Elizabeth Larson of the Lake County News has another story on the protests of Tribal Disenrollments in California, this time on the Robinson Rancheria. Read the Full Article
Throughout the day Friday, about two dozen American Indian community members and their friends stood alongside the entry into Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino, holding signs, shouting slogans and trying to bring attention to the situation of local tribal disenrollees.
The action comes in the wake of a Bureau of Indian Affairs decision last month to uphold the December 2008 disenrollment action carried out by the Robinson Rancheria Citizens Business Council against a total of 67 tribal members, as Lake County News has reported.
Members of the Quitiquit family, several dozen of whom were disenrolled from the tribe, were back at the scene on Friday, a day they picked because it also was the fifth annual National Indian Day.
The group called for a boycott of the casino and demanded a hearing on what they argue are civil and human rights violations.
They carried signs with slogans that accused the tribe of offering the disenrollees no due process and misspending tribal and federal funding.
But the main issue was the disenrollment action, which has cut off the now-former tribal members from the rancheria and their cultural ties. They say disenrollment is an attack on their identity as American Indians.
“Why is the government backing this genocide on paper?” asked Wanda Quitiquit, one of her family's most vocal members.
A message left at the tribal office seeking comment was not returned.
Quitiquit, ironically, worked for years as a member of the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization (AIRRO), to bring attention to the growing number of disenrollment actions across California and the nation before she herself became a target of it.
AIRRO has estimated 3,500 Indians have been disenrolled in California, with a total of 11,000 civil and human rights violations across the United States as a whole.
During the Friday protest, American Indians from other tribes – including Dry Creek in Sonoma County, and the Apache and Passamaquoddy, the latter from Maine – stopped in to ask questions, as did other community members.
Natives from other areas agreed that many of the problems facing tribes is all about money.
The Quitiquits and others whose names were removed from the tribal rolls say they are planning to appeal the BIA decision, with a letter expected to go out to the agency announcing that intention this week.
“We really don't want to go into court, but if that's the last thing we have to do, that's what we'll do,” Quitiquit said.
Even a favorable court decision doesn't guarantee a welcome back into the tribe, she said, pointing to court rulings in other states that still left disenrollees without resolution.
However, there are efforts to draw attention to the disenrollment problem, both from other activists and from Lake County's congressman, who is calling for a congressional hearing on the matter.
On April 29, North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson wrote a letter to Congressman Nick Rahall, who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, which includes the Office of Indian Affairs.
“Disenrollment of tribal members is an issue among tribes in my district and throughout California, as well as in other parts of the United States,” Thompson wrote. “In some cases, members are voted out of tribes for bona fide reasons such as their lack of relative bloodline and/or failure to meet membership or residency requirements in accordance with tribal constitutions. However, in other cases, there appears to be arbitrary removal of entire families for obscure reasons.”
Thompson explained that when Congress passed the Indian Civil Rights Act in 1968, tribal members who believed that their civil rights were abused had no legal recourse except to turn to the tribal bodies that were accused of civil rights infringements.
“On behalf of the growing number of disenrolled Native Americans, I believe this issue merits a congressional oversight hearing be convened to review enforcement of the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968,” he said.
Late last week, Thompson's Washington, DC office told Lake County News that there had been no formal response to, or acknowledgment of, the letter yet.
Quitiquit said she and the others impacted by the disenrollment action are looking to Thompson for leadership at this time.