Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pechanga, Picayune Rancheria, Redding Rancheria: Tribal Disputes an Issue For Obama Nominees

It looks like the new Obama administration may be willing to step into "tribal disputes", which hopefully means they won't support tribes like PECHANGA, that act against their own constitution and bylaws, with land into trust or federal financial support.

Internal tribal disputes an issue for Obama nomineesTuesday, December 2, 2008Filed Under: Politics Nominees to the Interior Department should be asked about tribal membership and leadership disputes, the Government Accountability Office said in a recent report.

According to the GAO, internal tribal disputes "seem to be occurring more and more frequently." The report recommends nominees be asked about their ability to resolve these controversial matters.

"What experience do you have in working with tribal leadership and trying to resolve these types of disputes or in trying to prevent them?" the report states. The GAO hasn't released any investigations into internal tribal disputes. But the inclusion of the question -- one of three directly related to Indian affairs -- indicates it's on the radar of key members of Congress who will consider president-elect Barack Obama's executive branch nominees.

OP: HALLELUJAH! Finally, someone is hearing what the problems THOUSANDS of Native Americans are encountering. Apparently an UNconstituional act by tribes such as Pechanga, is only a "dispute".

"This letter provides you with a series of questions that Senate committees of jurisdiction could use to help determine the management experience and capabilities of upcoming nominees," the GAO told Sen. George Voinovich, a senior Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The other two questions cover topics that have been the subject of recent GAO reports. They include the land-into-trust process and the backlog of maintenance at Indian schools and at reservation irrigation projects.

OP: Land into trust issues/process should include some consequences when a tribal chair promises before congress that they want the land for it's historic value to the tribe... and then put a GOLF COURSE on it.

Additionally, the GAO included tribes in questions about the Clean Air Act and the sharing of information to prevent terrorist attacks.
But the closest the GAO has come to tribal membership and leadership disputes was in a report that examined the federal recognition process. In some cases, disputes can delay consideration of a petition or lead to confusion in the process.

Still, Congress has been reluctant to step into such disputes out of respect for tribal sovereignty. Tribes retain the right to determine their membership and to determine their leaders.

OP: The respect for tribal sovereignty should go both ways. If tribes wield sovereignty like a CLUB, then Congress should NOT support a nation with new land for trust, or, in the case of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, federal funds. Pechanga has acted unconstitutionally, that's not about sovereignty as it should be.

A controversial incident involving the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma shifted the landscape after the tribe voted in 2007 to exclude the descendants of the Freedmen, or former slaves. Some members of Congress sought to cut off federal funds to the tribe unless the Freedmen were restored to citizenship.
Other high-profile disputes -- especially those involving gaming -- have caught the eye of Congress as well. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee in 2002 held an unusual hearing into a small California tribe whose leaders were fighting over a proposed casino.

A slew of disenrollment disputes among wealthy California tribes have generated significant media coverage but so far members of Congress have not been willing to get involved.

OP: DIANE WATSON, are you reading this? California is YOUR state! GET INVOLVED

Officials at Interior have shied away too, with the exception of the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians, whose constitution gives the Bureau of Indian Affairs authority over membership matters.
According to Indian activists, California tribes have removed at least 1,500 people from their rolls in recent years. One of them was Bob Foreman, who served as the first chairman of the Redding Rancheria before he was disenrolled in 2004. Foreman died on November 19 without seeing a resolution to his struggle.
Obama has yet to announce his pick for Secretary of the Department of the Interior, although at least two members of Congress who have experience in Indian issues have been the subject of speculation. Obama also gets to name a new assistant secretary for Indian affairs.

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