in our next Tribal Council election.
At the Oct 2, 2016, General Council meeting, Tonya, Jack and Reyn called for letting the people decide in an advisory vote if members want to follow or ignore the appellate court decision. People spoke from the floor of the meeting asking for the same thing. Our membership did not get a chance to speak on this most important matter. It is all settled now, and the family is re-instated.
Our ancestors of old were territorial. They said loud and clear under oath who did and who did not belong to their Tribe at the Applegate hearings. One of our earliest constitutions from the 1930s said you could be any Indian and be a member of our tribe, but you had to have an ancestor on the Grand Ronde rolls.
My writing is for your information and it may be helpful come election time next fall. How our Tribe goes is always up to the people. Last September, we re-elected a person to Tribal Council who is “elated” about the court’s decision and “very happy for the family.” Next fall another member of the Tribal Council majority will be asking for re-election who is a huge supporter of the Chief Tumulth family and of the court’s decision also. Members will have a chance to have their say on this matter in that election. I say we can do better and I hope we will.