The reason for disenrollment? As a FIVE YEAR old, Manuela Miranda cut her ties to the tribe. Yes, reasonable people believe that this is ridiculous, a FIVE year old can't make a decision, or wouldn't. But hey, they don't need a real reason, they can do what they want, they are SOVEREIGN remember.
Marc Cooper has an extensive article that details the shameful actions of Pechanga. Purging the tribe of longtime members. Please read the whole thing
Tribal Flush: Pechanga People "Disenrolled" en Masse
On the eve of what could be the largest gambling expansion in U.S. history, a tale of power, betrayal and lost Indian heritage
By MARC COOPER
Wednesday, January 2, 2008 - Link to the rest of the story
John Gomez Jr. parks his silver family van in the back row of one more anonymous strip mall off California’s Highway 79, an hour and a half southeast of Los Angeles, on a windswept ridge overlooking the Temecula Valley.
Gomez, his dark hair barely betraying a sprinkling of gray at his temples, steps out of the van and walks away from the mall, to a barren dirt lot marked off with adobe walls.“This is where Pablo is buried,” he says as we peer over the locked iron gate.
Pablo is Pablo Apis, the celebrated 19th-century “headman,” or chief, of the Temecula/Pechanga Indians, who was given more than 2,000 acres of land in exchange for his work at the Mission San Luis Rey. Gomez, who is a direct descendant of Chief Apis, jiggles the lock on the gate. He has no key.“This is where a lot of our people were buried,” Gomez continues, “including those killed in the famous Temecula Massacre.” He’s referring to the killing of several dozen Indians by Californio militias in the closing days of 1846. Apis survived and, indeed, the 1875 treaty between the Temecula tribe and the U.S. government, though never ratified, was signed at the chief’s village adobe home.
Today, on a corner of Apis’ original land grant, a few minutes down the road from the desolate burial ground, towers the $350 million Pechanga Resort & Casino, the glittering 14-story pleasure dome so familiar to Southern Californians from the promotional and political-advocacy commercials in near-constant rotation on local television stations. With 522 rooms, 185,000 square feet of casino floor, 2,000 slot machines, more than 150 table games and seven restaurants, along with Vegas-class showrooms, nightclubs and comedy lounges, the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, as the tribe is now known, runs the largest and perhaps most profitable of California’s nearly 60 Indian casinos.
And now, under terms of a deal negotiated by Governor Schwarzenegger, ratified earlier this year by the Democratic-led state legislature and set to go before voters in the February 5 primary election, the Pechanga and three other Southern California tribes may soon triple their battery of slot machines, allowing each of the four Indian groups to operate twice as many slots as any Vegas casino. If the referendums go through, the four tribes — Morongo, Agua Caliente, Sycuan and Pechanga — will be responsible for the largest expansion of gambling in recent U.S. history.
But it’s Gomez’s tribe no more. At least as far as the tribal leadership is concerned. Gomez and 135 adult members of his extended family (and 75 or more children) have been purged from formal Pechanga membership; they have been “disenrolled.”
They were accused of no crime, no misbehavior, no wrongdoing, no disloyalty. But a series of tribal kangaroo-court hearings, bereft of even the pretense of due process, ruled that one of the family’s deceased elders was not an authentic tribe member and, therefore, not withstanding their years of service to the tribe, they were all to be banned.
What it’s come to goes beyond tribal pride. As a result of the disenrollment, many in the Gomez family, which accounts for some 10 percent of the total Pechanga tribe’s membership, have lost their federal standing and benefits as American Indians. Some have lost their jobs at the resort. All of the adults, including Gomez, lost the generous per capita monthly payout, derived from casino profits, that was given to each adult of the tribe. When the Gomez family’s expulsion was finalized in 2004, that was about $15,000 per month. Currently, for those who remain members of the tribe, the figure has risen to about $40,000 per month.
The sharp increase is due in part to a second wave of purges, finalized last year, which disenrolled another extended family, this one descended from Paulina Hunter and representing yet another 10 percent of the tribe. That second purge went ahead despite a tribe-commissioned expert probe that concluded that Hunter was, in fact, a Pechanga.
Simply put: The fewer the tribal members, the bigger the payout.
Some of the elderly disenrollees found themselves cut off from tribal clinics they helped to build. Some of the younger ones lost their education subsidies. What all the disenrollees have in common is not only the sudden loss of significant income but erasure of their collective cultural history and identity.
“Yes, we lost homes and cars. Some went into bankruptcy,” Gomez says. “But mostly I was saddened for my family and for Indian country in general. It’s not just your money they’re taking away but also your heritage and your future.”
With Indian gaming revenues now near the $30 billion mark nationally, disenrollment has rocked and divided Indian reservations from coast to coast.
“Gaming has brought in the dominant culture’s disease of greed,’’ Marty Firerider of the California American Indian Movement told the Indian Country Today newspaper.
Gomez first got into trouble with his Pechanga tribe in 2002, when, as a trusted legal adviser, he was elected to the tribal-enrollment committee, along with a cousin and a member of the Paulina Hunter family. These were sensitive positions. After the tribe won its first minor gambling concession in 1996, and after California voters approved major Indian gaming rights four years later, it was only natural that there would be an increase in those suddenly claiming membership.
“As soon as we were elected, we found that the committee was doing all kinds of strange things,” Gomez says. “On the one hand they weren’t adhering to an enrollment moratorium and on the other they weren’t properly processing the minor children of those already enrolled.”
Gomez and his new allies began an investigation.
The boom quickly dropped on them. Within weeks a letter emerged from a group called Concerned Pechanga People, a small faction closely allied with the tribal leadership and its chair, Mark Macarro, which accused Gomez and his family of not being legitimate Pechanga. By the end of the year, Gomez’s extended family were notified of pending disenrollment. During an internal process that lasted more than a year and a half, Gomez put together binders of documentation proving — at least to virtually every outside observer who has reviewed them — his Pechanga ancestry.
But the tribal leadership, in closed-door sessions that adhered to no formal due process or rules of evidence, held to its position that one key elder in Gomez’s lineage — Manuela Miranda — had left the traditional village after her marriage and, therefore, her descendants weren’t really Pechanga. The claim, according to several experts, is prima facie absurd, as the history of American Indians is based on such dispersion and diaspora.
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