Ryan Dreveskracht will appear on Native American Calling this Tuesday at 10 AM Pacific, along with Professor Matthew Fletcher, to help ask and answer: "Banishment: Good or Bad for Tribal Communities?"
Tribal banishment can be seen as an expression of justice, restoring balance, or righting a wrong. Banishment can be permanent or temporary. It can strip a tribal member of their enrollment status and it can happen for a variety of reasons – from embezzling to murder to selling drugs. It’s a tribal tradition that remains in effect in some communities today, but how effective is it and what are the downsides? Is banishment a form of tribal justice? Or the appropriation of a tradition for modern, possibly less-honorable, needs?
In a forthcoming Arizona Law Review article, tentatively titled, “Curing the Tribal Disenrollment Epidemic: In Search of a Remedy,” Ryan and Gabe Galanda address banishment, as distinct from disenrollment and other modern tribal exclusionary practices. An excerpt:
Similar to the citizenship rules implemented by the United States and most other countries today, the right of belonging or kinship has historically been permanent and could not be lost involuntarily. Quite simply, in traditional American indigenous society the casting out of one’s own relatives did not occur.
The exception to this rule was “banishment,” a punitive sentence under which an indigenous person was sent out of his or her community, and forced to live away from the community for a prescribed period of time. In most American indigenous societies, individuals were held accountable for their transgressions by being forced to restore stability and harmony within the family and tribal community by compensation and seeking forgiveness. An individual’s delinquent behavior was thus of concern to both his or her own family, as well as the local community. An individual’s kin would impose an initial reprimand; the community could impose further sanctions, and might also admonish the kin if the original discipline was not appropriate. Banishment of the individual was only considered as a last resort, if familial and community penal efforts failed, and reserved for serious crimes, such as murder or incest. In order to effect banishment as a punishment, a consensus of the community was generally required; such consensus was most often established through the presentation of oral testimony about an individual’s character and wrongdoing to a tribal governing body, if not the entire community. Yet given indigenous notions of belonging, even a banished person was typically allowed to return to the community conditionally after serving his or her time away.
In short, unlike banishment, disenrollment is not a traditional practice of American indigenous peoples. While banishment has a natural place in tribal society, disenrollment simply does not.
Ryan Dreveskracht is an Associate at Galanda Broadman, PLLC. His practice focuses on representing tribal governments in public affairs, energy, gaming, taxation, and general economic development. He can be reached at 206.909.3842 or firstname.lastname@example.org.