Wednesday, August 17, 2016

St. Croix Tribal Council Ordered to REINSTATE Disenrolled Tribal Members


The St. Croix Tribal council has been ordered to reinstate 5 members who were dis-enrolled by the council in March of this year.
Judge Candace Des Armo Coury of the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe said the dis-enrollment action by the council is "unconscionable and violates the basic tenets of justice and fairness."

In summary, Des Armo Coury found:

• The council met and considered each of the five petitioners for enrollment.
• The council unanimously voted for the enrollment of each of the five petitioners.
• That while there is conflicting evidence of the blood quantum, there is evidence to show 100 percent Indian blood for their parents which qualifies the petitions as half degree Indian.
• That council's decision to act on the applications and to approve them by resolution effectively suspended the adult moratorium (on new enrollment) on a temporary basis and that such an action need not be by proclamation.
She instructed the council to reinstate enollment of all five, retroactive to March, 2016 and to record each appropriately as St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin with one-half degree Indian blood.

Tony Ammann, Brooke Ammann, Seth Stoplman, Brady Lowe and Jordan Lowe filed an appeal of the March decision in April, citing a violation of their civil rights under the Indian Civil Rights Act.  They were represented by attorney Joe Paiement of Stillwater in a trial held last month at the St. Croix Tribal Court in Hertel.

"This ruling is incredible," said Phyllis Lowe, a tribal member and former council member, whose grandchildren were three of those dis-enrolled. "Our Native American judge had set a new precedent in this landmark decision. This sets a precedent for all tribes across the nation who engage in the self-destructive practice of dis-enrollment. This is massive and makes a world of difference."
The issue of tribal disenrollment has become a national human and civil rights issue. It is estimated that 70 tribes in the United States have banished as many as 8,000 members from tribal rolls.
Tribal council attorney Jeff Cormell said the council had no comment at this point.
The tribal council had burden of proof that the Lowe brothers, Stolpan, their cousin, and the Ammann siblings were erroneously enrolled by the previous tribal council. The council also contended that proper procedure for re-enrollment was not followed.
Judge Des Armo Coury, in a 21-page review of the case and decision, said the tribal council failed to meet its burden by "a clear preponderance of the evidence."
Addressing the claims the dis-enrollment was political, the judge pointed to a two-and-a-half year effort to dis-enroll the five members after the 2013 council enrolled them and stood by its decision, refusing to dis-enroll them.

"It appears that after Ms. (Carmen) Bugg was re-installed into the enrollment office in 2014, that she quickly began working through the enrollment committee to undo the enrollment actions of the 2013 council," the judge wrote in her decision.  "Those efforts did not work.  She then ran for council and it appears that she is now able to assert different influence, hence the political argument."

She questioned the action by council that followed -  to begin the dis-enrollment process.  "Was this appropriate action under the St. Croix Code of Law?" she asked.

Des Armo Coury prefaced the July trial with remarks about taking her responsibility in this case "very seriously."  She said her decision could set a precedent for issues of the same nature, impacting how enrollments and dis-enrollments could be handled by the tribe.

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