Tribal Government & News

Tribe releases enrollment meeting data

09.07.2021 Danielle Harrison & Dean Rhodes Enrollment

By Dean Rhodes and

Danielle Harrison

Smoke Signals staff

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde released data compiled during four community meetings regarding enrollment issues on Wednesday, Sept. 1.

More than 250 Tribal members gathered for virtual and limited in-person community meetings in May and June to address some of the enrollment and membership issues currently facing the Tribe.

The meetings were designed to increase communication between Tribal Council and the membership regarding enrollment challenges and provide Tribal members an opportunity to share their opinions while providing feedback to Tribal Council on the path forward. 

In October 2019, Tribal Council approved a $50,000 contract with Carefree, Ariz., 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 COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Lyttle’s assignment finally came to fruition. Tribal members were mailed an informational packet in mid-May that included a cover letter from Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy and Lyttle’s 20-page report that traces Grand Ronde membership and enrollment issues from the 1930s to the present.

Over the course of the meetings, comments from Tribal membership centered on eight main themes:  

  • Blood quantum: The Tribe received more than 25 comments regarding the blood quantum requirements for membership in the Tribe. Most of the comments suggested eliminating a minimum blood quantum requirement. Others supported more open requirements for membership. A few suggested that the Tribe should allow Indian blood from other Tribes, and some people wanted to declare people on a certain list, such as the Restoration Roll, full-blood members.
  • 1999 amendment to the Tribal Constitution: The Tribe received more than 20 comments that were critical of the 1999 amendment, which added the requirements that a parent must have been on the roll at the time of a person’s birth and at the time of application for membership, which created the “split family” issue. Most comments favored an outright repeal of the 1999 amendment and the added requirements. No one spoke in favor of keeping it.
  • Low voter participation/turnout in elections: The Tribe received 15 comments expressing the need to increase voter participation and turnout in elections to amend the Constitution. People suggested researching the cause of low voter participation, using more technology to reach out to voters, developing a communication plan and forming a voter committee.
  • Two-thirds voter approval for constitutional amendments: The Tribe received 12 comments in favor of eliminating the constitutional requirement that amendments be approved by a two-thirds majority vote. One person spoke in favor of keeping it.
  • Elimination of BIA secretarial elections: The Tribe received seven comments in favor of eliminating the requirement for constitutional amendments to be approved at a secretarial election conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. No one spoke in favor of keeping this requirement. However, Tribal voters rejected getting rid of the federal oversight by a vote of 381-230 in March 2015.
  • Disenrollment: The Tribe received seven comments against disenrollment of members of the Tribe in the future. In support of their comments, members offered personal testimony about what they view as the harmful and painful effects of past disenrollment actions. On Aug. 25, Tribal Council approved a two-year moratorium on disenrolling Tribal members except in the case of a Tribal member being dually enrolled, which is in violation of the Constitution.
  • Bundling issues on the ballot: The Tribe received five comments objecting to the practice of bundling or grouping multiple proposed amendments to the Constitution into one question on the ballot. All comments suggested using a ballot that allows voters to decide each proposed amendment separately.
  • Enrollment records: The Tribe received a few comments regarding the need to improve or correct flawed or missing Tribal enrollment records.

Tribal members may request a complete copy of the draft summary from the community meetings by e-mailing Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Hernandez at Tribal Council will be accepting comments on the summary until Friday, Oct. 1. Comments also should be sent to Hernandez’ e-mail address.