Monday, July 7, 2014

UCLA Professor's Debate over Disenrollment is an EPIC FAIL in Indian Country Today Article

In a recent piece for Indian Country Today, titled "The Debate over Disenrollment" by UCLA sociology and Indian Studies professor Duane Champagne, also a professor at the College of Law, we who have been disenrolled from the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians were aghast at the inaccuracies.  Champagne was so incorrect, we can only believe he took the word of fraudulently enrolled tribal members, without checking the facts and doing the research.

I'll link to the story, but will address the Pechanga issues in bold here.
For example, the BIA prohibits Indians who are descendants of more than one nation to take membership in multiple nations. Some of the most publicized disenrollment issues, like the highly publicized Pechanga case, are the result of long standing issues within the community and BIA rules affecting enrollment.
During the 1890s, through the General Allotment Act, California Indians were encouraged to take small allotments of land and turn to farming. If they did so, they also were asked to sign documents that said they accepted U.S. citizenship and rejected tribal membership.
Are we supposed to take this statement at face value with no offer of proof?  No Temecula Indians were required to reject tribal membership for an allotment on the reservation. There is no evidence of any rejection of tribal membership.     Membership was NOT a country club or PTA.

Some Pechanga members accepted the land and withdrew from the Pechanga tribe, although many of their relatives still lived in the Pechanga nation.
 The Pechanga reservation was created for the displaced Indians of Temecula.  Prior to the establishment of the reservation, there was no Pechanga nation.   Although Paulina Hunter's ancestry records made reference to Pechanga.
During the hard times of the 1930s, some allottees returned to their relatives living on the Pechanga reservation and they were taken into the community.  
Without the reservation land, there would BE no Pechanga Tribe, the tribe was known as the Temecula Band of Luiseno Indians.  In fact the reservation was intended for ALL Temecula Indians.  Our ancestor, Paulina Hunter, was allotted 20 acres as head of household.  Her descendants all have rights to the land, and many still live on the reservation.
More recently, some elders among the Pechanga challenged the right of the allotee families to remain in the tribe, since their ancestors had signed agreements to withdraw form Pechanga tribal membership.
This is completely untrue.  The challenge came NOT from an elder, but from the niece of an enrollment committee member, demanded two families be "investigated" The demand came in the form of two paragraphs, and was brought forward because family members found evidence of shady dealings on another family's enrollment.  
The Pechanga general council, a body of all adult members, discussed the issues of allottee families and decided to not include those families as Pechanga tribal members since their ancestors had signed out of the tribe during the allotment period.
This is completely untrue.  We wonder who gave Professor Champagne this information?   There are still allottees in the tribe. No ancestor had "signed out" of the tribe. In fact the chairman refused to allow any discussion of enrollment at tribal meetings.  We all had enrollment numbers.  Former Chairman Jennie Miranda didn't have one, nor is current Chairman Mark Macarro on the base roll of 1979. Some members of the current Pechanga nation must trying to explain their presence, while the justifying the termination of allottees.
One can argue about the wisdom of why the BIA required rejection of tribal membership as a condition to gaining a farming allotment, but that is what happened.
This is NOT true, no allottee rejected membership into a Pechanga Nation that did not exist in the1890's.  Why did the professor not offer proof of this?  As allottees, this come as complete news to us.  He's encouraging the news media to research, when it's apparent he hasn't done his homework. 
The Pechanga general council decided the membership issue largely on legal grounds, something done often in U.S. society.
The General Council, in fact voted overwhelmingly to halt ALL disenrollments.  It was the Mark Macarro led tribal council that ignored the will of the people, and did NOT follow the tribal constitution and continued the disenrollment of the Hunter family.  Not only did they NOT vote to kick out allottees, they voted to KEEP allottees in 2005.  The General Council according to tribal law and custom and tradition are the final authority in all matters of tribal matters and business including enrollment. The established legal precedent on enrollment matters had been set in the heirs of Rose Murphy who had been turned down for enrollment by the enrollment committee which was overruled by the General Council in 1986.
 If tribal courts and tribal appeals court remedies fail, then disenrolled persons do not have recourse. Like in any nation, leadership, or a majority, can make bad decisions or poor judgement calls. Nevertheless, the whole of Indian tribal membership issues should not be brought into question because of the perceived actions of some nations, whose actions are often not well researched or understood by the press, and often while meaning well, are not accurately or fully reported.
Stripping Native Americans of their tribal citizenship is much more than a "poor judgement call".  This is PRECISELY when membership issues should be brought into question.  In Pechanga's case, a key witness to the "accusations" against us came before his SISTERS who were "judging" the case.  They should have been recused for conflict of interest, as they were directly related to him.  Additionally, the appeals came before the son and nephew of two enrollment committee members.  The proper thing would have been recusal for committee member Andrew Masiel. That would have been just.  
Are to we to believe that the professor thinks that the practice of apartheid in South Africa was simply "poor judgement" and not worthy of countries divesting themselves of business in order to sway South Africa from that practice?   Should we have left them alone and carried on that horrible practice as business as usual? 
Who belongs to a nation and the rules of membership are often contested and debated within many nations. Many people challenge whether President Barack Obama is a U.S. citizen. They say that neither of his parents were proper U.S. citizens, and they doubt that he was born a natural citizen in Hawaii. Whether right or wrong, the discussion raises a lot of commotion. Indian enrollment issues are not terribly different.
Goodness gracious, the two issues are completely different.  Had Republicans had been able to get rid of 25% of Democrat votes, then held a trial with John McCain and Sarah Palin's family sitting in judgement of President Obama, the analogy would be more correct.
Often Indian disenrollment debates focus on specific membership rules particular to a given tribe .... It is difficult to make generalizations. Indian nation membership debates require deep understanding of tribal community, history, culture, and identity.
For a professor at a state funded public university to express these inaccuracies as truth is appalling.  Indians weren't granted citizenship until 1924.  Temecula Indians were NOT given US citizenship in exchange for accepting allotments on the reservation. Nor did we withdraw from the Pechanga Nation. The General Membership DID NOT vote to remove us from the tribe, in fact the opposite is true, by voting to halt all disenrollments.  Such views can attributed to a faction of fraudulently enrolled tribal members, many of whom have no Indian ancestry.

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