The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe has reopened the enrollment case that was previously dismissed on Aug. 18, 2015, and they sent transmittal letters to 233 members - living and dead - on Sept. 11. who may now face disenrollment.
Attorney Paula Fisher, who has defended tribe members in the past, said upon receival of the letter, they have 30 days to request a hearing from the Office of Administrative Hearing. The reason the court dismissed the case back in August was because the membership was based on collateral trace, which is proving one is related to the tribe through their aunt, uncle and/or cousin.
However according to the press release that was published on the same date, the Tribe now ask that the 233 appellants prove through lineal trace - the grandparent - that they’re related to the tribe.
It also stated that the three independent Court of Appeals judges Robert Kittecon, Andrew Pyatskowit and Dennis Peterson issued the decision to reopen the case. They’re doing so on the basis of Enrollment Ordinance No. 14, which states that the court may disenroll if the Tribe can show that the initial enrollment was a mistake or fraudulent. Based on the Appellate Court decision on Aug. 27, 2013, where members were disenrolled based on lineal trace, the 233 members have failed “to demonstrate a particular violation of the Saginaw Constitution or ordinances,” which is fatal to the case
According to the press release, Tribal chief Steven Pego said, “We cannot strip the rights of individuals to be native. We are merely honoring and executing the requirements of our Constitution so what is best for the many is best for our Tribal community. That is what is traditional.”
Fisher said that with the new council in place, the decision to let the case rest is being affected by a different set of mind. The old council went along with the collateral trace while the current judges in place have gone the opposite way. She added that this has been an on-going case for six years and that some of her clients have gone to court about the matter twice already.
“This concerns a political shift and a different mind set, nothing else,” Fisher said. “Politics are controlling this and that’s not justice. How many times do they have to win these cases before it’s left alone?”