Nov 30, 2013 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Lawsuit Filed Against Officials of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Challenging Disenrollment by Erin Bernando
*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***
Lawsuit Filed Against Officials of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Challenging Illegal Enrollment Audit and Resulting Disenrollment Proceedings
Grand Ronde, OR – An ethics lawsuit has been filed in Grand Ronde Tribal Court against top officials of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde regarding the proposed disenrollment of as many as 1,000 tribal members. The lawsuit names the Tribal Council Chairman Reyn Leno and Enrollment Department Head Penny Deloe and alleges that they breached tribal law by disclosing members’ enrollment records and personal information to a third-party consulting firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“Tribal law makes it clear that all enrollment records shall be confidential and kept only at Grand Ronde,” said Mia Prickett, the spokesperson for 66 tribal members who descend from the Tribe’s Treaty Chief and are proposed for disenrollment. “Our fundamental privacy rights as Tribal citizens have been violated, with this illegal outside audit having become the basis for this witch hunt.”
Tribal elder and proposed disenrollee Garry Williams, age 78, filed the Complaint against the Tribal officials on November 25. According to the suit, the Tribe’s leadership and management knowingly violated the Tribal Constitution and Enrollment Ordinances by sanctioning an outside audit of the entire Tribal Membership’s confidential enrollment records, and supplying thousands of pages of confidential personal information to the firm.
The Tribe’s enrollment ordinance explicitly states that “all enrollment records shall be confidential,” and that “revealing information in the Enrollment Records to someone other than a Tribal member, the Executive Officer, or the Tribal Attorney, the [Enrollment] Committee or Enrollment Staff shall be deemed grounds for termination of employment, recall of a Tribal official or cause for removing a committee member.” Enrollment Ordinance, Section (c) (5).
The lawsuit requests statutory sanctions and other relief against Leno and Deloe, and any other Tribal officials who were complicit in the audit.
15 Tribal members have already lost their Grand Ronde membership and 79 are scheduled for hearings starting in early December. It is believed that over 1,000 members will be notified of their potential disenrollment by the end of the process.
This complaint falls at the heels of disenrollment proceedings recently commenced by the Grand Ronde Tribal Council, which stem from the illegal audit and reportedly include twelve categories where “findings” were compiled against the membership including: dual enrollment, lineal descent, blood quantum, adoption, paternity, and even “general miscellaneous errors.”
“Our cousin Garry filed this Complaint in an effort not only to protect the rights of our own family, but to protect the rights of the hundreds of tribal members whose lives will be devastated by receiving a letter of potential disenrollment resulting from this illegal and unethical audit,” says Prickett.
The Enrollment Department is currently notifying people affected by the audit findings, family by family, or in “phases,” in a transparent attempt to minimize the public perception that this is a mass disenrollment effort. Still, the Grand Ronde disenrollment is believed to be the largest termination of American Indian citizenship in United States history (Last Real Indians).
Disenrollment hearings will begin soon after the Thanksgiving holiday, despite requests by disenrollees that the hearings be slightly postponed until after the holidays.
The Grand Ronde Tribal Council’s mass disenrollment efforts contribute to a national Indian disenrollment epidemic, with disenrollment “expanding throughout Native America, with Native nations in at least seventeen states engaging in this practice,” according to leading tribal political scientist, David Wilkins (Indian Country Today).
Mass tribal disenrollments have broken out in Washington State and California and now Oregon (Seattle Times; New York Times).
Editor’s Note: Garry Williams’ Tribal Court Complaint is attached.