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Ninth Circuit Sides with Cahto Tribe in Enrollment Dispute

The Cahto Tribe of the Laytonville Rancheria, a small Northern California Tribe, can claim a Ninth Circuit Court of appeal victory in a case involving the right of tribes to define their own membership for tribal purposes.  This case specifically involves the scope of a Bureau of Indian Affairs review of the Tribe’s disenrollment decisions.  The case, Cato Tribe of the Laytonville Rancheria v. Amy Dutschke, dates back to 1995 when the Tribe initially determined that twenty-two members were unqualified for tribal membership after accepting settlement funds under the Yurok-Hoopa Settlement Act.  The Tribe, interpreting its Articles of Association and Enrollment Ordinance under tribal law, found the members were unqualified for membership and removed them from the Tribe’s certified enrollment roll.

Subsequent to the disenrollment decision, the Bureau of Indian Affairs initially refused to acknowledge the Tribe’s action upon its request, stating in correspondence that the Tribe’s actions were an inter-tribal dispute over which the Bureau normally does not involve itself.  In 2000, however, after numerous correspondences from the disgruntled former members, the Bureau reversed itself and ordered the Tribe to replace the former members’ names on the Tribe’s enrollment rolls. In so doing, the Bureau stated that it disagreed with the Tribe’s interpretation of the Yurok-Hoopa Settlement Act.  The Tribe objected to the Bureau’s directive, stating that the decision was one of tribal law interpretation.

The case thereafter made its way to the Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA), and in Opinion No. 38 BIA 244, the IBIA reversed the Bureau determining that it had exceeded its decision-making authority and did not cite any authority for imposing its will on the Tribe.

In March 2009, the Bureau again attempted to force the Tribe to re-enroll the former members, however, this time it cited as authority the Tribe’s Enrollment Ordinance provision which confers jurisdiction over enrollment application disputes.  The BIA argued that appeal rights should attach to both disapprovals of applications for enrollment as well as termination of members’ continued enrollment.  In short, the Bureau determined it had authority to review the former members’ ten year old appeals and decided in favor of the former members.

The Tribe challenged the Bureau’s new directive in the federal court in the Eastern District of California, where, the Court sided with the Bureau, finding that the Tribe’s Enrollment Ordinance provided for enrollment review jurisdiction.  The Tribe thereafter appealed the matter to the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals.  The Ninth Circuit, in Opinion No. 11-17847, published May 15, 2013, reversed the lower court, and distinguished an application for enrollment from disenrollment.  The Ninth Circuit found that while the Ordinance provided for an appeal to the BIA for rejections of enrollment applications, the Ordinance did not provide for an appeal for disenrollment.  The Ninth Circuit held that the Tribe’s Ordinance “is unambiguous and that it provides a right of appeal only for rejections of enrollment applications, not for disenrollment decisions.”  Accordingly, the BIA had no authority to review appeals from the Tribe’s disenrollment decisions.

Cahto Tribal Chairman, Richard Smith, upon hearing the decision stated, “This is a huge win for tribal sovereignty and for our right to control our enrollment rolls.  This has been a long, emotional, and expensive fight for the members of the Tribe to wage.  However, it was worth it to defend our rights and sovereignty as Indian people.  My hope is that now that this has been resolved we can move forward and focus our resources where they are needed most- on providing tribal services and continuing our economic development goals.” 

When asked if he was concerned about the possibility of the Bureau’s appeal to the United States Supreme Court, Chairman Smith added, “the Tribe is resolved to continue this fight wherever it leads us.”

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Enrollment

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11/2/2012

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10/27/2012

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9/10/2012

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7/21/2012

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7/18/2012

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7/12/2012

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6/18/2012

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5/11/2012

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5/10/2012

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5/9/2012

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5/8/2012

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4/22/2012

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3/30/2012

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3/22/2012

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3/18/2012

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3/17/2012

article Pala tribe roiled by bloodline dispute
(California) -- When Margarita Owlinguish Britten died in 1925, she was a revered elder of the Pala Indian tribe, a survivor of the forced relocation in 1903 of the...

3/4/2012

article Chukchansi has a history of strife
(California) -- A 38-hour standoff and a melee by feuding members of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians last week put a national spotlight on the tribe...

2/28/2012

article 1 Stabbed, Others Hurt In Chukchansi Tribal Office Fight
(California) -- Protests turned violent at the Chukchansi tribal office in Coarsegold Tuesday morning. A brawl involving about 40 people broke out just after 10 a.m.
article 2 injured, 2 arrested in Calif. tribal standoff
(California) -- The dispute between two factions of a Central California casino tribe that has recently expelled dozens of members has turned violent.
article 2 injured, 3 arrested in Calif. tribal standoff
(California) -- A two-day standoff between factions of a California Indian tribe split on leadership and the expulsion of tribal members ended after the sheriff...
article Chukchansi tribe members call 48 hour truce
(California) -- Madera County authorities remain on alert near the Chukchansi resort, after a dispute between rival tribe members led to a riot on the property. A...
article Dispute between members of Central Calif. tribe turns violent
(California) -- A two-day standoff between factions of a California Indian tribe split on leadership and the expulsion of tribal members ended after the sheriff...
article Riot & Stabbing Leads To Sheriff Showing Force
(California) -- A 19-year old is recovering from stab wounds, after having emergency surgery, and two others were hurt, after a riot broke out Tuesday morning between...
article Two Injured in Chukchansi Related Riot
(California) -- A feud between two groups of the Chukchansi Indian Tribe erupted in a violent riot in Coarsegold Tuesday morning. Madera County Sheriff Spokesperson...
article BIA Recommends Reversal of Pala Band Original 8 Disenrollments
(California) -- Here is the letter: Pala Disenrollments Response-Chappabitty Letter.2.28.12pdf. Prior materials are here.
article PALA: Feds recommend tribe readmit expelled Pala members
(California) -- The Bureau of Indian Affairs recommended Tuesday that eight people expelled from the Pala Band of Mission Indians last year be readmitted, according to a...

2/27/2012

article Chukchansi Members Storm Tribal Headquarters
(California) -- Aftter tribal members stormed the Chukchansi headquarters, the old and new council went into a closed door meeting with their attorneys. After several...
article Chukchansi tribe members take over casino offices
(California) -- A standoff between two factions of the Chukchansi tribe is still underway at this hour after one group barricaded itself inside tribal headquarters.
article Dispute continues for the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians tribal council
(California) -- The Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians tribal council is trying to guarantee its hold on power by targeting tribal members who support a group that...
article Feud Continues at Chukchansi Indian Reservation
(California) -- Protesters surrounded the tribal gates at the Chukchansi Indian Reservation, armed with signs and slogans. The group, led by Morris Reid, took over the...
article Rival Chukchansi group breaks into tribal offices
(California) -- A group that says it should be sitting as the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians tribal council cut locks and entered the tribal office building...

2/18/2012

article Hardship follows some expelled Pala members
(California) -- After her mother and her sister died of breast cancer, Berdine Riggs, 40, decided not to take a chance and had both her breasts removed, on the advice of...
article OP/ED: Disenrollments are nothing short of tribal terrorism
(California) -- The Sierra Star has done an excellent job in bringing the shameful acts of dissenrollments of members of the Chukchansi Indians to the public.

2/9/2012

article BIA says Chukchansi people can 'work it out'
(California) -- With losers of a December Chukchansi tribal council election still seated at the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians, election winners have met with...
article Chukchansi removes more members
(California) -- For one family, descendants of the last Chukchansi chief, Chief Hawa and his daughter Princess Melliot, being Chukchansi has always been a way of life.

2/6/2012

article Pala Casino Kicks Out Members
(California) -- Two casino-owning tribes in California have thinned their membership ranks over the last several months, cutting off scores of people from a share of...

2/4/2012

article Calif. casino tribes kick out some members
(California) -- Two casino-owning tribes in California have thinned their membership ranks over the last several months, cutting off scores of people from a share of...
article Pala Indians Reduce Membership by 17%
(California) -- The Pala Band of Mission Indians have disenrolled 154 people from its North County tribe — about 17 percent of the nation. Spokesman Doug Elmets...

2/3/2012

article Pala disenrolls 154 tribal members
(California) -- The Pala Band of Mission Indians earlier this week disenrolled 154 people from its North County tribe — about 17 percent of the total nation.
article Evictions from tribes cost Indian families tens of thousands in income
(California) -- Members of the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians, which owns Valley View Casino in Valley Center, each earn nearly $100,000 a year in gambling revenues...

2/2/2012

article Pala Indian Tribe Expels 154
(California) -- The North County tribe of the Pala Band Mission Indians has expelled 154 people on Wednesday. Tose expelled may have been connected with eight people...
article Pala Indian tribe in San Diego County expels 154 members
(California) -- The Pala Band of Mission Indians has expelled 154 people from the tribal membership roll, depriving them of a share of the profits from the band's...
article Pala tribe expels 154 people
(California) -- The Pala Band of Mission Indians on Wednesday expelled 154 people from its North County tribe, according to a Pala spokesman.
article San Diego County Indian tribe expels roughly 15 percent of members
(California) -- An Indian tribe in San Diego County has expelled 154 of its members, and those ousted from the Pala Band stand to lose out on a hefty share of the tribe...
article San Diego County tribe expels 154 members
(California) -- A northern San Diego County tribe has expelled 154 people, or about 15 percent of its members. The North County Times says the expulsions were approved...

1/13/2012

article Chukchansi Indians tribal council dispute at standoff
(California) -- Two groups claim to be in charge of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians tribal council. One holds meetings in a private banquet room on the top...

12/28/2011

article Chukchansi Tribe Dealing With Tension
(California) -- A recent election of new leadership for the Indian tribe that oversees Chukchansi Casino has resulted in an inner conflict. The newly seated Tribal...

12/27/2011

article Chukchansi tribal members fight disenrollment
(California) -- Sheriff's Deputies and Highway Patrol officers were called in to keep the peace on the Chukchansi Indian Reservation near Coarsegold. Protestors...
article Elections Conflict at Chukchansi Indian Reservation
(California) -- A handful of Chukchansi Tribe members rallied outside the tribal office Tuesday morning. They are upset the council isn't recognizing two newly...
article Indian Tribe Cast Off Members
(California) -- It took Madera County Sheriff Deputies to break up a protest at the headquarters of the Chukchansi Indian tribe. Tribe members claim a recent election...

12/23/2011

article Judge rules in favor of ousted San Pasqual tribal members
(California) -- A federal judge has temporarily restored membership to about 60 members of a family who were disenrolled from the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians...

12/22/2011

article Judge temporarily blocks ouster of family from San Pasqual tribe
(California) -- A federal judge has effectively restored a family's status as members of the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians in Valley Center, pending the...

12/21/2011

article Chukchansi tribal council election nullified
(California) -- A Chukchansi tribal council election this month that ousted two supporters of tribal disenrollment has been nullified, keeping the tribe's membership...

12/12/2011

article In California, Indian Tribes With Casino Money Cast Off Members
(California) -- The six-page, single-spaced letter that Nancy Dondero and about 50 of her relatives received last month was generously salted with legal citations and...

11/24/2011

article Chukchansi tribe disenrolls 57 members
(California) -- The Chukchansi tribe disenrolled 57 members last month -- including a former tribal chairman -- and sent 200 more disenrollment notifications last week...
article Tribal disenrollment effort continues
(California) -- The first time Santa decided to only bring presents to some children at the annual Chukchansi Christmas with Santa Breakfast several years ago, parents...

11/19/2011

article Rift among United Auburn tribe members escalates
(California) -- Seven members of the United Auburn Indian Community – including a former chairwoman – are being stripped of casino payments of $30,000 a...
article STUTZ: Inner tribal dispute threatens Sacramento's Thunder Valley Casino
(Las Vegas) -- A massive rift has developed among members of the Northern California Indian tribe that operates the Thunder Valley Casino near Sacramento.

11/18/2011

article Thunder Valley owner’s tribal council disciplines seven
(California) -- The United Auburn Indian Community’s tribal council has suspended benefits to seven members involved in an acrimonious dispute involving...
article Chukchansi tribal members disenrolled
(California) -- Written on a beam holding up Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino are the names of the Chukchansi elders, like a symbol they would always stand as their...

11/17/2011

article EDITORIAL: No role for Congress
(California) -- The process of determining who is a legitimate member of an Indian nation is inherently an emotional one, and never more so than when tribes are...

11/15/2011

article Tribe affirms its decision to expel 8 members
(California) -- The tribal council of the Pala Band of Mission Indians said its decision to expel eight people from the San Diego County tribe was final, but the Bureau...

11/14/2011

article Ousted tribal members want Congress to help
(California) -- Ousted members of the Pala Band of Mission Indians in North County say they want the federal government to give them greater protections from being...

11/11/2011

article Tribe affirms its decision to expel 8 members
(California) -- The tribal council of the Pala Band of Mission Indians said its decision to expel eight people from the North County tribe was final, but the Bureau of...

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