Indian Country continues to decimate their own people. You've read about the California tribes such as Pechanga and now, the Snoqualmie story is blowing wide open. These tribes will be responsible for the eroding of tribal sovereignty in the U.S.
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A tribe divided: Snoqualmie members fight for control of government, casino
By Lynda V. Mapes
Seattle Times staff reporter
MAPLE VALLEY —
A bedsheet covers a window to provide a makeshift screen for PowerPoint presentations. Boxes crammed with files cover the kitchen counter and dining-room table. A safe in the living room holds sensitive documents. This is the war room of the government in exile of the Snoqualmie Tribe, decamped to the home of one of its council members.
Finally recognized by the federal government in 1999, the tribe's fledgling government faces a showdown: As many as 60 members are threatened with disenrollment, and some, including its chairman, may be banished. Tribal members will vote on their fate Sunday.
Bill Sweet, elected tribal chairman last May, says the feud pits family against family and threatens the golden goose that started it all: a casino under construction, just a half-hour from Seattle. To pay for it, the tribe borrowed $330 million from investors who likely know little of the drama unfolding.
The stakes are high: control of this tiny tribe of 637 members, and their casino just off Interstate 90, which promises to capture a lucrative share of the Seattle market. The venture could catapult the tribe into the ranks of some of the wealthiest tribes in the region.
Two tribal councils each claim to be the only legitimate government of the tribe. Each has issued proclamations declaring itself to be the only body that can sign checks, contracts and transact official business.
Both bodies continue to meet. Sweet and ousted council members meet in the Maple Valley home of tribal Vice Chairman Carolyn Lubenau. The others meet in the tribe's administrative offices, where the locks have been changed, barring Sweet and others ousted in September. Each side claims the others' elections were invalid.
The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs has so far declined to arbitrate the dispute but has cut off further funding to the tribe. Stanley Speaks, the BIA's regional director in Portland, said it's up to Sweet to exert his authority as chairman.
"If he is the chairman he just needs to stand up and take charge and conduct business," Speaks said.
Such tribal infighting has become common in California, where tribes (OP: Such as, Pechanga, Picayune, Redding, Enterprise)new to casino wealth have been disenrolling members in droves, in part to save a larger share of gambling largesse for the members who survive the purges.
As tribal casinos have become a $1.3 billion business in Washington state, several Puget Sound tribes have restricted enrollment. The Puyallups have even shut out new members, other than by birth.
Some Snoqualmie tribal members who trace their genealogy back six generations say they are astonished to find their membership at risk.
As for banishment, it is the most devastating blow a tribe can strike. It eliminates tribal members' ability to vote and enjoy government benefits, including health care and housing. But it goes much further, barring members from their tribal land and expunging their very tribal identity.
"It's as if you are erased, like you never existed," said Vice Chairwoman Lubenau, who faces banishment Sunday.