Shonta Chaloux, 38, grew up on the San Pasqual Indian Reservation. He has served in tribal administrative positions and is a descendant of San Pasqual people — but he is not a formal member of the tribe. Chaloux is one of about 150 people, often called “lineals,” who were born to tribal members but don’t have sufficient “blood of the band” to belong in the tribe. San Pasqual laws say that only people with one-eighth San Pasqual Indian blood can be enrolled.
The 200-member San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians owns the Valley View Casino and Hotel in Valley Center.
Membership in the tribe means people are eligible to vote in tribal elections, run for tribal office and receive tribal benefits, including casino stipends of about $8,000 a month.
Chaloux, who prefers to be called a “direct descendant” rather than lineal (a term he considers derogatory), said what matters to him is having a voice in his tribe’s affairs.
“Imagine being a part of a city and a community for so many years and walking into a city hall meeting because something is going to affect your neighborhood and they tell you, ‘you can’t come in,’” Chaloux said. “Your vote, your voice don’t matter. You’re an illegal. That’s essentially what they are telling us.”
With the help and financial assistance of some enrolled tribal members, Chaloux and others like him have hired a lawyer to help them gather documents and enroll in the tribe. They say that errors in the records have caused their blood status to be calculated incorrectly.
If those errors are corrected, many of the group will be eligible to be admitted into the tribe, Chaloux said.
Disputes about who belongs in American Indian tribes have gained much attention recently, but many of the disputes have been going on for years, even decades. They often trace their roots to incomplete and inconsistent records kept by tribes and the federal government.
In San Pasqual, the group that wants into the tribe says that records have been manipulated to enroll some individuals and exclude others.
Huumaay Quiquis, an enrolled San Pasqual tribal member, is helping the group in their efforts. He and others say that the tribe’s chairman, Allen Lawson, does not belong in San Pasqual but has helped other families enroll.
Last year, Quisquis filed an enrollment challenge with the tribe’s enrollment committee, saying the chairman and his family are the descendants of people who were not from San Pasqual and should be removed from the tribe.
The enrollment challenge, signed by Quisquis and nine other tribal members, alleges that Lawson is the descendant of Frank Trask, a white man who was hired to be caretaker of the San Pasqual reservation in 1910, and his wife, Leonora LaChappa, an Indian woman from the Mesa Grande tribe.
Lawson declined a request for an interview.
“That’s their opinion, and they have a right to speak,” Lawson said regarding the enrollment challenge. “I have nothing to say about it.”
Quisquis said the enrollment committee told him it could do nothing about the challenge because the tribe has a moratorium on all enrollment and disenrollment matters.