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Friday, December 26, 2008

BIA Ruling Reinstates San Pascual Members. Congratulations

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is redeeming their year, although that started when Carl Artman resigned. FINALLY, they are taking the correct course of action in a tribal membership dispute that they ruled was settled. Yet, they want to wash their hand of this action and quit having to take the responsibility. It's much better to do nothing and let people be hurt.

VALLEY CENTER, Calif. – A ruling by the BIA that could decide the outcome of a tribal rift was handed down Dec. 1 upholding – for the second time – the tribal enrollment of a man and his decedents.
The BIA ruled that the enrollment committee of the San Pasqual Band of Diegueno Mission Indians failed to prove that Marcus R. Alto’s enrollment was a mistake and upheld his and his decedents’ eligibility for the rolls.“Because the information provided by the (Enrollment) Committee does not demonstrate Mr. Alto’s enrollment was based on inaccurate information, as required. the Jan. 31, 1994 decision by the Acting Area Director which identified Mr. Alto and his descendents as enrolled members of the band remains effective,” wrote BIA Regional Director Dale Morris in a letter sent to the tribe and Alto’s decedents.

Alto’s ejection from the San Diego County tribe has divided its council into two factions who are now holding separate meetings, leading to the BIA’s determination of a defunct tribal government in August. If the rift persists, it threatens the legality of its 1,750-slot machine casino opened in 2001 because only federally recognized tribal governments can operate a casino, BIA officials had said.

About 80 people’s tribal rights were suspended, including payments from casino revenues as a result of the disenrollment.The BIA rejected most of the enrollment committee’s 13 points they said warranted the ejection of Alto and his decedents from the tribe, including baptismal, census and BIA documents that suggested Alto’s Diegueno parents had adopted him.
It’s unclear how the ruling will impact the schism between Allen E. Lawson and Robert Phelps, the tribe’s chairman and vice-chairman respectively but whom the BIA is now referring to as spokespersons because it does not recognize either of the factions headed by them as the legitimate tribal government.

“My answer is limited as the process has not yet been completed and the potential of an appeal to be filed by the tribe with the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs may occur,” said the acting superintendent of the BIA’s Southern California Agency, James Fletcher in an e-mail.
The tribe has 30 days to file an appeal. OP: Fletcher is a member of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, whose tribal council acted outside Pechanga's own constitution in disenrolling families and keeping rightful members out, via an unlawful moratorium.

Fletcher said the BIA has asked the Department of Justice to mediate the conflict after several attempts by the BIA did not yield any breakthroughs. “However, I do have a request in from one side to recognize them as the proper government,” Fletcher added.

What is clear, however, is that the BIA does want to remain the tribe’s referee in its enrollment issues. The tribe’s 1971 constitution specifies that the BIA is required to approve ejections.

“It’s inappropriate for the committee to continue to raise this issue of the validity of the inclusion of Mr. Alto and his decedents and to continue to seek remedy from the BIA,” the letter said.It encouraged the tribe to revise its constitution and offered technical assistance in doing so. It’s an unlikely action until the schism is resolved.Lawson and an attorney, Glenn W. Charos, representing Alto’s decedents did not return phone calls seeking comment.

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