By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
After pouring through more than 18,000 file folders and over 115,000 documents, the staff of The Falmouth Institute presented the final Enrollment Audit report to Tribal Council last October. Now, some in the community are growing impatient with the lack of action taken with the results.
“Let’s not drag this out for another six months,” Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy said during a Tribal Council work session on the issue on Wednesday, March 17. “Our community met last week and they are adamant that this get done. They are tired of waiting. They have waited for seven years and they don’t understand why it’s taking so long.”
Her colleague, Big Cove Rep. Perry Shell, commented, “It is the consensus that we do this as soon as possible, but we need to be as thorough as possible as well.”
The work session was the second held to establish policies and procedures for dealing with the results of the audit (a 27-page document entitled “Enrollment Analysis Report”) which was presented to Tribal Council on Tuesday, Oct. 6 and published in the Cherokee One Feather on Tuesday, Oct. 20.
According to the results, there are around 300 records with no clear link to the Baker Roll, the benchmark by which enrollment in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is based.
During Wednesday’s session, Jennifer Bainbridge, with the EBCI Legal Dept., related that there are also 683 files found to not meet the enrollment requirements and 1,405 deemed “actionable”. According to the final report, actionable is defined as “files not containing sufficient information or files that contain information that does not support the current status of the individual.”
Bainbridge wants further and more exact clarification on those files as well as an answer as to whether the 300 records with no link to the Baker Roll is included in the 683 number or separate. “Are we going to have to address 683 files in disenrollment hearings?”
David Wyatt, EBCI GIS program, came forward with information on Wednesday that could help clear up some records and possibly muddle others. He has been in the process of scanning documents, mostly dealing with land records, at the Cherokee BIA Agency that he’s put into a huge Tribal database.
“In the process of scanning all of that information down there at BIA, we came across a little bit of everything.” He gave several examples of documents including: census records from 1912, 1918, and 1923; a revised Baker Roll from 1967; land records from Will Thomas dated to the mid-1800s; and some family histories.
Annette Tarnawsky, EBCI attorney general, said the family histories could be very compelling when dealing with enrollment issues as they might tell of live births not documented with birth certificates. “I don’t know who created those documents. I don’t know why they’re at BIA, but I think we need to look at them.”
Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke commented, “I think it’s really important for us to do the research on these documents. It’s really important that we review these documents. Don’t be hasty with the disenrollment hearings.”
The issue of what will happen to people’s property and per capita if they are disenrolled was also discussed on Wednesday. Bainbridge commented that property issues still haven’t been figured out. “I’m continuing to research that issue. There’s not any case law out there about Tribes that have disenrolled people and taken their property.”
Tarnawsky said a tribe in California could set some precedents in this area. “The Pechanga Tribe is the one that is taking the most action and setting the most case law. Up to this point, as far as I can tell, the Pechanga have not asked any disenrolled people to leave the reservation.”
She did relate that Tribes have the ability to take away the right of per capita payments from disenrolled persons.
Painttown Rep. Terri Henry said action needs to occur. “We’re trying to roll forward with establishing policies and procedures. I think we can roll forward, and in the meanwhile get this information that is historical.”
Cherokee County – Snowbird Rep. Diamond Brown Jr. agreed, “The people out there are definitely wanting to move forward with it.”