Mark Macarro of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians was elected to the First Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians. Can we really believe this purported civil rights group cares about our civil rights?
Under Mark Macarro's leadership, Pechanga tribal officials have been responsible for the mass disenfranchisement of over 300 adult tribal citizens, including many who still live on the Pechanga Reservation, which then comprised 25% of the tribal adult population. The children have never been included in the disenrollment totals, nor the dead ancestors also disenrolled.
Citizenship is a birthright, membership in a church or other groups are a voluntary act. Tribal laws must be followed or there should be some ramifications not rewards or honors, like a leadership role at NCAI.
It was no coincidence that the mass removals from Pechanga, and the denial of votes the members held, occurred just prior to two regularly scheduled tribal elections in which Mr. Macarro ran for re-election as tribal chairman. Needless to say, Mr. Macarro was re-elected both times, as were other corrupt leaders.
The actions to remove these citizens from the tribal rolls, and deny hundreds more their citizenship, have been characterized by lack of due process and equal protection of existing tribal and federal laws. In fact, laws enacted by the United States Congress to protect Indian individuals from arbitrary and capricious acts of tribal officials, such as the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968, have gone largely ignored during Mr. Macarro's tenure.
Targeted individuals were not only been denied minimum due process and equal protection standards, the most recent mass disenfranchisement was approved by Macarro after the tribe's governing body had passed a law prohibiting such action.
This "cultural genocide" now finds hundreds of Pechanga tribal members and thousands more California Indians, cut-off from much needed health care services, senior services, education assistance and child development programs. Macarro has routinely stated that the actions to strip tribal members of their citizenship were internal matters and of "no business to the white man."
Macarro and other tribal officials have escaped prosecution for their violations of basic rights by invoking the tribe's sovereignty.
Immunity from prosecution does not equate to innocence of action. Mr. Macarro's actions are horrific indeed, and one must wonder why, in this age of instant access to information via the internet, the NCAI would appoint such a person to such a prestigious and high profile position.
The situation at Pechanga has been reported on extensively in many mediums, yet it appears that the NCAI is either blissfully unaware or cares not about such basic rights violations, and we KNOW the NCAI is not unaware. The human and civil rights violations which have occurred at Pechanga under Mark Macarro's leadership rival those in many of the world's dictatorships, and should have given pause to allow his election to your body's leadership.
If Mr. Macarro was not the leader of an prosperous gaming tribe and the Pechanga Band was not funneling millions of dollars to the DNC and Congress, lawmakers might very well be calling for sanctions against Pechanga and an investigation into the human and civil rights violations committed by Macarro and Pechanga tribal officials.
It is time for the NCAI to institute criteria for their leadership that gives greater weight to the content of the individual's character than it does to the number of zeros in their bank account.
At the very least, the NCAI must re-examine its vetting process to ensure that people like Mr. Macarro or your regional VP Jack Potter, of the Redding Ranchieria, do not slip through the cracks in the future. Don't rejoice at victories of the low hanging fruit of mascotry, when the boulders of disenrollment are striking down our people.
Please look at your choice of Mark Macarro to the NCAI leadership and ask yourselves, DO YOU REALLY CARE ABOUT CIVIL RIGHTS?
As we ask ourselves, DO WE REALLY BELIEVE the NCAI cares about civil rights?
*culled from a letter we sent to then DNC chairman Howard Dean