On Saturday, January 9, 2016, the Chinook Indian Nation General Council met for a community workshop during which, according to Chairman Tony Johnson: “There was 100% consensus that we’re not doing disenrollment.”
I know because in response to my recent blog, which reported word from the Telegraph that Chinook “is proposing to disenroll a slew of members who do not reside near Chinook headquarters,” Chinook Chairman Johnson reached out to me. We have spoken twice since last week, in a very good way.
Chairman Johnson assures me that disenrollment was never the plan for Chinook. His members told me otherwise. But erasing any doubt, the Chinook General Council formally denounced disenrollment on Saturday, joining federally recognized tribes like Spokane, Graton and Passamaquoddy who have done the same. Bravo, Chinook.
Still, the Chinook General Council is considering creating new membership criteria that would restrict voting and social service rights to Chinooks who are “active” in the community vis-à-vis residential or geographic connection to Chinook country.
Like I wrote, tribal connection to ancestral lands “is certainly a preferred alternative to relying on federally imposed tribal membership criteria tied to blood quantum or federal censuses or rolls.” But imposing such criteria retroactively on folks already accepted into the Chinook membership without such strings attached, is problematic.
Creating two classes of members is problematic; it disenfranchises Indians and creates a slippery slope. Chairman Johnson concedes: “This may not be perfect.” But he will leave it to Chinooks to decide through a series of General Council forums in 2016.
For now, I am so very pleased that the Chinook people have not fallen victim to disenrollment, or fallen sick amidst the disenrollment epidemic.
Gabe Galanda represents Indian peoples, practicing law in Seattle with Galanda Broadman, PLLC. He descends from the Nomlaki and Concow Tribes, belonging to the Round Valley Indian Confederation.