Grand Ronde disenrollment overturned

The Grand Ronde Tribe continues to make headlines. The latest: the tribe’s decision to disenroll decedents of Chief Tumulth has been overturned.

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The Grand Ronde Tribal Court of Appeals has reversed the mass disenrollment of 66 living descendants of Chief Tumulth, the signatory of the 1855 Treaty With The Kalapuya that established the Grand Ronde Reservation. 

The court found in favor of the petitioners largely due to a 27-year delay in correcting what the Tribe argued was an enrollment error. The lengthy delay caused “prejudice,” the court said, making it difficult to collect evidence to prove lineage.

The Tribe’s enrollment committee disenrolled 86 members in 2013, claiming these members didn’t actually meet the criteria for enrollment. The family filed an appeal in 2015, which was upheld.

Chief Tumulth’s decedents filed a second appeal with the Grand Ronde Tribal Court of Appeals earlier this year. When I talked to Tribal Chairman Reyn Leno last month, he said the decision was based on an audit.

“It ended up 115 people were disenrolled because they did not meet the criteria in our constitution,” he said.

“This ruling is incredible news that we hope sets a new precedent for not only our tribe but also for all tribes engaged in the self-destructive practice of disenrollment,” said Russell Wilkinson, spokesperson for the Tumulth descendants in a press release. “This is the first ruling in our case that was issued by Native judges — and that made the difference.”

The Court also noted that “Tribal citizenship is as important as U.S. citizenship” and that disenrollment is an “extreme sanction for tribal citizens,” thus requiring heightened scrutiny for any future Grand Ronde disenrollment effort.

Oregon Business has reached out to the Grand Ronde Tribe for comment.