Lynda V. Mapes
Seattle Times staff reporter
Nine banished members of the Snoqualmie tribe have filed a federal lawsuit in the latest round of an ongoing fight for control of the tribe, poised to open one of the state's most lucrative gambling casinos this fall. Tossed out in April, the banished members, including the tribal chairman, several council members and a minister of the Indian Shaker Church, filed suit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, claiming violation of their civil rights.
Named in the suit are the Snoqualmie council members who banished them, stripping them of their tribal identity; barring them from tribal lands, and cutting them off from any tribal benefits, including health-care services. "This is a sad, sad time," said banished tribal member Lois Sweet Dorman. "This was supposed to be a time to celebrate together; the promise of prosperity to enable us to provide for our people. We worked so hard for our sovereignty. Most of us are elders of this tribe; this action is unbelievably harsh and cruel."
In the suit, attorney Rob Roy Smith of Seattle said the banishments should be overturned because his clients' liberties were illegally restrained by violation of the Indian Civil Rights Act. Passed by Congress in 1968, the act is intended to safeguard the fundamental civil rights of tribal members, such as their right to due process, free speech and peaceable assembly. The banished had no opportunity to confront their accusers or exercise their right to free speech, and were unlawfully accused of "treason" and meeting as an "illegal shadow government" in violation of their right to peaceable assembly, according to the suit. They are also denied their liberty in being barred them from tribal lands and services, the suit stated.
Matt Mattson, tribal administrator, declined to respond except by e-mail on Friday: "The tribe is not aware of the suit and really cannot comment without knowing more details.(What do you think? They aren't aware?)
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