Courtesy of Rick Cuevas
More than 100 disenrolled Pechanga Indians gathered in a prayer circle. According to Rick Cuevas, a disenrolled member of the tribe, “a splinter group has stolen the tribe and its heritage and is passing as the tribe.” He has been blogging about disenrollment by his tribe and others at since 2007, though Pechanga disenrollments first began in 2002.

The Debate Over Disenrollment

Duane Champagne

Disenrollment is not a new issue. All nations have the right and power to define membership and so do Indian nations. Membership in Indian nations has become increasingly legalistic, and remains to a certain extent legally controlled by Bureau of Indians Affairs rules.

For example, the BIA prohibits Indians who are descendants of more than one nation to take membership in multiple nations. Some of the most publicized disenrollment issues, like the highly publicized Pechanga case, are the result of long standing issues within the community and BIA rules affecting enrollment.

During the 1890s, through the General Allotment Act, California Indians were encouraged to take small allotments of land and turn to farming. If they did so, they also were asked to sign documents that said they accepted U.S. citizenship and rejected tribal membership. Some Pechanga members accepted the land and withdrew from the Pechanga tribe, although many of their relatives still lived in the Pechanga nation. During the hard times of the 1930s, some allotees returned to their relatives living on the Pechanga reservation and they were taken into the community.

More recently, some elders among the Pechanga challenged the right of the allotee families to remain in the tribe, since their ancestors had signed agreements to withdraw form Pechanga tribal membership. The Pechanga general council, a body of all adult members, discussed the issues of allottee families and decided to not include those families as Pechanga tribal members since their ancestors had signed out of the tribe during the allotment period. One can argue about the wisdom of why the BIA required rejection of tribal membership as a condition to gaining a farming allotment, but that is what happened. The Pechanga general council decided the membership issue largely on legal grounds, something done often in U.S. society.


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Kelly Abram
Kelly Abram
Submitted by Kelly Abram on
Irony here is the very person who bought this Media Network ezine has done that very thing to gain control & power over his own people. Perhaps his 'Do Right For Native Americans' will always overshadow his once position of disenrollment if your against me power. If Oneida Nation of New York claims they are spearheading an equal rights for all natives, then lets look at that equal powers & rights of this nation and see if everyone has the same standard of living who is on the Oneida Nation roll.... 32 acres was all they had as Oneida land, I remember, and was always known for that name. Those who wanted to remain were forcibly removed, by force by this regime of Oneida Mens Council created by Mr. Halbritter himself, which enlisted or bribed local deputies to see this nazi like attack on its own peaceful citizens. Perhaps there was a bigger picture and they were just simply in the way of progress..and out of the loop! Today, we see a magnificent Oneida Casino, with lush well known golf course, and plenty of 'Save On' gas stations, that should see this the full Oneida Nation people prosper equally! After all, its an excellent way to bury the past of how this was accomplished by way of removal of your own people who didnt share the vision or was seen as a barrier for greater powers! EXPLOITATION IS THE AMERICAN WAY ISNT IT?

opechanga's picture
Submitted by opechanga on
This article is so factually wrong when it comes to the Pechanga issue, that is must be DELIBERATE. It's not possible for a man of letters, like this professor, to be this incorrect and amateurish. Come to Original Pechanga's blog and learn the truth....

Disenrolled tribal allotee's picture
Disenrolled tri...
Submitted by Disenrolled tri... on
This article is both factually impaired and unethical. Duane Champagne did not disclose that he, his spouse, and his primary employer, the UCLA American Indian Studies Center, have received a large amounts of money from the Pechanga Band’s Tribal government, in the form of professional fees and or charitable contributions.

Sterling Harris
Sterling Harris
Submitted by Sterling Harris on
The Hunter family was disenrolled from the Pechanga band by the enrollment committee not the Pechanga general council "a body of all adult members" as the author claims. I would know, I was there and I went through the disenrollment process with my family. We later appealed the decision to the tribal council which was our only recourse since Pechanga does not have an impartial means for adjudicating disputes of this nature. The arbiters both on the enrollment committee and the tribal council had a significant financial interest ($50-100k/year per member) in the outcome of our case. Perhaps the author glosses over this fact because it's so obvious. Many including Mark Macarro have attempted to claim that this isn't just about the money but that's a rather disingenuous claim. There were times in the 1980's when tribal meetings consisted of a small handful of participants. When the first per capita distributions were sent out, the meetings started to grow as did the membership rolls. Not surprisingly, one could observe a direct relationship between the amount of per capita payments and both the tribal membership and the number of meeting participants. There were numerous members of the Hunter family that were enrolled in the original wave in 1979/1980 long before the casino which is the only reason that we are not enrolled to this day.

Sterling Harris
Sterling Harris
Submitted by Sterling Harris on
The disenrollment decision rendered by the Pechanga enrollment committee and then reaffirmed by the tribal council challenged Paulina Hunter's credentials as an 'original Pechanga/Temecula person'. the claim was that she was not originally from the area. This claim was debunked by an expert that the tribe itself had paid to investigate Paulina Hunter's lineage. Naturally, the enrollment committee and the council disregarded his findings since they had already decided on the course of disenrollment. The author implies that the Pechanga general council (all members) made the decision to exclude our family from the tribe. The author fails to mention that before our family was disenrolled, in a special election, the general council passed an amendment to the tribal constitution which banned future disenrollments including ours. The tribal council and enrollment committee disregarded this and we have been denied due process ever since.

donrockero's picture
Submitted by donrockero on
To accept an allotment, they had to give up tribal membership? Really? is that why they are still listed in tribal census after 1890? The allotment process does not say that in History. This has been the worst article ever published in this site, misleading and false information.