PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon woman says 86 members of her family have been disenrolled from an American Indian tribe that operates the state's largest tribal casino, as leaders review the tribe's rolls and enforce new membership requirements.
Family spokeswoman Mia Prickett said she's shocked about being stripped of membership from the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, since one of the family's ancestors was a chief who signed an 1855 treaty that helped establish the tribe.
The council that governs the 5,000-member tribe had been considering disenrolling the family for nearly a year, saying they no longer satisfy enrollment rules.
The decision to remove the family was made after the council earlier this month changed the enrollment ordinance via "emergency amendments." The amendments gave the authority to make decisions on disenrollment to an enrollment committee, which is an administrative body, and removed the council from the process.
Grand Ronde's Stacia Martin, executive coordinator for the Tribal Council, declined to confirm the number of people removed or the exact reasons, citing the "confidential nature" of enrollment proceedings.
Those removed lose health care and housing benefits, educational assistance and about $3,000 annually in casino profits, among other benefits.
The contentious removal is part of what some experts have dubbed the "disenrollment epidemic" — a rising number of dramatic clashes over tribal belonging that are sweeping through the U.S.
These tribal expulsions, which started in the 1990s along with the establishment of Indian casinos, have increased in numbers just as gambling revenues skyrocketed. Critics say the disenrollments are also used as a way to settle political infighting and old family and personal feuds.
Most tribes base their membership criteria on blood quantum or on descent from someone named on a tribe's census rolls or treaty records.
Grand Ronde officials previously said the tribe's membership pushed for an enrollment audit, with the goal of strengthening the tribe's "family tree." They did not say how many people were tabbed for disenrollment.
Prickett says her ancestor chief Tumulth was unjustly accused of participating in a revolt and was executed by the U.S. Army — and hence didn't make it onto the tribe's roll, which is now a membership requirement.
"This is morally and ethically reprehensible," Prickett said of the disenrollment.
The family can appeal the decision to the Tribal Court and the Tribal Court of Appeals.