Disenrollment Rally

held by California Indians for Justice

On Thursday, July 15, 2004 our Attorney, Dennis Chappabitty Took part in and spoke at a disenrollment rally which was held on the step's of the California state Capitol building in Sacramento where he told the crowd of the struggle of the Mixed Blood Uinta's and of our case "Felter -vs- Norton" while he was in attends, Dennis handed out flyer's about the Uinta's, the case of "Felter -vs- Norton" and encouraged all to visit this web site.

Dennis Chappabitty speaking on the steps of the California State Capitol Building. (click on the photo for a larger view) Speaking at the rally at the California State Capitol. I spoke about the Felter lawsuit, termination and asked for their prayers and spiritual support in our efforts

Article from the Sacramento Bee, July 15, 2004

This story is taken from Politics at sacbee.com.

Indians barred by tribes seek help

Protesters want a court for resolving membership issues.

By: Stephen Magagnini -- Bee Staff Writer - (Published July 15, 2004)

More than 200 California Indians, claiming they've been banished from their tribes by greedy or power-mad tribal leaders, on Wednesday asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to halt compact negotiations with gambling tribes until they establish independent tribal courts to deal with membership disputes.

California Indians For Justice, a coalition of 14 tribes, converged on the north steps of the Capitol to protest a wave of disenrollments they say is cutting the hearts out of Indian people.

In recent years, several thousand California Indians have been kicked out of their tribes or denied official membership, often because they challenged the ruling faction, questioned the tribe's finances or were embroiled in long-standing family feuds.

"Disenrollment takes away your identity," said protest organizer Laura Wass of the American Indian Movement. "We have full-blooded Indians not recognized by their tribes."

Outcasts from more than half a dozen tribes told the crowd how they were barred, often without explanation. Bob Foreman, an Achumawi Indian of the Pit River nation, said he and 75 members of his family were kicked out of the Redding Rancheria in January, despite DNA evidence that indicated there was a 99.9 percent probability that the Foremans were descended from one of the founders of the rancheria.

Foreman, who served as first tribal chairman of the Redding Rancheria, contends the tribal members who voted out the Foremans and cut off their share of the casino profits - about $40,000 a year per person - "let greed decide." In an interview earlier this year, Redding Rancheria Chairwoman Tracy Edwards denied greed was a motive and defended the tribe's right to determine its membership.

"We're a sovereign nation - we don't have to justify to anybody our tribal laws or ordinances," Edwards said. State and federal courts have agreed, claiming they have no jurisdiction over Indian tribes, which, like other nations, have the right to determine citizenship. The protesters want the tribes to be held accountable for their actions, whether through independent tribal courts or federal intervention.

Specifically, Wass said, they want Congress to give federal courts the power to review membership disputes, or for tribes to be required to create their own court system to ensure that Indians who feel they've been wronged get a fair hearing.

The protesters appealed to Schwarzenegger to stop negotiating compacts, or treaties, with gambling tribes until they've created independent courts.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger, be a man and come out here and clean up this mess," declared Paula Lent, who said she's been unfairly excluded from the Santa Rosa Rancheria.

The governor was busy trying to clean up another mess - the state budget - and was unavailable. But spokesman Vince Sollitto said membership squabbles are out of the governor's hands and can be resolved only by Congress or the federal courts.

Sollitto added that even if the governor wanted to, he couldn't unilaterally halt compact negotiations: He's required by federal law to negotiate with any federally recognized California tribe that wants a casino.

Jacob Coin, executive director of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, acknowledged that those who feel they've been wronged by Indian tribes generally "have no place to go."

He said Congress legalized Indian gambling to help strength en tribal governments and that the creation of an independent judicial system "is one of the more basic responsibilities of any government." After battling a "long backlog of social problems and poverty issues," Coin said, more than 20 California tribes are establishing courts.

Carole Goldberg, an Indian law expert at UCLA, said the U.S. government could take jurisdiction over membership disputes, but such a move would be bitterly opposed by Indian nations. Nevertheless, she said, the wave of disenrollments could threaten the sovereignty of all tribes.

About the Writer

The Bee's Stephen Magagnini can be reached at (916)321-1072 or smagagnini@sacbee.com.

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