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Michael Hiltzik / GOLDEN STATE

A Family Says It's Greed, not Heritage, When Tribal Membership Is Questioned

September 04, 2003|Michael Hiltzik

Despite this mountain of evidence, the tribe has continued to press the disenrollment case, raising the family's suspicions about its motives. The Foremans believe the chief threat to its standing, however, is not the question of documentation, but the quasi-judicial procedures the tribe has established in the matter. These include a merging of an evidentiary hearing before the tribal council with a general vote on the disenrollment by a secret ballot of all adult tribal members present later this month.

With the hearing and the balloting combined, the family fears they are being set up to lose a massively self-interested vote. Their concern is intensified by the tribe's plan to bar the Foremans from voting, on the grounds that they have a direct financial interest in the outcome.

As for the financial interest of the rest of the tribe, the council argues that it's only indirect and should not have a bearing on the general right to vote.

"They're trying to dress this up so it looks like a hearing with evidence," Stuhff says. "I'd call it a kangaroo court, but that would be unfair to Australian marsupials."

Rapport counters that the system has been in place for several years, and that it has been applied to at least one other family. (Its three members were disenrolled.) At the session, set for Sept. 27, the Foremans will have a full opportunity to present their evidence, he adds.

"The tribe enacted a procedure and they're following it in good faith," Rapport says. "If the Foremans are right and their argument is persuasive, they should win."

Family members aren't as confident that the outcome will be just.

Says Carla Maslin, whose earliest memories include the mimosa trees in the front of her great-grandmother's house and the blackberries she and the other children picked out back: "I watch my two grandchildren and know I'm looking at our future, while we're also looking at our past. I've never been involved in anything so hurtful."

Golden State appears every Monday and Thursday. Michael Hiltzik can be reached at golden.state@latimes.com.

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