As Grand Ronde Tribal Chairman Reyn Leno celebrated Restoration Day with a speech honoring tribal members who held onto their Indian identity even as the government tried to take it away, Mia Prickett said it brought tears to her eyes.
Prickett is one of 79 family members – whose ancestor Tumulth signed the 1855 Willamette Valley Treaty – facing disenrollment by the Oregon tribes, according to a story on Indian Country Today Media Network by Kevin Taylor.
“Hearing council talk about how difficult it was to go through termination and how termination took away their membership and took away their identity and tried to strip them of their heritage and took away their home. … Hearing them say that, I also felt threatened, that they’re doing this same thing to their membership right now and there was not even a bat of an eye as [Leno] read this prepared script about termination. There was no remorse in it. No acknowledgment that we are in the room and feeling that our days are numbered.”
The tribes were celebrating the 30th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan signing the Grand Ronde Restoration Act, which ended three decades of termination. In the years since, the tribe opened a casino and enrollment jumped from about 3,500 members to almost 6,000.
Taylor reports at ICTMN that having a treaty signer as an ancestor was once enough to qualify for tribal enrollment, but that has changed. Tumulth, Taylor reported, was executed by the U.S. Army in 1856 and before the tribe – which joined together 27 disparate tribal bands and communities – was formally created.
The issuance of per-capita payments has also created tensions, and appears to have created a schism between people who were enrolled before or after the casino. “Before the casino, we were enrolled and we were welcomed into the tribe. And now that the casino is there … well, I think greed is definitely a factor for some,” said Nicomi Levine, another member of the Tumulth descendants.
ICTMN says 15 members have been disenrolled this year, and hearings on Pickett’s family were slated to start as early as Monday.
- Vince Devlin