indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Native American Bank - Native people investing in Native communities
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Court dismisses California membership lawsuit
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Filed Under: Law | National | Politics

A California tribe that was terminated did not lose the right to define its membership after regaining recognition, a federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday.

In a unanimous decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said it would be wrong to treat restored tribes different from other tribes. Despite being terminated in 1958, the Mooretown Rancheria retained the right to set its membership criteria, a three-judge panel ruled.

"The termination and restoration of Mooretown Rancheria does not justify depriving it of its sovereign power to define its membership when it organized a tribal government in 1987," Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld wrote.

The decision means the Bureau of Indian Affairs can't force the rancheria to enroll dozens of people who might otherwise qualify for membership. It was the plaintiffs, in fact, who were part of the landmark Tillie Hardwick litigation that resulted in several California tribes being restored to recognition.

But the plaintiffs were excluded from the Mooretown Rancheria because a different group established the tribe's membership criteria. As a result, their voting rights are restricted and they cannot share in profits from a successful casino.

"Thus, although the plaintiffs are Concow-Maidu Indians descended from people who have lived at Mooretown Rancheria for a very long time, they lack the rights of full members of the Mooretown Rancheria tribe," the court noted.

Despite the history, the court said it lacked the power to force the BIA to act. The judges noted that the agency -- which agreed to restore the tribes as part of the Hardwick litigation -- did not play a role in reorganizing the rancheria.

"Uncontradicted evidence establishes that Mooretown Rancheria itself squeezed them out, and that it did not act at the behest of the BIA," the court said. "It did not need the BIA’s permission and did not ask for it, and the BIA never purported to tell it how to define its membership."

At the same time, the 9th Circuit noted that tribal sovereignty can be affected by the federal government. "An Indian tribe has the power to define membership as it chooses, subject to the plenary power of Congress," Kleinfeld wrote for the panel.

Even then, the judges said sovereign immunity protects a tribe from suit without a voluntary waiver or a waiver from Congress. Citing U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the panel stated that "tribes remain quasi-sovereign nations which, by government structure, culture, and source of sovereignty are in many ways foreign to the constitutional institutions of the federal and state governments."

The Mooretown plaintiffs sued the BIA in hopes of overcoming the tribal sovereignty hurdles. Other disenrolled California Indians have adopted similar strategies but the state and federal courts have refused to intervene in membership disputes so far.

Recognizing Congress' plenary power and pointing to the ouster of at least 1,500 California Indians, the American Indian Rights and Resource Organization has been seeking changes in federal law to allow membership disputes to be heard in federal court. Some leaders in the California Democratic party have taken up the cause amid charges that wealthy tribes are ousting people in order to limit per capita gaming payments.

Nationally, the issue has gained media and Congressional attention due to the ouster of the Freedmen, the descendants of African slaves, from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Rep. Diane Watson (D-California) is introducing a bill to cut federal funding to the tribe until it restores citizenship to the Freedmen.

Court Decision:
Williams v. Gover (June 20, 2007)

Relevant Links:
Mooretown Rancheria history - http://www.featherfallscasino.com/history.html
American Indian Rights and Resource Organization - http://www.airro.org
Pechanga Tribal Disenrollment - http://www.pechanga.info
Tribal Corruption - http://www.tribalcorruption.com

Related Stories:
Ousted Redding Rancheria families protest (6/21)
Rep. Watson to introduce Cherokee Freedmen bill (6/21)
Column: Bill helps wealthy tribes purge members (06/14)
Disenrolled Indians oppose exclusion bill in California (6/7)
AIM leader criticizes tribal disenrollments (5/3)
California Democrats consider ICRA resolution (04/25)
Man seeks healing over Pechanga disenrollment (03/13)
Pechanga Band runs ad against disenrollment story (2/21)
Women disenrolled after criticizing leaders (12/13)
USA Today: Tribes remove thousands from rolls (11/29)
Chukchansi Tribe latest to disenroll members (11/27)
Disenrolled Indians tie ouster to tribal greed (11/24)
California Indians cite growing disenrollments (11/08)
Former members protest Enterprise Rancheria (10/05)
Expert disputes Pechanga Band on disenrollment (09/25)
Opinion: Pechanga Band purges family of heritage (09/05)
Column: Tribal nations evict their own people (8/25)
Column: Pechanga family and Pluto demoted (8/25)
Column: Pechanga Band decimating Indians (8/22)
Pechanga Band removes another family from roll (8/21)
Disenrolled Indians seek accountability (08/07)
Disenrollment an issue in Pechanga Band election (07/13)
Greed, politics behind tribal enrollment spats (07/06)
Ex-Table Mountain members protest at powwow (06/12)
Editorial: Supreme Court passes on sovereignty (05/29)
Pechanga Band calls refusal of membership case a win (5/24)
Tribal membership case rejected by U.S. Supreme Court (5/23)
California Indians protest removal from tribes (05/01)
Campbell amendment put to test in court case (4/21)
Another Pechanga family faces removal from tribe (03/21)
Ousted Pechangas take case to U.S. Supreme Court (3/17)
Identity Theft: California Indians lose tribal rights (01/26)
BIA asked to rule on rancheria membership dispute (1/20)
Disenrolled Indians to hold rally in Palm Springs (1/10)
Disenrolled Pechangas to take case to Supreme Court (12/15)
Per capita payments under tribal, federal scrutiny (09/26)
Court won't take on tribal enrollment dispute (9/14)
Pechanga Band says money not behind enrollment (08/10)
Disenrollment suit dismissed in California (8/9)
Ousted Pechangas plan appeal of enrollment lawsuit (8/9)
Disenrolled Pechangas seek $38M in damages (08/04)
Pechanga Band enrollment dispute closely watched (07/11)
Court hears Pechanga Band enrollment dispute (7/7)
McKosato: Greed behind ouster of tribal members (05/23)
Opinion: Gaming has turned tribes on other tribes (5/20)
Ousted Redding Rancheria members head to forum (5/19)
Forum calls attention to tribal disenrollments (5/18)
Family fights disenrollment from Sauk-Suiattle Tribe (5/18)
California AIM blames greed for mass disenrollments (5/16)
Editorial: Disenrollment becoming too common (04/01)
Ousted Pechangas file another lawsuit against tribe (03/28)
California tribe changes status of some members (3/28)
Pechanga Band avoids dedication of city park (03/09)
Woman ejected from Pechanga Band in despair (01/27)
County investigates shooting on Pechanga land (01/14)
State judge won't dismiss lawsuit over tribal enrollment (07/27)
Pechanga Band votes to retain Macarro as chairman (07/19)
Battle for top Pechanga post heats up before vote (7/16)
Disenrolled tribal members call for more oversight (07/15)
Ousted tribal members appeal to Pechanga council (07/02)
Pechanga chairman faces election challenge (07/02)
Judge weighs ruling in Pechanga disenrollment (04/20)
2,000 California Indians face disenrollment (04/14)
Pechanga descendants protest against enrollment policy (04/06)
Opinion: Greed, spite, history behind disenrollment (4/5)
Opinion: Calif. tribes disenrolling more people (4/1)
Pechanga tribal committee disenrolls 130 people (03/22)
Calif. judge waits on Pechanga enrollment dispute (02/18)
Calif. judge delays Pechanga Tribe's disenrollment (02/05)
Judge won't protect 130 from disenrollment (2/3)
Case tests Pechanga Tribe's right to disenroll 130 (02/02)
Adopted man protests exclusion Pechanga Tribe (01/15)
Pechanga tribe threatens to cut off newspaper (03/14)
Pechanga disenrollment campaign to continue (02/25)
Pechanga chairman surprised by his 'racist' statement (2/24)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Gathering scheduled in June at site of former BIA insane asylum (4/29)
Native Sun News: Tribal college student overcomes challenges (4/29)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Ancestors are gone but language lives on (4/29)
Mike Rounds: Eliminate 'hateful' and 'paternalistic' federal laws (4/29)
Harlan McKosato: White privilege fuels Donald Trump's fanbase (4/29)
Indian Health Service faulted for lengthy waits for patient care (4/29)
Mescalero Apache woman to compete for Miss United States (4/29)
Environmental Protection Agency pays little to tribes for spill (4/29)
Measure to declare bison as official mammal ready for Obama (4/29)
John Wayne's negative views about tribes resurface in debate (4/29)
Chumash Tribe picks Kenneth Kahn as first new leader in years (4/29)
Mille Lacs Band announces upgrades as casino marks 25 years (4/29)
Timbisha Shoshone Tribe sees warmer reception to casino bid (4/29)
Florida racks up legal bills in gaming fight with Seminole Tribe (4/29)
Rosebud Sioux Tribe sues Indian Health Service over shutdown (4/28)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee approves eight bills at meeting (4/28)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe to debut justice center (4/28)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne official fired from tribal job (4/28)
Native Sun News: Comments sought on Black Hills mine cleanup (4/28)
Editorial: Native Sun News endorses Hillary Clinton for president (4/28)
Cronkite News: EPA slammed for response to Gold King Mine spill (4/28)
Steve Russell: Donald Trump advisor accuses tribes of terror plot (4/28)
Alex Jacobs: Hillary Clinton must answer to role in Honduras coup (4/28)
Northwest tribes inch closer to reburial of Kennewick Man remains (4/28)
Santee Sioux Tribe hosts task force to address substance abuse (4/28)
Huge crowds flock to New Mexico for annual Gathering of Nations (4/28)
Muckleshoot Tribe to host $50K 'Gold Cup' for Indian relay racing (4/28)
Member of Puyallup Tribe develops 'Teepee' tribal directory app (4/28)
Man in long fight with Shingle Springs Band faces longer sentence (4/28)
Tunica-Biloxi Tribe enters gaming agreement with Mohegan Tribe (4/28)
Timbisha Shoshone Tribe sees casino as a path to self-sufficiency (4/28)
Forest County Potawatomi Tribe announces another hire at casino (4/28)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe welcomes rejection of rival casino bid (4/28)
Senate passes measure to include Indian Country in tourism plans (4/27)
Amanda Blackhorse to deliver commencement speech at Haskell (4/27)
Native Sun News: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe aims to stop pipeline (4/27)
Lakota Country Times: Pine Ridge artist gains national recognition (4/27)
Brandon Ecoffey: 'Bull Dawg' represents the Oglala Lakota Nation (4/27)
Mark Trahant: Tribes endorse Native candidates for US Congress (4/27)
John Thune: Tribal citizens suffer with Indian Health Service care (4/27)
Cronkite News: Tribes support more protections at Grand Canyon (4/27)
Gabe Galanda: A moral responsibility to stop tribal disenrollment (4/27)
Vernice Moncooyea Willis: Bernie Sanders deserves our support (4/27)
Jennifer Denetdale: University must stop celebrating genocide (4/27)
Eastern Cherokee group hails Tribal Marijuana Sovereignty Act (4/27)
Leader of Fort Peck Tribes blames baby's death on drug abuse (4/27)
Chippewa Cree Tribe and FBI investigate theft of drugs at clinic (4/27)
Former comptroller of Crow Tribe accused of embezzling $28K (4/27)
Congress set to pass bill to declare bison as national mammal (4/27)
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton moving closer to nominations (4/27)
Fond du Lac Band won't confirm plan for site adjacent to casino (4/27)
Graton Rancheria on track to complete $175M casino expansion (4/27)
Pokagon Band to debut casino expansion project by end of year (4/27)
Connecticut tribes delay decision on potential casino until 2017 (4/27)
Oregon Lottery official fired as Lewis and Clark ads come down (4/27)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.