The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs does adjudicate disenrollments for some tribes, such as the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians in North County. Last Friday, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the San Pasqual Band “withheld casino profit checks from about 50 people,” arguing that they do not have the necessary one-eighth Indian blood to qualify for the payments. But the Bureau of Indian Affairs may stop the action.
Is there a danger, asks the legislative analyst, “that ‘gaming tribes’ [could] abuse [Unlawful Entry], if enacted, to banish disenrolled members? Could this bill create the potential that disenrolled members could be fined for necessary acts such as travelling to their homes, seeking medical services at Indian health facilities, and visiting tribal members?”
Stand Up for California is a citizen advocacy group out of Penryn, northeast of Sacramento. Cheryl Schmit, the organization’s director, faxed me a letter she sent to Unlawful Entry’s author, Gloria Romero, on May 29, 2007. Referring to the bill’s potential to control problem customers at Indian casinos, Schmit admitted that it could be “laudable and necessary in some instances.” Nevertheless, she noted, “California’s Mission Indian Reservations were created by ‘allotments,’ [which] are privately owned and can be passed on to their heirs. Some of these allotments have been transferred to fee-land and sold to non-Indians. [Both Indian and non-Indian] owners are sometimes being illegally prevented from traveling on Indian Reservation Roads [which are state roads] to reach their private properties.… By not resolving this problem, the bill would set the stage for extensive litigation.”
As Unlawful Entry makes its way toward possible passage, I wanted to find out what prompted San Diego County officials to support it. As of this writing, a request seeking the position of Bonnie Dumanis has not been answered. And a legislative assistant in Kolender’s office told me he had never heard of the measure.
Bill Kolender, however, was for many years a tribal relations representative for the California State Sheriffs’ Association. During the spring of 2006, the last time Kolender ran for sheriff of San Diego County, several officials of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation contributed to his campaign. Khanh Pham, compliance officer for the Sycuan Gaming Commission, contributed $250; tribal manager William Tucker, $750; and Nubia Ruiz, a member of the tribal council, $500; for a total of $1500.
Neither Sycuan nor the Barona Band of Mission Indians, which sponsored Unlawful Entry: Tribal Land, is currently known to be disenrolling members.