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:
- Powerful op-eds, like Robert Chanate's "Trickster Teaches the Prairie Dogs How to Disenroll Their Members," and Cedric Sunray's "Disenrollment Clubs";
- Hard-hitting news coverage of particularly horrific disenrollments, at places like Elem, Paskenta and Nooksack;
- Pointed interviews on the subject with the likes of former Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn; and
- Entertaining coverage of the disenrollment counter-movement, including the #StopDisenrollment visual advocacy campaign that began in early 2016 and continued in 2017, and the historic "Who Belongs?" conference in Tucson this past March.
Meanwhile, Indianz.com and Pechanga.net 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.