Silence-Breaker: California Indian Law Association Speaks On Disenrollment

The California Indian Law Association is featuring the following program in Sacramento on Friday, October 14:

1:15 – 2:30 pm Tribal Disenrollment and Exclusions: A Discussion of Tribal Interests
 Moderator: Christina Snider, CILA Vice President
                 [INVITED]Adam Bailey, Associate, Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker
                 Sara Dutschke Setshwaelo, Counsel, Dentons LLP
                 Frank Lawrence, Law Office of Frank Lawrence
                 EJ “Eddie” Crandell, Chairperson, Robinson Rancheria

Each of these speakers, and the CILA conference organizers, should be commended for their bravery for discussing the still relatively taboo issue of disenrollment.

California remains the epicenter of disenrollment, with more than 30 tribes or rancherias having engaged in the practice according to Professor David Wilkins.  That's nearly half of all tribes in the country who have disenrolled their relatives.  At the Elem Colony, for example, the entire on-colony population were proposed for disenrollment in 2016 and are now being disenfranchised.

Ramona Band of Cahuilla Chairman Joseph Hamilton aptly described things in the Golden State:

In Southern California, where my tribe calls home, disenrollment is common, in part because of big gaming revenues and internal power struggles. It is also a symptom of the breakdown of traditional tribal power structures. Simply put, some tribal leaders listen to lawyers instead of elders.

Meanwhile over the last couple decades, the typically thought-leading UC System has turned a deaf ear to disenrollment.

[T]hose issues remain taboo within the Indian Country academic establishment, despite the current Indian disenrollment epidemic and the ability of our brightest minds to identify the causes and develop the cures.

As a Native person rightfully commented on a recent column by Professor David Wilkins: "There are no easy answers but I believe academia deserves as much of the blame as anyone for not facing this reality and attacking it head on."

With disenrollment having run rampant throughout California since the mid-2000s, that blame is rightly owed to lawyers and academics in the UC System, and to attorneys in general, for not doing enough---perhaps no doing anything---to prevent the epidemic from spreading.

In fact, as Professor Wilkins concludes in his seminal book on disenrollment, Dismembered, some lawyers have actually helped spread the epidemic: "there is evidence that some attorneys have prolonged or even fomented conflict to gain more resources for themselves and their law firms."

But with every dialogue about the subject---whether a speaker believes disenrollment is the prerogative of tribal politicians, or is antithetical to tribalism---there is hope.  Silence in too many realms has greatly contributed to the epidemic.  Public discourse will help cure it.

Gabriel S. Galanda is the managing lawyer of Galanda Broadman, PLLC, in Seattle. Gabe is a descendant of the Nomlaki and Concow Tribes, belonging to the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Northern California.  



Bree Black Horse Heads to Kansas Law to Talk Indian Civil Rights, Disenrollment


At the invitation of Associate Dean Elizabeth Kronk, Bree Black Horse will visit the University of Kansas School of Law on Thursday, October 12, 2017, to speak to law students regarding "Indian Law and Tribal Disenrollments."  

Bree will discuss career opportunities in Indian law, and her work with the firm in Indian civil rights advocacy, particularly in the disenrollment context.  Gabe Galanda will join her for the presentation via Skype.

Bree Black Horse is an Associate in the Seattle office.  Bree's practice focuses on federal court and tribal court litigation involving tribal governments, enterprises and members.  She can be reached at (206) 735-0448 or

Zinke’s Disloyalty Purge Of Interior Is Un-American


By Anthony Broadman

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said last week in a speech to oil industry representatives that “I got 30 percent of the crew that’s not loyal to the flag.”

He reportedly said Interior is a pirate ship that captures “a prized ship at sea and only the captain and the first mate row over.” 

His message was clear.  For Zinke, federal public service means loyalty to Donald Trump.  That kind of loyalty test and resulting purges of “disloyal” non-political public servants—often called “career staff”—are un-American.

It’s even worse against the backdrop of Zinke’s move-or-quit approach to remaking Interior and the BIA.  This summer, Zinke reassigned around 50 senior executive employees—over one-fifth of all senior executive employees at Interior.  If he didn’t want many of those 50 to quit, reassigning them all at once seems like a weird move.

The employees who are reassigned and targeted for disloyalty will of course personally bear the direct brunt of Zinke’s efforts.  But purge-panic and yet more political intrigue at the BIA won’t serve Tribes and Tribal members. 

Zinke’s reshuffling and termination of Interior employees might violate federal law; it would violate many state laws.  “If the First Amendment protects a public employee from discharge based on what he has said, it must also protect him from discharge based on what he believes.”  Branti v. Finkel, 445 U.S. 507, 515 (1980).  But an Inspector General investigation and employment lawsuits will decide that question. 

More importantly for Interior and its Bureau of Indian Affairs, testing political loyalty of employees charged with ministerial execution of federal law smacks of the kind of abusive patronage practices that civil service statutes sought to prevent.

Zinke says he wants “to increase employee morale and ensure those of you on the front lines have the right tools, right resources, and flexibility to make the decisions to allow you to do your job.” Purges of intellectuals and sending disloyal employees ‘down to the countryside’ won’t accomplish this.  Zinke’s latest loyalty comments only make his purge efforts look more like the Cultural Revolution reassigned employees suspect he is carrying out.

Anthony Broadman is a partner at Galanda Broadman PLLC.  He can be reached at 206.321.2672,, or via

A Native American's Immigrant Song

"We may be different in color or origin but we are connected in one way or another." -- Lower Elwha Klallam Chairwoman Frances Charles, Canoe Journey 2017

The Dreamer controversy got me thinking, about how we Natives are in fact more connected to immigrants than we might realize, or admit.  

So I wrote a "song" about it.  Here's my riff on it all:

First, I'm no fan of the barbs or memes that Indians are the only people who are not immigrants to the United States.  

That may have been true in 1492 but unless you're a full-blooded Indian---the overwhelming majority of us aren't---you descend from immigrants too.  

Speaking of 1492, there are oral accounts of Columbus' arrival to Haiti, wherein the "Indios" actually welcomed him and his people ashore. Indeed, as the image above suggests, America's Indigenous Peoples have generally been more inclusive of immigrants than we might believe.

So let's end all of the divisive rhetoric about "us" (Indians) versus "them" (immigrants).

Second, let's realize that birthright citizenship, as guaranteed by both the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment and 8 U.S.C. 1401, is a tie that binds certain undocumented persons---like so-called anchor babies---and Indians.  

Simply, if you are "a person born in the United States," you are a citizen of the United States.  8 U.S.C. 1401(a).  Anchor babies, i.e., born unto the land, are United States citizens even though their parents may be "unauthorized."  Id.

Likewise, if you are "a person born in the United States to a member of an Indian, Eskimo, Aleutian, or other aboriginal tribe," you are a citizen of the United States (8 U.S.C. 1401(b)). Indian babies, born unto the land, are also United States citizens under federal law (id.), and may also be a Tribal citizen under many Tribal laws like IRA constitutions that guarantee citizenship at birth.

Third, let's recognize that Indians also immigrate, from one tribal nation to another, through a process called relinquishment.  With tribal peoples having inter-married for generations, it is very common for an Indian to have ancestral ties to multiple tribal nations.

In this day and age, Indians are frequently relinquishing their citizenship with one tribal nation, and becoming a citizen of another.  Although this mode of immigration is often fueled by per capita dollars, it is nonetheless an Indian's prerogative to relinquish and enroll elsewhere.

Fourth, let's also appreciate the potential commonality between Dreamers and too many Indians. Dreamers are persons who were brought to America as children by undocumented parents or others. To many Dreamers, America is the only home they have ever known.

Many Indian children are born away from their Tribe's homelands---as the United States has intended since 1887---but "brought home" to their Tribe and enrolled by their parents or others. To those Indians, their Tribe is the only home they have ever known.  Now several of those Indians are being told, by "leaders" of their Tribe, that they don't belong; they are being disenrolled. 

President Trump threat to deport 800,000 Dreamers after ending DACA makes me think of those Indians.  Much like Autocrat #45, who stands poised to jettison Dreamers from their only home, tribal autocrats are today kicking out thousands and thousands of Indians from their only homes. 

Unconscionably, what President Trump proposes to do, and what as many as 80 tribal autocrats (or autocracies) have already done, is to separate children from their parents and families, and nuclear families from their extended families; and to displace them all from their homes.

We as Native people, knowing full well the traumatic effects of separation and displacement, should raise our voice against the injustice we are witnessing throughout the land. 

This is my immigration song.

Gabriel S. Galanda is the managing lawyer of Galanda Broadman, PLLC, in Seattle. Gabe is a descendant of the Nomlaki and Concow Tribes, belonging to the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Northern California.  He is also of Austrian, Scandinavian and Portugese descent.

Indian Country Today Helped Shatter the Disenrollment Taboo

Screenshot 2017-09-04 17.07.49.png

For nearly the last decade, as disenrollment turned into an epidemic throughout Indian Country, our leading news outlet, Indian Country Today/Media Network, tackled the subject head on.

When ICT began doing so, disenrollment was taboo---as Dave Palermo put it, disenrollment was our "dirtiest secret." And for the most part, disenrollment was being carried out by tribes---gaming tribes---who might buy advertisements with ICT.  But ICT never shied away.

Take a look for yourself. Go to ICTMN's website and search "disenrollment."  Then peruse any of the 452 search hits.  You'll find:

  • Leading disenrollment scholarship by Prof. David Wilkins, which led to his recent publication of a book on the topic, "Dismembered";
  • Incisive political cartoons, at least six, by Marty Two Bulls, like:

Meanwhile, and not only posted ICT's stories, but those tribal news sites also wrote or posted various other disenrollment stories over the last several years.  

Most recently, Tribal Business Journal and Global Gaming Business Magazine commissioned and published disenrollment features.  For its part, Tribal Business Journal ran a three-part series. Those ad-dependent news magazines would not have touched the subject even three years ago.

ICT is not giving itself too much credit when, announcing its "hiatus" today, it says:

ICTMN’s reporting has also helped shape political debates and policy decisions around our community’s priorities—and that will have an enduring impact on those debates and decisions in the coming years.

ICT's reporting has helped us realize, quite simply, that disenrollment is not our way; and never has been.  ICT has helped cast shame upon the practice---specifically those tribal "leaders" who seek to get rid of their kin with ulterior motive---and emboldened many other Indians to also cast shame upon those of our peers who deserve it.  ICT has helped helped deter the cancer that is disenrollment from spreading further, to more tribal reservation or rancheria communities.  

Indeed, since early 2016, there has not been a new mass disenrollment that I know of.  That's after nearly 80 tribes engaged in the practice over the prior decade---approximately 8 tribes per year.

Maybe ICT was too honest for it's own good.  Maybe that's why, unlike certain other tribal magazines, ICT couldn't sustain itself with lucrative gaming advertising dollars.  Maybe.

In any event, "ICTMN proved that we do not have to sit idly by."  ICT most certainly did not sit silent amidst the disenrollment epidemic.  Neither should any of us.

Gabriel S. Galanda is the managing lawyer of Galanda Broadman, PLLC, in Seattle. Gabe is a descendant of the Nomlaki and Concow Tribes, belonging to the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Northern California.  I prefer Indian Country Today, to Media Network; thus the "ICT" references.

Gabe Galanda's Editorial Review Featured for "The Great Vanishing Act: Blood Quantum and the Future of Native Nations"


Gabe Galanda was asked to review the new book, The Great Vanishing Act: Blood Quantum and the Future of Native Nations.  His editorial review is featured:

'The Great Vanishing Act provides incisive criticism and warning regarding colonially inspired and federally promulgated modes of American Indian assimilation and annihilation - most notably the Anglo-American racial notion of blood quantum.' — Gabriel S. Galanda, Galanda Broadman, PLLC


Order this must-read scholarship on Amazon today.

Gabriel S. Galanda is the managing lawyer of Galanda Broadman, PLLC, in Seattle. Gabe is a descendant of the Nomlaki and Concow Tribes, belonging to the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Northern California.

Galanda, Dreveskracht's Disenrollment Scholarship Cited in New Human Rights Book, "Understanding Statelessness"


Gabe Galanda and Ryan Dreveskracht's law review article, "Curing the Tribal Disenrollment Epidemic: In Search of a Remedy," has been cited at length in a new human rights book, Understanding Statelessness.  An excerpt:


Understanding Statelessness offers a comprehensive, in-depth examination of statelessness. The volume presents the theoretical, legal and political concept of statelessness through the work of leading critical thinkers in this area. They offer a critique of the existing framework through detailed and theoretically-based scrutiny of challenging contexts of statelessness in the real world and suggest ways forward.


Gabe Galanda Named Among America's Best Lawyers for 12th Straight Year


Gabe Galanda has been selected by his peers for inclusion in the 2018 edition of The Best Lawyers in America® in the areas of Gaming Law and Native American Law, for the 12th straight year.  He has now been selected to The Best Lawyers in America® every year since 2007.

Gabe’s practice focuses on complex, multi-party litigation, business controversy, and crisis management, representing tribal governments, businesses and members.

He is skilled at defending tribes and tribal enterprises from legal attacks by local, state and federal government, and representing plaintiffs and defendants in catastrophic injury lawsuits.

Gabe handles Indian civil rights controversies for tribal members, particularly those involving Indian citizenship rights, as well.  He also frequently represents tribal families in federal civil rights litigation against police officers and jailers for the wrongful death of Natives and inmates.

The Best Lawyers in America® is regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence in the United States. Gabe’s selection was based on a peer-review survey, which all told comprises more than 4.9 million confidential evaluations by top attorneys throughout the country.

Gabriel S. Galanda is the managing lawyer of Galanda Broadman, PLLC, in Seattle. Gabe is a descendant of the Nomlaki and Concow Tribes, belonging to the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Northern California.