Law | National

Lawsuit urges BIA to intervene in Pala membership dispute

A federal judge is holding a hearing on Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by former members of the Pala Band of Mission Indians of California.

The tribe has disenrolled more than 160 people in recent months. Many are descendants of Margarita Owlinguish, who survived the forced removal of the tribe to the reservation in 1903.

Owlinguish was a revered elder but the tribe recently recalculated her blood quantum, dropping her from full-blood to one-half. That means some of her descendants no longer meet the 1/16 standard for membership.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has recommended the tribe reinstate her Owlinguish's descendants. But the agency says it doesn't have authority to intervene in the dispute.

The people who were disenrolled say the BIA once had approval over membership decisions. They say the BIA shouldn't have allowed the tribe to change its constitution in 1997 to eliminate the requirement.

Get the Story:
Families expelled from Pala tribe sue feds (The North County Times 3/18)
Pala tribe roiled by bloodline dispute (The Los Angeles Times 3/18)
The Cupenos' own Trail of Tears (The Los Angeles Times 3/18)

Related Stories:
BIA urges Pala Band to reinstate eight who were disenrolled (02/29)
Pala Band removes 15 percent of membership from the rolls (2/3)
Pala Band removes an additional 154 people from its rolls (2/2)
Editorial: Congress should stay out of disenrollment disputes (11/16)
Ousted Pala Band members lobby for Congressional action (11/14)
Relatives of former Pala Band chairman removed from the roll (9/6)
Correction: Pala Band did not remove former leader from rolls (9/1)
Pala Band disenrolls eight people, including a past chairman (8/31)

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