Only 25 people will be able to attend a hearing for 234 Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribal members whose status with the Tribe could be at stake.
Family members representing the 13 disenrollment cases will attend the hearing at 1:30 p.m. on July 10.
The Tribe sent out a letter to the families facing disenrollment on May 14, said Paula Fisher, the attorney for the 234 members. The letter informed members that their disenrollment cases would be reopened, even though they had already been dismissed with prejudice in 2009.
“(Prejudice) very clearly means final adjudication of the case and you’re done,” Fisher said.
The 2009 cases were dismissed after the Tribal Council determined that it was the policy to allow collateral descent as well as lineal. Collateral descent allows members to trace their family blood lines to aunts and uncles. Lineal descent, on the other hand, allows them to trace blood lines back to their parents and grandparents.
Complicating the issue is the two-year turnover rate of Tribal Council members. There are no staggered terms for Tribal Council seats, unlike U.S. political systems. This allows for changes in political ideologies, Fisher said.
In 2009, according to Ordinance 14 in the Tribal Constitution, the cases were dismissed with prejudice and could not be reopened.
“The ordinance said that once you’ve been cleared, the Tribe can’t bring it up again,” Fisher said. “(My clients) relied on the administration that they were done with this, that this was the method to make them members. There are people that are losing everything.”
Phone calls seeking comment from Frank Cloutier, the public relations director for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, were not immediately returned.
The hearing on July 10 is not open to non-Tribal members.
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