On Saturday, the Spokane Tribe of Indians General Council passed a Referendum that amended the Tribe’s constitution to generally prohibit disenrollment.
The new Spokane constitutional provision provides: “Except in instances where a citizen transfers enrollment to another Tribe, no Spokane Tribal law shall operate to strip citizenship from any person who has previously been recognized to possess citizenship . . .”
The full results of the Spokane General Council’s voting results were published by the Tribe’s Rawhide Press here.
Spokane joins a growing list of tribal governments who are amending IRA constitutions—which have been the primary vehicle for disenrollment in Indian Country—to discontinue the colonialist practice.
In 2013, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria revised their constitution to prohibit disenrollment. According to Graton’s Chairperson Greg Sarris:
We saw the money coming . . . We saw the changes coming. We saw the challenges and we said, ‘Let’s do something that could prohibit disenrollments in our tribe.’
Likewise, the Passamaquoddy Tribe of the Pleasant Point Reservation amended their constitution to proclaim that “the government of the Pleasant Point Reservation shall have no power of banishment over tribal members.” One of the Pasamaquoddy authors of that constitutional amendment essentially explained the law as being one intended to disallow disenrollment:
We felt that . . . we had to do this. It wouldn’t be right for us to say we have the power to decide who no longer is one of us.
Indians of right mind and heart know that for a few to decide who belongs is fundamentally wrong; it “goes against our ways of being and co-existing.” The Spokane Tribe of Indians are now right where they all belong.
Gabriel S. Galanda is the managing partner of Galanda Broadman, PLLC, in Seattle. Gabe co-authored, “Curing the Tribal Disenrollment Epidemic: In Search of a Remedy.” He is an enrolled citizen of the Round Valley Indian Tribes.