Tribal Government & News
Letters to the Editor -- Nov. 1, 2016
Dear Smoke Signals:
This is one of the most difficult letters I have ever tried to write and I almost feel I must apologize for doing so. So forgive me, I am far from perfect and unwell.
I am writing to ask for only a little help, nothing more than we do in our daily lives to lend each other a hand; help each other when needed.
Where I am there is none I can call to except Creator, and while I know I am heard and help will come as I need it, I must nonetheless do my part, do my work, my part to find the help Creator gives us all – each other.
One or two of you may know that I have been doing battle for quite a long time now. It has been hard on me. It must be that way or nothing will be gained, nothing learned.
I have filed two separate lawsuits against the state of California and the United States concerning discrimination, abuse of our belongings, our ceremonies and the lack of legal protections. What I am doing will affect all U.S. indigenous peoples on Turtle Island and to my limited experience has not been done before.
If these issues were brought up and settled properly before, then we would have proper protection and have full stewardship of our ways, ceremonies and what is ours and ours alone.
I am tired of people talking and doing nothing but satisfying themselves, tired of white men pushing me aside, controlling my ceremonies. You tell me what I should do, fight them with my savagery or fight them with their own rule of law. I have done it all and my family suffers for it.
I do what is right for all of us. I think of you our children in all I do. They need good teachings. I don’t want money or pity, just for the people to care a little more. Remember the world is bigger than what’s going on in Grand Ronde; that we all have much more work to do to protect our future.
I do need help finding an attorney. I have very limited resources here. I can’t just get online and Google “American Indian civil rights attorney.” Other resources are outdated.
I have copies of each lawsuit for anyone serious about helping.
Walter F. Simmons
P.O. Box 705
Soledad, CA 93960
Dear Smoke Signals:
At the recent Legislative Action Committee meeting on Oct. 18, 2016, the present majority of Tribal Council presented the idea of establishing a new Independent Tribal Press Ordinance. It would entail hiring three to five non-members to be on the editorial board of Smoke Signals and run it as a free entity separate from our Tribal government. They would set up the policies for our newspaper. The new ordinance is coming up for a 30-day comment period.
My question is do you want this change to Smoke Signals? I personally believe Smoke Signals already is fair, non-political and non-biased. I think it is a newspaper where members can voice their opinion in the letters to the editor. The new non-member editorial board may not know our Tribe, our interests, culture, ancestors or our beliefs. They may want to bring you instead the news of all the Native Tribes across our nation instead of Grand Ronde birthdays, graduations, obituaries, news and events.
The additional expense would be to pay for three to five new non-members’ salaries and those who support the ordinance on Tribal Council are “not worried about it.” Three or four on Tribal Council expressed their many and various concerns about this proposal. Rob Greene said there is no separate regulatory body over this board. He also said there may be messages that Tribal Council wants to get out to the membership that they would now have to use Tilixam Wawa for.
Dean Rhodes of Smoke Signals said we print about 8,000 copies. About half of them go to the membership (one copy to a household) and about half of them go to the general public. Some are in newsstands in surrounding cities for people to pick up a copy for free.
I would ask members to weigh in on this most important question by writing your comments to email@example.com. Do you want to establish a new editorial board of non-Tribal members to have authority over Smoke Signals? Do you think Smoke Signals should go only to Tribal members and a few dignitaries? Do you think non-members should receive Smoke Signals? Do you think non-members should pay for Smoke Signals?
Smoke Signals is our newspaper and more importantly our voice. We pay for it out of our Tribal funds – so what Smoke Signals becomes is up to the membership. I urge you to write today; time is short on the comment period.
Dear Smoke Signals:
What happened to our pool? It did pass a Tribal vote with 51 percent. I know it was not by much, but everyone I have asked agrees that it would have passed by much more if the ballot had been written a little different.
Every member, including a few Tribal leaders, agreed with me that the way the ballot read made it sound like the pool for sure would come out of our per capita payments. I’m kind of confused about this because I was told by Tribal Council member Toby McClary in a meeting that it did not have to be paid for in that manner. There were at least six Tribal Council who attended that meeting and no one contested his answer to my question.
I am also not very happy that we paid more than $43,000 in studies and vote costs for this project and now it is seeming like it was just a major waste of Tribal dollars.
I am a person who believes in prioritizing and to me having healthy Elders and happy children should come way before longhouses, arbors, expensive museums and a few not-so-needed projects we have built out here. I’m sure almost all of us have a member or members with diabetes and other major health problems who would benefit from this project.
In closing, I know some involved with the decision on this will say that we have so much on our plate now to think about doing this, but the fact is we knew about these problems a long time ago. Way before we decided to spend some $40,000 and send out a ballot to the membership which again did pass. Thank you and happy holidays.
Dear Smoke Signals:
As many of you know, I strongly disagree with the appellate court’s decision and will never accept it. However, I have every right to my opinion and also the right to express it.
Sadly, what many of us were concerned about has now happened. We are now a Tribe with people enrolled who do not meet all the enrollment requirements, yet, because of the appellate court decision, have been reinstated. That simply means that we now have two classes of Tribal members: Those who must meet all enrollment requirements and those who don’t.
The appellate court used a little-known law and stated that the Tribe had “waited too long” to disenroll the Tumulth descendants. That, in itself, flies in the face of our Constitution and Tribal law. At no time, past or present, has there ever been a “timeline” attached to disenrollment, and there have been several cases before this one.
The appellate court also said that they would lose all their benefits, including Elder’s pension and per capita and that those funds are equal to property rights such as “wages.” No, they are not. No one has a “right” to either the Elder’s pension, per capita or any other benefit we receive. It was the Tribal Council’s decision to make these benefits available and could remove them at any time if they chose to.
It is and has been blatantly obvious that the many of the Tribal Council do not believe in disenrollment and have continuously supported this group of families. Any time anyone has said anything about the case, they were met with disdain, insults and defamation. Our Elders have been disrespected and talked down to as well.
There has been a lot said, both pro and con; I’m only stating the facts. I know there are people who will have some nasty things to say because of my stand on these issues. You know what? I don’t care. As I told someone not long ago: “What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong.” And what has happened in this case is wrong!
What I also believe, deep down, is that if somehow those same Tribal Council members are not stopped, we will have no voice and they will do whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want. Of course, I know they will disavow my comments, but is this what you want? Do you want to be “ruled” by a dictatorship, or by a Tribal Council that can be objective and make decisions based only on the facts and not personal opinions?
I am only one person, but I hope you will hear what I’m saying. If we, the membership, do not stop this, it will only get worse. If Tribal Council members continue to ignore our Constitution or their oath of office and are not called on it, then we will be to blame for what happens, not them.
Please, even if you disagree with me, wait, watch and listen to every word you hear. If it doesn’t sound or feel right to you, it probably isn’t.
Dakota Rae Sangretta-Whitecloud
(5th generation Grand Ronde)