Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 15, 2013

Colville Members for Justice granted initial hearing in Colville Tribal Court

Colville Members for Justice granted initial hearing in Colville Tribal Court

By Yvonne L. Swan
Yvonne Swan

Censored News

Arguments will begin in Colville Tribal Court on August 21 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. regarding a Civil Complaint filed by Yvonne L. Swan on May 23, 2013 against fourteen (14) tribal members who were then seated on the Colville Business Council—John E. Sirois; Michael O Finley; N. Lynn Palmanteer-Holder; Brian Nissen; Richard Swan, Sr.; Jim Boyd; Luana Boyd-Rowley; William Nicholson, II; Darlene Zacherle; Joseph Somday; Nancy Johnson; Ernest Brooks, III; Benjamin Marchand, Jr.; and Andrew Joseph, Jr.
    Over the past 18 months elected representatives refused to hear Colville tribal voices of concern, a denial that compelled several people to organize as Colville Members for Justice and eventually raise their voices on behalf of 2,700 members who signed a petition asking the Business Council for the remainder of the $193 Million trust settlement.
    The settlement in question resulted from a claim filed against the Secretary of the Interior (Kenneth Salazar et al) through US District Court, No.: 1:05-CV-02471-TFH for mismanagement of the Tribes’ trust funds and non-monetary trust assets. This entire mismanagement took place over the past 100 years and the actual amount of losses that affected the people is unknown to the general membership.
    The Complaint asks the Court to stop Sirois et al from spending or planning to spend any of the remainder of the $193 Million trust settlement until this case is resolved and the membership of the Tribes is vindicated. It also asks that the Council give a full accounting of the 2012 and 2013 status of the settlement including any interest earned and provide a complete description of any/all expenditures to date.
    Other relief asked of the Court is to Order the Respondents to direct all programs and departments to return all monies taken from the people in 2012 and afford them due process. After the 2012 Referendum passed in favor of members to receive an additional 30% in addition to the original 20% the Council initially decided to give them, the Council retaliated by passing an Emergency Resolution on August 20, 2012 stating in part “…Holds are allowed for all Tribal programs, including but not limited to the following…” and it lists 14 programs including BIA, Housing, and Tribal Court. Plaintiffs question the legality of this Resolution and will address it in Court.
    Sirois et al had the Office of Reservation Attorneys file a Notice of Appearance on their behalf, but tribal members are asking the Court to exclude them from the case due to conflict of interest and to Order Sirois et al to retain private counsel.
    Our argument is based on precedents set dating back to the 1950s whereby tribal
representatives immediately informed the members and allowed them to vote; and, in
those instances up to 1994 all claims settlement monies were immediately disbursed equally to each enrolled tribal member. The tribal Council sets policy and policy is expected by the membership to follow tradition.
    Members emphatically hold that this settlement is compensation to the Tribe and the Tribe consists of its membership. If the Council really cared for the people, the people would not have had to resort to a class action against them in order to be heard.

    “The reason this Claims issue became so heated is due to lack of complete and truthful information. I've had to sift through information and toss out untruths for months in search of the truth. This shouldn't be happening. Sure, nobody's perfect, but at least we can be open and honest about tribal matters. We ask honest questions and expect honest answers.
    Anything that has to do with our land and life on this Reservation is of utmost importance to each and every one of us. The majority of people I’ve talked with don’t trust the Council because they feel the Council has mismanaged our funds just as much as the federal government mismanaged our resources.” –Yvonne L. Swan

For Immediate Release
from August 14 until August 21


Unknown said...

I have lost all faith and respect for the Tribal Council. After emails, and letters sent-to Sirois-and no response, I believe there is a massive cover up. Zero accountablility.

catherine brooks said...

being a tribal member I'm sure the council has had their hands in it already they don't have any worries the people should have the say and to out vote the council not the council take over