Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Snoqualmie Tribe Does Right Thing and Reinstates Banished Members

Snoqualmie joins Hoopa Valley as tribes that have done the right thing by their members. It's time for tribes like: Pechanga, Redding, Enterprise, Picayune and San Pasqual to name a few to do the same. Be responsible for all your people.

Snoqualmie tribe votes to reinstate 9 members banished in election dispute
By Lynda V. Mapes

Seattle Times staff reporter

Members of the Snoqualmie tribe voted overwhelmingly Saturday to reinstate all nine tribal members banished after an election dispute.

The nine, including several elders, waited five hours outside the longhouse in Monroe at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds wrapped in blankets, and sending in pizza for members deliberating their fate far into the night.

Finally, after 10 p.m., — nearly 12 hours after the meeting started — the banished were invited inside the longhouse, and back in the tribe amid cheers, said Carolyn Lubenau, one of the reinstated.

"Everybody cried, it was so emotional," said Lubenau, who, along with the others, was banished in April 2008. "I feel jubilant, I am proud of them," she said of the membership.

The nine fought the banishment in federal court, where a judge earlier this year partially overturned the banishment, stating the tribe had not followed due process. The membership was tasked with reconsidering the banishment Saturday.

The tribe, with about 650 members, just last fall opened a new casino, a half-hour from downtown Seattle. The Snoqualmie rolled the dice on a mountain of debt — $375 million — for a chance at prosperity.

The tribe, which re-gained federal recognition only in 1999, has been mired in election disputes, the banishment controversy, and more election disputes for most of the past two years, even as it faces serious operational and budget problems.

Lubenau said she was never going to relent in the fight to get back into the tribe. "I would never give up, my children wouldn't or my grandchildren after them. But it so rarely happens," she said of reinstatement. "I am just overwhelmed with gratitude."

The tribe also met to determine what to do about a leadership split on its tribal council that led to a breakdown of the function of tribal government. The council was so badly split, in part over another disputed election last May, that council members for months had refused to regularly meet with each other.

Elders in August dissolved the feuding council and took control of the tribe until a new election could be held, but had no constitutional authority to do that.

The tribal administrator resorted to locking tribal offices, and the federal government froze some of the tribe's funding.

After mediation suggested by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs this month, tribal offices were reopened, and grant money unfrozen. An interim council — the one in place before the disputed May election — was put in place until a new election is held.

The membership Saturday agreed to schedule a new election, perhaps as soon as in three weeks.

Nathan Patrick Barker, a Snoqualmie tribal chief, said he voted for banishment two years ago but was in the majority of those who decided to allow all nine members back in to the tribe Saturday.
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