The Bureau of Indian Affairs has denied the San Pasqual Indian band's bid to eject about 60 members, but said the tribe can appeal the decision about the disputed members' ancestry.
Many tribes determine membership issues on their own, but San Pasqual's constitution gives the BIA that responsibility.
It's unclear what the decision means to an ongoing tribal leadership split that is threatening the tribe's government and its ability to operate the Valley View Casino.
“I haven't talked to the tribe yet,” James Fletcher, Southern California superintendent (and Pechanga Tribal Member, which ejected 250 of their own members) for the BIA, said Monday. “My position is going to be the same.”
In June, the tribe told the members whose ancestry is questioned that they would not receive casino profit-sharing payments.
In August, Fletcher said the tribal government had collapsed.
Fletcher has told tribal members that without a government, they can't run tribal operations or operate businesses, including the casino. SHUT IT DOWN!!
He has tried to bring sparring sides together through mediation and negotiation, but a solution is not at hand, he said.
Tribal Chairman Allen Lawson declined to talk Monday about the BIA's latest decision or the leadership dispute.
But one of the tribal members whose ancestry is questioned, Angela Martinez McNeal, said in an e-mail that she was vindicated. However, she said Lawson would not reinstate the ousted members. Tribal leaders have told her that she can't remain as tribal secretary-treasurer because of the dispute.
At issue is whether a tribal member, the late Marcus Alto Sr., was adopted and was not really Indian.
Some tribal leaders challenged his 1991 enrollment in the tribe, plus those of his descendants.
The head of the BIA ruled in 1995 that Alto was Indian and properly enrolled in the tribe.
Last week, Dale Morris, the agency's Sacramento-based regional director, said new evidence presented by the tribe's enrollment committee failed to prove that decision was wrong, and as a result, his descendants are properly enrolled. AMAZINGLY, the BIA wouldn't lift a FINGER for those Pechanga people that were unconstitutionally disenrolled (against the Pechanga Constitution) and allowed a shadow government to take over the Snoqualmie Tribe of Washington.
“It is inappropriate for the Committee to continue to raise this issue of the validity of the inclusion of Mr. Alto and his descendants on the Band's membership roll or to attempt to disenroll his descendants and to continue to seek remedy from the BIA,” he wrote in a letter to Lawson.
Morris said the tribe may appeal his decision to the head of the BIA. And, if the tribe wants to get the BIA out of its membership decisions, it can change its constitution.
But for now, the biggest issue is who the BIA recognizes as the true leadership of the tribe.
The five-member executive committee elected in 2007 split up over the membership issue and Fletcher said he won't recognize any decisions made by anyone else.
“It's going to take me a couple of days to get something together on how we're going to approach this thing,” he said.
Fletcher said he advised the National Indian Gaming Commission of the problem.
A commission spokesman said he was looking into the matter, but couldn't comment until he had more information.