Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Snoqualmie Banished Members to Court

A federal judge might be the last hope for banished members of the Snoqualmie Tribe who appeared in court Tuesday in their effort to regain tribal membership.

U.S. District Court Judge James L. Robart said he would issue a written ruling later as to whether the case is even properly before him or should be dismissed.
Only then — if he rules in favor of the banished members — would he get to the merits of the case.

Nine former tribal members, including five former tribal-council members filed the lawsuit in May, arguing their civil rights were violated when they were banished by the tribe, which accused them of running an illegal shadow government, treason and other crimes.
The banishment came on the heels of months of internal dispute in which dueling tribal-council leaders accused each other of running an illegal government that seized power on the strength of illegal elections.

The feud boiled over last spring when the eventually ousted council members went public, declaring the Snoqualmie tribal government in crisis. The tribe held elections in June to replace the ousted members and choose new officers.

The dispute has roiled the tribe as it prepares to open in November what could become the most profitable tribal casino in Washington state, in part because of its prime location, only 26 miles from downtown Seattle, just off Interstate 90. OP: MEANING: The state government won't stand up for what is right, but for what is PROFITABLE.

It's not the first time the tribe has been torn apart by banishment.

A similar fight erupted in the mid-1990s. Then, as now, dueling council leaders claimed legitimacy, and each side accused the other of hijacking the government with a flawed election. The losers were banished by the winners — ultimately determined in King County Superior Court.
And a fight for eventual control of a tribal casino — hoped for even then, when the tribe was still fighting for federal recognition — was alleged to be at the bottom of the battle.

"It's sad," said Pete Connick, attorney for the tribal council in that dispute as well as this one.
"It's the same thing all over again," he said after Tuesday's hearing. "What they want is to govern," he said of the ousted council members, "and they are not going to."
Connick argued before the judge that the case should be dismissed because it doesn't belong in federal court. But Rob Roy Smith, attorney for the banished members, argued they are entitled under the Indian Civil Rights Act to due process like anyone else.
He said the tribal council banished them without exexplanation or giving the accused an opportunity to defend themselves.
The Snoqualmies have no tribal court, so federal court is the only place they can turn for help, Smith argued. Former chairman Bill Sweet agreed, saying after the hearing, "I don't think in any society they ought to be able to just throw people out."

Please FEEL FREE to add your comments. Snoqualmie disenrolled, you should be directing your email lists HERE, unless you have your own website.

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

In response to a blog article: "Banish reservations and make all Indians first-class citizens" (WhackyNation - http://www.whackynation.com)

Dear Lou Guzzo
Thank-you for advocating that "all Indians should be first-class American citizens". I thought Congress already granted us that distinction. It appears I was wrong and we are still thought of as "second-class Indians".

You say you also advocate action by Congress to discard all the Indian treaties that were made in the past two centuries. Will you also abandon the United States Constitution just because it was also agreed to in the past? What does the age of an agreement have to do with no longer honoring it?

Tomorrow (September 17) is Constitution Day - a day when all Americans celebrate their right to freedoms that individual Native Americans still do not have. I am filled with a fire to at least have people know and understand that we are the "first people's" and we did cede this country, and that we were made promises that we continue to fight for today. Are there not people all over America prepared to fight for their Constitutional Rights - rights that were also agreed to over two centuries ago? Those rights were granted in 1787! Why, when our agreement, granted by the Treaty of Point Elliott in 1855, is now treated as some ancient document that no longer applies and can just be abandoned? Why is our document less important than yours? Why are our agreements so dishonorably treated?

Perhaps if Congress hadn't given us the Indian Civil Rights Act in 1968, we wouldn't have thought of ourselves as finally joining the ranks of "first-class citizens". You should advocate discarding that old piece of junk too while you are at it. All it is is an old piece of paper that Congress can wave to the world and say "look we are protecting the rights of our indigenous peoples!" That's a lie and an illusion. They hold that piece of paper out like a big carrot - dangling it perversely like a real set of rights. They don't stand behind those promises either. Congress stands by everyday and watches, while all over this nation, Individual Indian Civil Rights get violated and are never protected as promised.

Why didn't they at least provide us with a weapon to defend ourselves against the abuse? Perhaps because they think of us as just second-class citizens as you observe and they have to take care of the needs of the "first class American citizens" first.

And finally, how generous that you have found the Indians to be "extremely likable and cooperative". That may be, however, this Indian will never cooperate until every promise that was promised on those treaties are granted or compensated in today's land value dollars and that every right granted to all "first-class American citizens" are bestowed onto America's first people.

P.S. you will find it a difficult row to hoe in having Congress and even your own State Governor get rid of Indian Casino's - you are very misguided in thinking that "the struggle is confounded by the Indians' modern-day addictions to gambling"....Yikes Lou, we don't have money to gamble! We have to pay attorney fees so we can fight for what Congress and this nation should be doing - protecting our civil rights! All politicians have their greedy hands out grabbing Indian casino money with one hand while covering their eyes with the other so they can say the don't see any abuses! Lou, you have your work cut out for you!

Carolyn Lubenau
Snoqualmie Nine
Banished Snoqualmie Tribal Member