Monday, March 23, 2015

Saginaw Chippewa Disenrollment Upheld

A decision has been made on late January's disenrollment appeal of several members of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe

Chief Judge Patrick Shannon issued an opinion concurring with the disenrollment decision previously made by the Office of Administrative Hearings, Tribal attorney Paula Fisher said.

"I'm not surprised; that's the best way I could put it," she said. "I was hopeful... I had really hoped that he would give this careful consideration and render an opinion. That didn't happen."

Fisher said she is planning on appealing prior to the March 31 appeal deadline.

The families involved may be planning on organizing another protest to keep the movement going, she said.

One of those affected is disenrolled Tribal member Sharon Cole, 58.

Cole said 16 living family members, as well as two deceased, have been targeted for disenrollment.

"A lot of people are going to suffer if this isn't corrected," she said. "I's wrong. It's not traditional and it's surprising, because we have a traditional chief at the helm."

Cole said the case is unique because it was originally dismissed without prejudice, and there has never been a case like this before where it was reopened.

Last year, 234 members of the Tribe - 169 living and the rest deceased - received letters making them aware of the latest disenrollment proceedings.

Fisher said these are cases that were closed five years ago and dismissed by the tribe with prejudice.

The disenrollment notices targeted Tribal members tied to the Tribe through collateral descent - ancestry that can be traced back to a great-great uncle, aunt or cousin - rather than lineal descent - ancestry that can be traced back to a parent, grandparent or great-grandparent.

This means that people like Cole and her affected family members will lose their membership.

Cole said this means that her disenrolled family members will also lose their health insurance.

"In our family group, the majority of our group are elders (with) varying degrees of physical disability," she explained. "We're in our 60's, approaching our 60's, and we have a lot of medical issues. It's very frightening."

Cole said she is hopeful for the appeal because she believes the appellate court offers "the most promise for justice."

Tribal Spokesperson Frank Cloutier said in October 2013 that the Tribe does not comment on matters of disenrollment.

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