Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

April 2, 2012

Western Shoshone against Disenrollment WeSAD battle for rights

WeSAD (Western Shoshone against Disenrollment)
Lois Whitney (775) 340-9897, Myron Tybo (775) 744-4574 and Lydell Oppenhein (775) 635-9064
Posted at Censored News

Native People are the only people in the United States who have to prove their birthright with an “enrollment number” in order to belong to a certain band. On Wednesday, March 28, 2012, Shoshones filled the Elko Band Council Chambers to protest the disenrollment process.  Since 2003, numerous Shoshone elders, children, and general population have been cruelly disenrolled by the Enrollment Committee. Through heated discussions, unconstitutional actions were questioned.  Reasons for the protests were the failure of the enrollment committee to abide by the ex post facto law thus destroying the citizenship of Shoshone people.  Ex post facto is defined as making laws backwards in time.

The Te-Moak Tribal Council is made up of representatives from four bands: Battle Mountain, Elko, South Fork and Wells. Several challenged the two Elko Band Council members stating there were only two ways a person could be disenrolled: 1) voluntarily relinquishing their membership, 2) dual enrollment with another tribe.

During the last several weeks, the Western Shoshone against Disenrollment (WeSAD) has worked tirelessly to challenge the disenrollment process because hundreds of Shoshone people have lost citizenship through disenrollment. Disenrollment to Shoshone populations means a loss of identity, benefits, the right to homes, land assignments, health benefits, the right to vote and run for office and employment under the Indian Preference law.

Genocidal actions throughout the century have taken its toll on the language and perhaps 50% of the band council understood the Elder who questioned passionately (in Shoshone language) the motive of the band council to act contrary to their primary goal to assist members, instead of destroying their rights. However, the majority of the Shoshone audience understood and applauded the Elder for speaking out. The majority agreed disenrollment was unlawful and spoke in opposition of this harsh action.

Letters have been received by tribal people notifying them of disenrollment because of an “error.” These people were requested to bring papers documenting ancestry. However, the “Enrollment” Committee (who made the initial decision) were the same people the “disenrolled” tribal members were instructed to “appeal” to; consequently, the Shoshones were being robbed of due process.

As a final point, the Elko Band Council took a vote to halt the disenrollment process and reinstate tribal individuals’ rights to membership which met with jubilation from the crowd. In a surprise move, the Elko Band Council also took a vote to remove those Te-Moak representatives who did not represent the decision of the Elko Band Council. The other band councils opposed the disenrollment actions through formal resolutions sent to the parent council, the Te-Moak Tribal Council. Next step for WeSAD will be to present information in front of the parent council, the Te-Moak Tribe, at the regularly scheduled meeting April 4, 2012

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