Tuesday, March 15, 2016

HOPLAND Pomo JUSTICE: Stripping Citizenship, Rights from Members, No Respect of Tribal Constitution, Two Minutes to Present Cases

Pathetic. Some voted TWICE?  TWO minutes to present their case?  Voting without hearing any evidence?

On Saturday, the Hopland Band of Pomo Indians voted 127-71 to confirm the disenrollment of 74 members of the tribe. Those who have been disenrolled are no longer eligible for tribal housing, tribal healthcare, or academic scholarships provided through the tribe.
Questions about discrepancies arose immediately. According to tribal member Susan Billy, 181 voters responded to roll call after signing in and presenting their voter ID cards. But 199 ballots were cast, with one spoiled. Rather than considering each disenrolled member separately, voters were asked to cast their ballots for or against the disenrollment of all 74 members, who were told they had two minutes each to appeal the Council’s decision. Voters were also told they could cast their ballots and leave before the disenrolled members presented their cases.

Tribal member Aliya Burrows, who traveled from Oregon with her adult daughter to vote at the special membership meeting, believed that the disenrollments were necessary, because “people got signed up improperly,” and joined the tribe using faulty registration documents. No reporters or disenrolled members were permitted to attend the meeting, which was only open to the General Council, or registered tribal voters. But Billy stated afterwards that Tribal Chair Iyesha Miller told voters that flaws in tribal registration had been found in the year 2000. Former Board Chair and current Council Member-at-large Joe San Diego declined to comment, saying, “we can’t really issue statements on behalf of the tribe without the Chair’s consent.” Miller did not respond to telephone or email requests for comment. Approached by a reporter in person as she left the meeting, she walked away without responding to her name.
Next Saturday, on March 19, the tribe will hold an election for four of the seven Tribal Council positions.  OP: Funny how that works, get rid of a large voting bloc, to ensure power is maintained.
Asked why action was being taken now to disenroll allegedly improperly registered members, a woman who declined to identify herself said she believed there has been “an undertone of knowledge of it.” She expressed sympathy for those who “feel like they’re from here,” but who “came in the back door.”
That’s not how disenrolled members and their supporters interpret it.
Cierra Hale-Davis received her Notice of Disenrollment Action last month, via certified mail. Dated Jan. 29, the notice informed her that “Due to the fact that there are no records to validate your claim of membership and that your application was processed in error, the Tribal Council has determined that your enrollment is invalid.” As of Jan. 15, the letter continues, “you are hereby disenrolled as a tribal member of the Hopland Band of Pomo Indians.”
Jan. 15 was the date of a Tribal Council meeting in the Tribal Police Headquarters, where the Tribal Council Secretary, Sandy Sigala, received notice of her own disenrollment. Article IV, section I of the Tribal Consitution states that “the tribal council shall consist of seven (7) members elected from the general council.” Since Sigala’s ouster, there have been only six Council members.  OP: CONSTITUTION? We don't care about no stinkin' constitution.
An online copy of the Aug. 25, 2009 Tribal Consitution shows that it was certified by Trina M. Vega and Alfredo “Joe” Carrillo, the Election Committee Chair and Secretary at that time. There is another signature line, for the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs to indicate approval of the document, but that line is blank.
Many tribal members were aghast that this meeting, which they expected to be open to the voting membership, turned out to be a closed-door affair. They recalled that the access road, approximately a quarter mile away from Tribal Police Headquarters, was blocked off to vehicle traffic and guarded by Mendocino County Sheriff personnel and Tribal Police. A verification of the Sheriff’s representation on Jan. 15 was not immediately available, but a deputy was present at the meeting on March 12.
Especially infuriating, according to four separate interviews involving eight tribal members, was the sight of frail elderly people walking up the access road to collect their monthly stipend checks. “They had to walk the length of three football fields,” estimated tribal member Lori Thomas, who declared that Jan. 15 “was probably the ugliest day in our tribal history.
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