|Mark Macarro Pechanga Chairman|
Concerning Disgraceful Actions by the Pechanga Tribal Council
In a notice dated August 7, 2006, the descendants of Paulina Hunter, an original allottee of the Pechanga Indian Reservation, were informed that the Pechanga Tribal Council and the Pechanga Enrollment Committee had denied their appeal to over-turn the Enrollment Committee's earlier decision to disenroll the family.
The Hunter Family members were disenrolled in March of this year when the Enrollment Committee concluded that their ancestor, Paulina Hunter, was not a Temecula Indian.
Along with disenrollment notices from the Enrollment Committee, a memo from the Tribal Council explained that it had decided that a law passed by the Tribe's governing body in July 2005 to bar future disenrollments applied to all tribal members except the Hunter Family.
The disenrollment of the Hunter family was initiated when several statements were presented to the Enrollment Committee (Bobbi LeMere, Ihrene Scearse, Frances Miranda, Ruth Masiel) claiming Paulina Hunter was non-Indian or not a member. One such letter came from a convicted felon currently serving time in the California State Prison system for child molestation. (Since original post, he was released to the Temecula area)
In response to the allegations, the descendants of Paulina Hunter provided numerous documents as proof that Paulina Hunter was indeed of Indian ancestry and was an original Pechanga/Temecula Indian.
In fact, a report prepared by Dr. John Johnson, the curator of anthropology at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, at the request of the Enrollment Committee concluded that a "preponderance of the evidence" from surviving historical records and census documents shows that Paulina Hunter was a Pechanga member who lived in Temecula and was allotted reservation land. There is no greater authority on this issue than Dr. Johnson.
"My feeling is it's a faulty interpretation of the record to reject this family. Paulina Hunter was definitely a core member of the Temecula Band of Luiseño Indians," Dr. Johnson said. "I don't understand the decision other than it is not based on fact. It is based on conjecture and politics."
The disenrollment of the Hunter family is the second such disenrollment of a large family from the Pechanga Band. Each has occurred just months before scheduled tribal elections for Chairman and Tribal Council.
The expulsions of the 2 families removed significant opposition to the current administration and others running for tribal office. Each "disenrollment" was done in violation of both tribal and federal laws which are intended to protect the rights and privileges of tribal members.
Specifically, the members were denied the due process and equal rights protections provided in the Indian Civil Rights Act, as well as language in the Band's Constitution and Bylaws which mandates that tribal officials uphold the individual rights of each member without malice or prejudice. The disenrollments reduced the Pechanga Band's enrollment by nearly 30%, and each enrolled member, including those responsible for the violations of human and civil rights, could reap additional profits in the tens of millions of dollars.
Here's a story that was in the LA TIMES in 2007:
Clan says tribe dealt it a bad hand - A family finds itself cut off from the Pechanga group and its casino wealth despite long ties to the reservation.
By David Kelly
September 09, 2007
When Pechanga Indian leaders hired anthropologist John Johnson in 2004, they had one request: find out if the Madariaga clan were truly members of the tribe.
Generations of them had grown up on the reservation. Family patriarch Lawrence Madariaga, 90, had built his home there, erected the local clinic, served on tribal committees and lived on Hunter Lane, named after his great-grandmother, Paulina Hunter. He even received a lifetime achievement award from the tribe.
That didn't quiet suspicions among some who felt that family members were frauds unfairly pocketing $20,000 each in monthly checks from casino profits.
Johnson, curator of anthropology at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and an expert on Luiseño Indian genealogy, spent months poring over documents and concluded that the family was indeed descended from Hunter. And based on the evidence, he said he was 90% certain she was a Temecula Indian from the Pechanga reservation. Members must show proof of lineal descent from an original tribal ancestor.
Johnson presented his findings to the tribal enrollment committee, explained what it meant and then watched it all be ignored.
Last year the committee voted out the family -- a total of 90 adults and about 50 children.
The monthly checks stopped. The healthcare stopped. The children were forced from the tribal school. Family members were able to keep their homes on the land allotted to Paulina Hunter in 1897 but were restricted as to where they could go on the reservation.
Since their ouster, family members say, payments to remaining members are now about $30,000 a month.
In May, they filed a lawsuit against tribal leaders, including Mark Macarro, the chairman, demanding to be reinstated. They said their lineage was better documented than most and that their ancestor was one of the original residents of the reservation.
The case is now pending in federal court in Los Angeles.
Macarro did not respond to interview requests, but in a statement on the tribe's website he denied that casino money played a part in the disenrollments. He said tribes need the ability to "correct past errors and protect the integrity of their citizenry."
"The responsibility of determining who is and is not a citizen of the tribe falls squarely on Indian tribes," he said.
The same argument has been used across the nation as tribes, nearly all with casinos, have expelled thousands of members.