Gaming Revenue Blamed for California Tribes Disenrolling Members

Gaming Revenue Blamed for California Tribes Disenrolling Members


Roughly two dozen California tribes have disenrolled more than 2,500 Indians in the past decade on the basis of not having proper ancestry, according to estimates by Indian advocates and academics, reported The New York Times. More than 362,000 Indians reside in California, according to the 2010 census.

While inner-tribal turmoil has on occasion incited disenrollment, critics attribute the high rates of California's cast-off tribal members to gambling revenues. The state's 60-plus Indian casinos netted nearly $7 billion last year—more than any other state, according to the Indian Gaming Commission. Some small tribes that disseminate casinos profits pay members monthly checks upwards of $15,000. Many tribes also offer housing allowances and college scholarships.

Tribal governments universally defend their reasons for disenrolling members, claiming they are removing people with little tribal association, who likely joined to exploit the services, scholarships and monthly checks from casino profits. “You have people who want to be tribal members, where no one knows who they are or where they came from,” said Reggie Lewis, chairman of the Chukchansi Tribal Council, to The New York Times. “We are sworn to uphold the Constitution. And basically that’s what we try to do.”

But for people like Ruby Cordero, 87, an ousted Chukchansi, expert basket weaver and one of the few last native speakers of the Chukchansi language, disenrollment is the equivalent of robbery of her identity and culture. “She was born and raised on that property,” Nancy Dondero, Ruby’s great-niece, told the Times.

In October, Indian Country Today Media Network reported in "Bitter Fight to Determine Who Is an Indian Turns to DNA Testing" how many tribes have adopted a DNA-testing ordinance to determine tribal membership.

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snoqualmie9's picture
Submitted by snoqualmie9 on
The Snoqualmie Tribe in Washington state banished 9 tribal members in 2008. One of the nine banished was banished for saying a prayer the tribal council felt admonished their actions. When the 9 won a Federal Court case against the tribe due to civil rights violations and the federal judge overturned the illegal banishment, the tribe than proceeded to dis-enroll them and their 80 family members......the Seattle Times did an investigative report and concluded the banishment/dis-enrollments were over the casino and the casino profits.....this is not just a California issue. This issue is epidemic and cruel.

ppmickey's picture
Submitted by ppmickey on
Indians treating other Indians inhumanely. Whites treating Whites inhumanely. Black American's treating Black Americans inhumanely...geez...this is nothing new. This has been a fact of life for as long as human beings have existed. As long as a business is a privately owned corporation, the owners can pretty much do what they want to do and as long as they as greasing the palms, or rather paying off the right people, this will continue. Perhaps DNA testing is a good idea. I'd love to get an Indian DNA test to find out what percentage of me is Cherokee. Where does one get such a test kit? Does it tell you what tribe you come from? Really? I doubt it. What about the top people in these casinos also being required to take a DNA test? I'd really like to see that. At a time when so many Native American's are in need of help, only those who are very organized, working and fighting towards it seem to be making any strides. Being afraid of being fired at any moment where you work doesn't exactly inspire one to do their best on the job. Rules are rules that should be enforced with everyone on every level. That doesn't happen in private businesses nor does it happen in governmental jobs on any level. To take away rightful citizenship of Indigenous people of any age is abusive and criminal. Taking advantage of tribes with casinos by trying to declare tribal membership when one has shaky ties or none at all is also criminal. I just want to find out what percentage I am. I don't care about the Cherokee casinos or care about any profits from the tribe. I will ask if the Wind River Casino in the Redding, California area is part of this I won't be going back to that casino,

dhbranx's picture
Submitted by dhbranx on
Just happened to catch sight of the acronym DNA. I've found that the major use for this science is in forensics to determine paternity suits. As Natives, we are used to fraud, so there are probably many of these related to DNA testing. Jewish Theology really has no bearing on the natives of this country, for the most part, but it is interesting to note that Hebrew scripture records that David, the King of the Jews, was killed when he attempted to 'tribe' the people of Israel. My point being, that we learn in school that Indians worshipped their ancestors, but who are WE, ourselves? What are we doing? Since when does the IRS determine whether or not you belong to this land? The census takers in 1910 made the Cherokee walk to Oklahoma (it is illegal to transport prisoners to Oklahome), because the Cherokee discovered coal on their land. If your family was in that census within two generations, you qualify for tax exempt status. Who are we trying to fool? How far do the 'Indians' have to walk this time?

Simge's picture
Submitted by Simge on
I believe Tribal joctsdiriiun is most important. This allows tribes to have authority and emphasize power over tribal members. especially in court cases regarding child custody. Although, most tribal courts hear ICWA cases. Tribal court can also hear and act on cultural adoptions, domestic violence and other court hearings within their joctsdiriiun.The Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich'in Tribal Government was in the process of working with our local state court system to take over juvenile court hearings if they are tribal members. This is a good opportunity for the local Tribal court system so that they can hear and act on the case if needed.

dtenbrink's picture
Submitted by dtenbrink on
DNA testing cannot detect an "Indian" gene. It's used mainly to determine parentage, such as in paternity suits or evidence in criminal investigations.