Last Thursday on The Daily Weekly Nina Shapiro - fresh off her cover story on allegations of racism in the tiny Sauk-Suiattle tribe, and the difficulty of seeking redress due to a legal principle known as sovereign immunity - wrote about a lawsuit raising eerily similar issues that was recently filed in the Nooksack Tribal Court.
The suit stems from an attempt by tribal leaders to disenroll 306 members--allegedly because they are part-Filipino."This is ethnic cleansing pure and simple," says Moreno Peralta, a spokesperson for the four plaintiffs and their relatives, in a statement to Seattle Weekly. "Our Chairman and his faction are trying to wash the Filipino blood out of the Nooksack Tribe.
Tribal Chair Robert Kelly has not yet returned a request for comment.
In mid-February, the 306 affected members of the tribe-- located in Deming, northeast of Bellingham-- received a letter signed by Kelly. "We regret to inform you that you have been identified as subject to disenrollmnet," it read, according to a copy provided by the plaintiffs. The letter cited a resolution passed by councilmembers on Feb. 12--those councilmembers, at least, who hadn't been kicked out of the meeting because they too would be disenrolled.
The reason given was that the targeted members--all of them descendants of one couple, Annie George and Andrew James--supposedly had not been enrolled correctly. Previous requirements held that members be descendants of people who received original allotments of Indian land, which neither George nor James had apparently, or were on a census dating back to 1942.
But the rules were changed to allow anyone who had one-quarter Indian blood and who could prove Nooksack ancestry. Those facing disenrollment meet the current rules, even though they have a mixed heritage due to ancestors that married Filipino migrant workers during the Depression, according to plaintiffs' lawyer Gabe Galanda.
"This isn't the situation that you sometimes see, where a tribe is trying to disenroll someone who has 1/132 degree of Indian blood," he tells SW. "These are Indians. All have Nooksack blood. That's indisputable."
To which commenter originalpechanga2 responded:
Disenrollment has been the scourge of tribes since the advent of casino gaming. In California, the number of disenrolled is in the THOUSANDS. One tribe, Chukchansi near Fresno, CA had terminated almost 75% of their tribe. My own tribe, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians in Temecula has terminated 25% of the tribe.
Is it about money or power? The answer is BOTH. By disenrolling members, corrupt officials can control the vote. Imagine if the GOP was able to wipe out 25% of the Democrat Party votes? Now, terminated tribal members that live on the reservation, live under an apartheid system. They can no longer vote on matters that pertain to them, they can't use tribal facilities, some tribes are trying to take away their rights to water. MONEY?? You bet. In CA, the total theft of per capita and benefits has topped....wait for it: $500 MILLION DOLLARS. Incentive enough to shrink the tribe? You know it is.
We discuss the disenrollment issue at Original Pechanga's Blog: http://originalpechanga.com There are links to the different tribal stories and the latest news.
THANK YOU to the Seattle Weekly for bringing this disgraceful issue to the forefront. The SNOQUALMIE tribe in WA is also guilty of corruption and civil rights violations. How can you help? STOP going to tribal casinos that cheat their people. If they cheat their own, don't you think they will cheat YOU?