A group has filed a petition in federal court in an attempt to prevent more than 130 Elem Pomo Indians from being exiled through disenrollment and banishment. The group claims the action includes all of the of Elem Indian Colony residents. They argue the exile would leave an empty 52-acre reservation.
Despite disenrollment and banishment becoming widespread, especially in California, it would be unprecedented for a tribe’s entire residency to be exiled, according to attorney Little Fawn Boland who represents the group of 30 people listed in the lawsuit against the Elem Colony Executive Committee, the tribal council.
A Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, submitted on Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California — Eureka, pursuant to the federal Indian Civil Rights Act, alleges restraint on the plaintiffs’ liberty, and asks to prevent that restraint.
“Nobody questions our ancestry, because who we are can’t be questioned — we descend from Elem Pomo ancestors and founders,” Robert Geary, who faces disenrollment, said. “This is instead a feeble attempt by non-resident members of the Elem Colony to exact control over tribal monetary resources without wanting to live here, and even at the risk of terminating our entire colony.”
According to petitioners, all but one of the tribal council members live outside the reservation.
The families facing disenrollment include the last on-colony speaker of the Southeastern Pomo dialect; keepers of the colony’s two roundhouses; four Vietnam war veterans; and those who have led the colony’s efforts regarding the Superfund cleanup of Clear Lake and to regain control over Rattlesnake Island, a sacred Elem religious site. Tribal members say they are being targeted because they voted against the Elem Colony Executive Committee.
“Our relatives living on the outside are trying to cut the tribe off at the knees,” Geary said. “We won’t let them.”
On March 30, the Elem Colony tribal council issued an “Order of Disenrollment” to as many as 61 adult tribal members, under an ordinance, entitled “Tribal Sanctions Of Disenfranchisement, Banishment, Revenue Forfeiture, and Disenrollment and the Process for Imposing Them,” dated May 9, 2015. Disenrolled tribal members would no longer qualify to receive tribal funds and services such as housing and health care.