The Honorable Eric Holder
United States Attorney General
Department of Justice Building
950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Attorney General Holder:
I respectfully submit this letter urging the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division to commence a full-scale investigation into the gross civil and human rights violations which have infected California Indian Country
Throughout California Indian Country, tribal officials have taken actions which have denied and/or stripped thousands of California Indians of their membership status and denied them access to federal benefits and programs in the areas of housing, education, health, voting and public works assistance. In some instances, the illegal actions occurred decades ago, however, there has been a marked increase since Indian Gaming was approved and later expanded in California.
Tribal leaders justify their right to systematically deny civil rights and expel their citizens under the guise of tribal sovereignty. Tribal leaders have routinely committed acts to deny Indian individuals due process; equal protection of tribal, state, and federal laws; property interest rights; and voting rights. Theses actions have been carried out in gross violation of laws enacted to guarantee and protect the rights of the individual Indian.
We can no longer allow those who oppose upholding the civil and voting rights of thousands of California Indians to claim that this is a sovereignty issue that rests solely within the domain of tribal courts and tribal law. Few California Tribes actually have tribal courts. Therefore, in most cases, the tribal government officials responsible for the violations of law are the very same people who pass judgment as to whether or not laws have been violated - they are the judge and jury all rolled into one.
The United States has a trust responsibility to the thousands of California Indians whose civil and voting rights have been infringed upon. And, in recognition of the special status of California Indians, Congress passed California Enrollment Act of 1928 in which certain rights were guaranteed to California Indians and their lineal descendents. 25 U.S.C. § 651.
Unfortunately, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has failed to exercise this responsibility and has allowed tribal leaders to continue to commit violations unabated. Therefore, I believe that the DOJ has the legal and moral responsibility to investigate and prosecute such violations of basic rights.
I therefore urge you to direct the DOJ Civil Rights Division to initiate an investigation into the gross rights violations described above. In addition, I trust that any investigation would not be short-circuited by those who would claim tribal sovereignty as a justification for inaction.