Sunday, November 25, 2007


This will help new readers understand a bit about disenrollments, driven by profits.

FIRST, they deny civil rights to their people, losing voting rights and then, take their health care, education assistance, elder care away.

Native American tribes are facing allegations of greed and racism as they purge members from their rolls and deny the applications of others.

The expulsions have sent tremors through Indian country. Thousands of Native Americans have lost their cultural identities and access to tribal benefits, such as medical care, housing and education. Certain gaming tribes divide casino profits among members, in some cases thousands of dollars a month per person. Those expelled lose their cut. Tribal officials say they're protecting legitimate members by making sure everyone in the tribe is qualified.

As sovereign nations, tribes have the final say in who can - and cannot - join. Each tribe determines what degree of Indian blood is necessary for membership, a requirement that varies among the 561 federally recognized tribes.

In California, at least 2,000 Native Americans have been taken off the rolls of their tribes since 1999, says Laura Wass, executive director of the Many Lightnings American Indian Legacy Center, an education and advocacy group in Fresno. Disenrollments have surged with the rise of Indian casinos, she says.
Thousands of Native Americans elsewhere have lost, or may lose, their tribal status. An upcoming vote at the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma could deny citizenship to more than 1,000 of the tribe's 260,000 members. "The motive varies from tribe to tribe," says Daniel Littlefield, director of the Sequoyah Research Center at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, an archive for contemporary Native American issues. "I would say money is at the bottom of a lot of it."

Mary Chapman of Fresno was disenrolled from the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians last month, along with 20 members of her family. About 250 members of the tribe have been disenrolled this year, Wass says, and about 400 others have received letters questioning their status.

The 1,200-member tribe, which opened a casino in Coarsegold, Calif., in 2003, expelled Chapman because she didn't meet the eligibility criteria in the tribe's constitution, a complex set of categories based on ancestry, according to a disenrollment letter sent to her by the tribe.

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