Tribal Government & News

Letters to the Editor: Healing Our Tribal Families

02.28.2019 Dean Rhodes Letters, Elections, Tribal Council, Enrollment

Healing Our Tribal Families

The 1953 Western Oregon Termination Act robbed the Grand Ronde Tribe of its federal recognition and its status as a Tribe. In the eyes of the government, we were left a scattered people without our social, economic and political structure and without a recognized identity. To them, we were no longer Native American.

Since our Restoration in 1983, the Tribe has worked diligently to rebuild who we are as a Tribe, a government and a people. Today, we pride ourselves on taking care of our Tribal members and our community. However, some of our brothers and sisters remain living under the dark cloud of Grand Ronde’s Termination -- a fate that is the direct result of the 1999 constitutional amendment and not an act of Congress.

The 1999 constitutional amendment made important changes to our enrollment requirements that were designed to slow the number of individuals enrolling in Grand Ronde. These changes resulted in a different enrollment status among siblings who were born to the same parents. It denied enrollment to some individuals in our Tribal families and created split families within our Tribal community.

In their denial of enrollment comes the denial of the same services, programs and cultural identity provided to their parents and their brothers or sisters. Services such as health care, education, employment services and all of those other benefits that are provided to their family members are denied to them. They have continued to live under the cloud of Termination because in 1999 we told them that they did not belong.

The split family issue is one that all of us on Tribal Council would like to address, but is out of our control. Therefore, we have put a constitutional amendment before the membership that we believe will lessen the number of split families. The constitutional amendment before the membership will lessen the number of split families in our Tribe by allowing the enrollment of applicants who have enrolled brothers or sisters by the same Tribal parent(s), and who meet the pre-1999 constitutional enrollment requirements. This constitutional amendment will not change the definition of Grand Ronde blood.

For Tribal Council, the split family issue is about fairness and every one of us supports passing this constitutional amendment. We recognize that all of our enrollment issues will not be addressed by this constitutional amendment, but history has taught us that taking on all of our enrollment challenges at once only complicates the matter.

We believe that passing this constitutional amendment is an important first step in closing the divide in our community. That is why we are voting yes on this constitutional amendment -- to help heal our split families. We hope that you will do the same. It is up to the Tribal membership to make these families whole again.

The Grand Ronde Tribal Council