Disenrollment As Death Sentence

This month the Grand Ronde Chief Tumulth Descendants were restored to the Grand Ronde rolls by Order of the Enrollment Board. But sadly, during the three years they were "provisionally disenrolled," two of those Descendants passed on.

They passed on under the shroud of disenrollment and politically motivated accusations of not belonging.

Still other Chief Tumulth Descendants were disenrolled after they had walked on, amidst a disturbing lawyer-led trend of tribal politicians disenrolling the Ancestors in attempt to sever their living descendants' birthright citizenships under IRA constitutions.

Several members of the Nooksack 306 have also passed on during the nearly four years in which they have been proposed for disenrollment.

In 2013, the family's matriarch Sonia Lomeli told King 5 News about her disenrollment: “If I have to leave, I might as well die.”

Later that year, family spokespersons asked the federal Indian Trustee: "What will it take for you to honor your trust responsibility? . . . Tribal elders’ loss of health care or their resulting death?" Months later, Sonia--the family's beloved "Granny Goose" and lead plaintiff--passed.

In many ways, the act of tribal disenrollment---whether actual, or “proposed” or “provisional”---operates as a death sentence for tribal citizens. As Professor Jim Diamond explains in his aptly titled paper, “The Deadly Trend of American Indian Disenrollment”:

The consequences of disenrollment can be substantial...it is literally a matter of life or death.

Indeed, the medical research findings of the American Indian Physicians Association establish that disenrollment "increases the morbidity and mortality of American Indian and Alaska Native people," and correlates to “high rates of suicide, homicide, accidental deaths."

Death by disenrollment. Sad but true.

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 advocates to #StopDisenrollment.