Tribal Council takes stand against personal attacks at public meetings

Eight Tribal Council members signed a statement issued on Thursday, Feb. 1, that takes a stand against personal attacks, particularly those against Chief Tumulth descendants, during public meetings.

The statement was disseminated using the Tribe’s new Listserv function and was posted on Tribal Council’s Facebook page.

The statement was prompted by comments made by Tribal Elder Brenda Gray during the Wednesday, Jan. 24, Tribal Council meeting in which she said it was her opinion that Chief Tumulth descendants who had disenrollment proceedings against them dismissed are not Tribal members and should not be serving on the Enrollment Board.

Excerpts of Gray’s exchange with Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy, which started at the 54-minute mark in the meeting, include:

“We got people on there now that was disenrolled and then the courts made the decision and we know they’re zero Grand Ronde because that’s in the court papers, and now they’re on our Enrollment committee” Gray said.

“They are real Tribal members,” Kennedy responded.

“To me they’re still not Tribal members. Courts made them, but they’re not,” Gray said.

At the Jan. 10 Tribal Council meeting, Gray also criticized Tribal Council for placing unspecified non-members on Tribal committees and special event boards.

“At a number of Tribal Council meetings, including the last meeting, statements have been made suggesting that certain Tribal members are not ‘Grand Ronde’ and should not be appointed to Tribal committees or boards,” the Tribal Council statement says. “These statements are aimed at descendants of Chief Tumulth who were the subject of disenrollment proceedings. The (Tribal) Council views these statements as inappropriate personal attacks. They must stop.

“We do not have classes of membership. Grand Ronde members – including those whose membership was restored following disenrollment proceedings – share equal rights, benefits and responsibilities. All Tribal members are entitled to the same level of respect. Statements suggesting anyone is a lesser member are offensive and will not be tolerated.”

The only Tribal Council member who did not sign the statement was Jack Giffen Jr., who also voted on Jan. 10 against the re-appointment of two Grand Ronde Appeals Court judges who were part of a unanimous three-judge ruling that ended disenrollment proceedings against the Chief Tumulth descendants in August 2016.

Giffen, who was absent from the Jan. 24 meeting because he was representing the Tribe at the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians’ Winter Convention in Portland, said during the Wednesday, Feb. 7, Tribal Council meeting that he did not sign the statement because he was not at the meeting and unaware of what occurred.

“When it came time to sign it, it was the following Monday and we were in a training down at the casino and it was presented to me,” Giffen said. “I knew nothing about it. I had no background on it. Basically, I was asked to sign it without any information on it, which is not the way I work.”

Although Cascades Indian Chief Tumulth is a treaty signer of the Willamette Valley Treaty of 1855, he never made it to the Grand Ronde Reservation to validly appear on an official roll or record of Grand Ronde Tribal members created by the Department of the Interior. Tumulth was executed in April 1856 by the U.S. Army before the Grand Ronde Reservation was established. However, his descendants were enrolled into the Tribe by previous Tribal Councils after Restoration occurred in 1983.

The Tribe’s Appeals Court ruled that the “alleged enrollment errors” regarding the Chief Tumulth descendants had occurred so long ago that the Tribe had failed to act within a reasonable amount of time to correct it.

The Tribe’s Enrollment Board subsequently voted in early October 2016 to dismiss its decision to disenroll the 67 descendants and they immediately became eligible for all Tribal services again.

Since then, Chief Tumulth descendants have been appointed to Tribal committees and special event boards, including Tribal Elder Debi Anderson to the Enrollment Board and Russell Wilkinson on the Tribal Employment Rights Office Commission. In addition, Jade Unger was appointed to the Ceremonial Hunting Board, Mia Prickett to the Editorial Board and Eric Bernando to the Culture Committee in 2017.

“Please remember, we are all Grand Ronde,” the Tribal Council statement concludes.

“Our family is very thankful for the Tribal Council’s statement as it serves to protect all Tribal members from personal attacks,” Wilkinson said. “We have always felt that we belonged as full members even during the disenrollment process. This family remembers that ‘We are all Grand Ronde’ as council’s statement concludes. I am also honored to be able to serve the Tribe by volunteering for the appointment to the TERO Commission.”

Kennedy read the Tribal Council statement at the Sunday, Feb. 4, General Council meeting and received applause.

“We did take that action to let everyone know that we will adhere to make sure that folks when they come to the mic understand that we are not here to make disparaging remarks against anyone,” Kennedy said. “We are very serious.”

Tribal member Bryan Mercier asked how Tribal Council knows that other forms of discrimination are not occurring against Chief Tumulth descendants.

Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Hernandez said that the statement has been sent to the chairs of all Tribal committees and special event boards and it will be discussed at the upcoming annual board summit.

Kennedy also read the statement at the Wednesday, Feb. 7, Tribal Council meeting and again received applause.

Tribal Council member Kathleen George, speaking during a Smoke Signals podcast posted on Spreaker.com on Monday, Feb. 5, said it is time for elected and community Tribal leaders to work on unifying the Tribe and not fostering division.

“The case against the Chief Tumulth family was decided in our court quite a while ago. It’s done,” George said. “It’s time for our Tribe to heal and move forward together.”

Ironically, Tribal Council voted to re-assume responsibility for final decisions regarding involuntary loss of membership cases at the Jan. 24 meeting. In 2014 in the midst of the controversial disenrollment proceedings, Tribal Council divested itself of that responsibility and placed the final decision-making authority on the Enrollment Board.