Saginaw Chippewa Disenrollment Effort Begins Anew

Here is the news article, via Pechanga. And here is an excerpt:

The “D” word has again surfaced on the Isabella Reservation: Disenrollment.

The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe’s Office of Administrative Hearings last week conducted the first hearing in several years into the possibility of removing a current member from the rolls. No decision was reached.

The case involves an 87-year-old elder who lives in Pennsylvania. Anna Bell Atwood. She became a member of the Tribe in 1988 during the Tribe’s open enrollment period, a time when the Tribe reached out to Natives who might qualify to become members.

Since that time, Tribal membership has become extremely valuable. Members qualify for numerous benefits, including per-capita payments of several thousand dollars per month based on income from the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, free health care and other perks.

But a high birth rate has caused membership in the Tribe to grow rapidly. At the same time, the economic downtown has cut into the Tribe’s income.

Tribal attorney Shawn Frank admitted during the hearing that a change in the makeup of the Tribal Council had put the disenrollment issue back into the spotlight.

Saginaw Chippewa Citizen on Disenrollments

from Rob J. Peters blog:

The following editorial regarding the tribe’s recent disenrollment motion has been censored and will not appear in our tribal newspaper due to its controversial subject matter. This editorial has been scheduled for publication nationally later this week by a Native news organization. It is also preface to a more in-depth report regarding the membership history of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.

The Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Council had the unfortunate task of deciding the fate of an undetermined number of people when faced with a disenrollment motion March 17, 2009.

It was and always has been an issue of legality that has been dangerously ignored too long. Ignoring and allowing those not entitled to membership under specific constitutional guidelines by diluting (Enrollment) Ordinance 14 (now almost thirty pages long), has in-fact led to intentional or otherwise fraud and mistake.

Dangerous in that those who have been allowed membership, although not constitutionally entitled, are now faced with the harsh and scary reality of not only losing benefits, but an identity they believed was based in historical record. But historical records are not the rule of law when absolute criteria is outlined and inclusion is very specific.

The membership criteria of the Saginaw Chippewas was determined over 70 years ago, and redefined almost 23 years ago; in the founding documents of our tribe, the Constitutions of 1937 and 1986.


To read the rest, go here.

Saginaw Chippewa Disenrollment News Coverage

From Indianz:

The Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan plans to remove people who don’t meet its membership criteria.

It’s unclear how many people will be affected though prior news stories have said up to 125 adults could be removed. A spokesperson said the tribal council has been concerned about the issue for some time. The tribe will spend the next month to determine how many people to remove.

Get the Story:
Tribe disenrolling members (Central Michigan Life 4/15) Related Stories:
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe mum on disenrollment (3/27)

David Wilkins on Tribal Disenrollment and Banishment

David Wilkins has published “Exiling One’s Kin: Banishment and Disenrollment in Indian Country” in Western Legal History. This excellent piece describes banishment and membership laws from traditional law through the early 20th century and into the modern era of tribal banishment and disenrollment.

Pechanga Disenrollment Dispute – Salinas v. Barron

The California Court of Appeals (4th Dist., Div. 2) decided Salinas v. Barron, another in the series of cases involving the Pechanga Band’s various membership disputes. This case involves the disenrollment of the plaintiffs in LaMere v. Superior Court, 131 Cal. App. 4th 1059 (2005).

From the opinion:

In LaMere, the plaintiffs were members of the Pechanga Band of Temecula Luiseo Mission Indians (the Band); the defendants were members of the Band’s enrollment committee. The defendants had allegedly commenced proceedings to disenroll the plaintiffs, in violation of the Band’s own laws. This court held that the trial court lacked jurisdiction of the dispute.
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Fletcher: On Black Freedmen

My newly revised paper, now titled “On Black Freedmen,” should be up on SSRN in the next few days. The paper will be part of Justice Unveiled: African American Culture and Legal Discourse (Lovalerie King & Richard Schur, eds.).

From the Abstract:

            In recent years, some legal, political, and cultural questions involving American Indians have begun to overlap – and conflict – with those of African Americans. The recent Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma’s vote to strip the Black Freedmen of tribal membership generated allegations of racism and calls to force Indian tribes to comply with the Reconstruction Amendments sheds light on this question. This controversy highlights a serious problem in Indian-Black political and social relationships – the discourse of Black-White racism has begun to intrude into the discourse of American Indian law. The Reconstruction Amendments, federal civil rights statutes, and federal case law—all established as a reaction to Black-White racism –– expresses important antidiscrimination principles that can conflict with the foundational elements of American Indian law: tribal sovereignty, the trust relationship, and measured separatism. To import the law of Black-White racism into American Indian law is to destroy American Indian law and, potentially, American Indian culture.