Tribal Government & News

Tribe kicking off enrollment community meetings on May 26

05.18.2021 Dean Rhodes Enrollment

By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde will hold the first of four scheduled meetings regarding membership and enrollment issues starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 26.

Because of continuing COVID-19 pandemic concerns, it will be held virtually using the Zoom teleconference application.

In October 2019, Tribal Council approved a maximum $50,000 contract with Arizona attorney Robert Lyttle (Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma) to research Tribal enrollment issues and conduct public meetings. Like many things in 2020, that effort was delayed because of the pandemic.

However, Lyttle’s assignment is finally coming to fruition. Tribal members were mailed an informational packet on Saturday, May 15, that included a cover letter from Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy, a flier announcing the May 26 meeting and Lyttle’s 20-page report that traces Grand Ronde membership and enrollment issues from 1936 to the present.

“Tribal Council has initiated a public information and outreach plan to provide important information about enrollment and membership issues to all members of the Tribe,” Kennedy said in her cover letter. “We invite you to participate in the open process to learn about our enrollment history and to offer comments and suggestions going forward.”

Kennedy’s letter said there will be four meetings – two using Zoom and two hybrid in-person meetings held in Grand Ronde that will have limited seating and also be available via Zoom.

“The open process established by Tribal Council will allow us, as members of the Tribe, to find solutions to the various enrollment issues facing the Tribe,” Kennedy said. “Any proposed changes to the membership requirements should be based on well-informed decisions about the current membership requirements, and how the requirements have changed over time. I am committed to addressing these important issues so that we can all move forward together.”

Lyttle’s report summarizes Tribal votes regarding membership. The only two amendments that surpassed the high bar of receiving the constitutionally mandated two-thirds approval both restricted membership. In 1999, Tribal members approved modified membership criteria and in 2008 approved a five-year waiting period for new members from other Tribes.

All other efforts to change membership requirements have either been defeated outright or failed to receive the 66.7 percent approval required to be adopted.

For instance, Tribal voters approved in 2019 an amendment to allow siblings from the same Tribal parents, of members enrolled before 1999 and who meet the enrollment requirements before 1999 to be enrolled. However, since it only received 63 percent approval from those who voted, it was not adopted. The approval rate for the very same proposal was 69.7 percent in 2018 when Tribal Council put it out for an advisory vote.

According to Lyttle’s report, Tribal voter participation in elections aimed at amending the Tribal Constitution has never exceeded 38 percent of adult Tribal members at the time of the election. As few as 15 percent of adult Tribal members have participated in an election to amend the Constitution.

“Voters who are unfamiliar with the BIA voter registration requirements often mistakenly believe that eligibility to vote in a Tribal election allows them to vote in a BIA Secretarial Election,” Lyttle’s report says. “Confusion over the rules usually causes low voter turnout.”

To participate in the first membership and enrollment meeting, register at: Webinar Registration - Zoom