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Tribe can reopen previously dismissed disenrollment cases
9/11/2015 2:00:00 PM - Public Relations

Three independent Court of Appeals judges for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe issued its decision on Aug. 18, 2015 concerning the issue of whether or not the Tribe can reopen previously dismissed disenrollment cases. Tribal Court Appellate Judges Robert Kittecon, Andrew Pyatskowit and Dennis Peterson unanimously ruled that the Tribe can reopen prior dismissed disenrollment cases where the basis for disenrollment is that the members enrolled under Article III, Section 1(c) of the Constitution do not lineally trace.

Under Enrollment Ordinance No. 14 the Tribe may disenroll Tribal Members if the Tribe can show that the enrollment was a mistake or fraudulent. In an earlier case decided by the Appellate Court on Aug. 27, 2013, the Court held that only lineal tracing is permitted under Article III, Section 1(c) of the Tribal Constitution. A SCIT press release distributed by Public Relations Director Frank Cloutier said, “The Tribe argued that the cases should be allowed to be reopened in light of the clear interpretation of theConstitution provided by the Court’s decision in 2013 that only lineal tracing is permitted by the Tribe’s 1986 Constitution.”

The Court agreed with the Tribe stating that “retroactivecurative rules are acceptable because of the strong public interest in a fair government system.” The core of the recent Court of Appeals decision centers on 233 members whose cases were previously dismissed and may now be reopened.“The Appellants failure todemonstrate a particular violationof the Saginaw Constitution or ordinances is fatal to their case” and “We have repeatedly stated that the Court’s jurisdiction is limited to matters which affirmatively assigned under tribal law,” and that the delegation of the constitutional review responsibility does not “import carte blanche powers upon this court to supervise the manner in which the Tribal Council performs its constitutional responsibility” are the strong statements the Appellate Court said.

The people who are the subject of disenrollment proceedings have the benefit of hearings and evidentiary process through the Office of Administrative Hearings pursuant to the Tribe’s Enrollment Ordinance No. 14. The unanimous ruling of the three Tribal Court appellate judges upholds the ruling first issued by Tribal Court Judge Patrick Shannon on March 10, 2015.

Tribal Chief Steven Pego realizes how collateral tracing has divided the Tribe and is requesting a detente (the easing of hostility or strained relations) throughout the community.“The Tribe has been struggling with these enrollment issues for many years and has developed a very extensive procedural process and safeguards to provide due process to Tribal Members while protecting the ability of the Tribal government to fulfill its Constitutional obligations,” Pego said. “We cannot strip the rights of individuals to be native. We are merely honoring and executing the requirements of our Constitution so what is best for the many is best for our Tribal community. That is what is traditional.”  

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