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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Last modified Monday, August 21, 2006 9:25 PM PDT

Pechanga expert at getting rid of Indians

By: PHIL STRICKLAND — For The Californian

One of the biggest gambles these days for the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians is something akin to a shell game. A little genetic three-card Monty if you will. Now you see it, now you don't. Once you was, now you ain't.

And they're pretty darned good at it.

The sordid affair began in early 2004 when the tribal enrollment committee gave the boot to 133 of what up to that point had been their brethren. Since then, the case has been bouncing around the state and federal court systems, but that hasn't stopped the "real" Indians from protecting their heritage, which is turning ever greener, and we're not talking about the environment here, with each disenrollment.

The approximately 1,000-member tribe most recently disenrolled nearly 100 members of another family whose lineage, tribal leaders said, wasn't pure enough to partake of the lucre generated by the casino money machine operating on the reservation.

And a money machine it is. Estimates of the monthly take for each adult member of the tribe are from $10,000 to $15,000 and growing larger with each purge. Shoot, the Indians are decimating their numbers with as much prejudice, maybe more, as the white man did more than a century ago.

Forget all the legal smoke that's billowing around the issue, the real problem here is moral. And what the tribe's leadership is doing to its former members —— and if you examine the issue there is little question that the disenrollees are tribal descendants —— is obscene.

Of course, Mark Macarro, the inscrutable chairman of the Pechanga, defends the actions by saying ... nothing. After the most recent expulsions, he did deign to offer up a written statement. Must be someone told him the hithertofore comment that it is internal tribal business and none of ours, wasn't cutting it.

The statement read: "This is a very complex intertribal matter involving Pechanga history and genealogy. Questions about citizenship, therefore, are resolved by the Pechanga enrollment committee, the government body with the proper authority and ability to determine if a person meets criteria for Pechanga citizenship.

"The insinuation that these actions are motivated by politics or profits is reprehensible. The fact is that disenrollments occurred long before Pechanga ever opened its gaming facility."

Funny how the purges increased across the country in proportion to casino openings.

So who cares anyway? Most people probably don't. It's not one more dime in their pockets. Well, maybe so, but it's just not right and it's not just about the money.

Consider the plight of Lawrence Madariaga, 89, formerly the oldest male member living on the reservation. In a written statement he said: "Just three months (after I was honored by the tribe at a Christmas party) for my lifelong service to the tribe and the reservation, I was disenrolled. ... I have been told the same reservation clinic that I have worked so hard to build will no longer care for me or provide me with medical service." That goes for Sophia, his 86-year-old wife of 69 years, too.


Yep, Macarro and his henchmen are quite a bunch.

— Phil Strickland is a regular columnist for The Californian.

Some comments online

Amaryllis wrote on August 22, 2006 12:15 PM:"The idea of labelling what the State of California and the U.S. government did to California's Indian tribes as the same as the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Band disenrolling people who do not meet membership standards is wholly without merit. In the 1850s, State laws were enacted that allowed the indentured servitude of tribal members—who ranged from ages 2 to 50—by non-Indians. The federal government stripped tribes of their lands with false promises. (See the Tillie Hardwick case, Mr. Strickland). In the 1950s, the federal government unilaterally decided that many of California's tribes no longer existed (the Rancheria Act). In the 1950s the federal government relocated thousands of Indians to urban areas in an effort to assimilate them. And somehow Phil Strickland maintains *that* is the same as tribe determining for itself who its members should be? Phil Strickland shows a remarkable lack of knowledge of history. All across the country, federal law parceled tribally-owned land to individuals, which included any individual who happened to live on tribal land, whether tribal members or not. In some cases, the federal government needed the approval of the tribe to allot the lands, which it obtained by padding the allotment rolls to get the votes needed to pass. The federal government threw together people from different tribes to make a new one, with no regard of what their customs and traditions may have been—all Indians are the same, right? What is happening today is a movement for tribes to take back their own membership. Such actions may be motivated by necessity, sometimes by the opportunity to correct the federal government's own greed, sometimes by the tribe's own inherent ability to decide its membership, and, admittedly, sometimes by greed. But that is NOT Phil Strickland's, or anyone else's, place to judge. For Phil Strickland to come in and equate it with the genocide—as in the *actual* deaths—condoned and often conducted by non-Indian state and federal agents is uneducated at best and moronic at worst. You want to talk morality, Mr. Strickland? I suggest you take a look at more important issues that plague this country and this world rather than waste your time and ours smearing another Indian tribe. It's easy to make anyone the bad guy when they have money, right? Fool."


justin wrote on August 22, 2006 7:04 PM:"Amaryllis already stated it eloquently, but it's important enough to reiterate how wholly offensive/disgusting Mr. Phil's genocide" comparisons were. It's certainly of note somewhere in there to consider the fact that dis-enrollment doesn't necessarily strip someone of their heritage, even while it strips them of government recognition thereof. No one ever required a foreign government to decide who was what in Indian country(ies) before ones came in and did just that. Those people may still be Pechanga, even if the government's "legitimized" Pechanga representatives don't consider them as such. Always been that way, the dominion of the U.S. government doesn't change that. But of even greater note perhaps within that discussion of genocide, is that the Pechangas are not offering bounties on the heads of their former members. If the traditional governments still existed, these matters would not be the issues they are now (which apparently amount to fodder for 'journalists' to hyperbolically dramatize to cleanse their own polities' past). Take issue with the Pechanga, sure. Take issue with your government as well for establishing a system whereby these things can happen (they couldn't happen if not for that, don't forget). That is, if you're genuinely concerned about Indian issues, and not merely employing any negatives within tribal circles to take shots only and leave 'til the next opportunity arrives. But don't turn discord into a holocaust for effect, Mr. Strickland. And maybe from that, it's not such a good idea to suggest this dis-enrollment "genocide" might be worse than the one that terrorized and murdered untold numbers. Maybe you are right though to suggest there's more prejudice......... Those ones of a century and over ago used none in distinguishing whose scalp was worth some money, only which were given more value."

Rob's reply
Stereotype alert!

The following are some of the stereotypes in this article. All serve to paint the Pechanga Indians as greedy, immoral, and flat-out evil:

On the surface, the greed argument seems a little farfetched. Suppose tribal members each earn $15,000 a month before disenrolling 100 people. Afterward, suppose they earn $16,000 a month. When you're earning $180,000 a year, do you really need another $12,000? Is it really worth the clashes between families and friends, the terrible publicity, the potential court rulings against your government, etc.?

If you buy Strickland's argument, the Pechangas must be incredibly, inhumanly greedy. A thousand-plus Indians all willing to kick out their "brethren" for a measley 7% raise? Wow. This unsubstantiated claim is what makes Strickland's column stereotypical.

In addition, let's note that the Pechangas have elected Macarro several times by notable margins. What does that tell you? That the majority of the Pechangas back the actions of "Macarro and his henchmen."

So it's really the democratic majority of Pechangas acting against the disenrolled minority of Pechangas. Anything wrong with that? In a democracy, not really.

In the US, the majority imposes taxes on the rich or cuts welfare benefits for the poor. Both are financial penalties akin to cutting off the benefits of certain Pechangas. It may not be morally just, but the voters who act thusly aren't thugs or murderers.

As for this comment:

Funny how the purges increased across the country in proportion to casino openings.

Actually, no, it's not funny. Rather, it's perfectly understandable. For one thing, tribes like Pechanga didn't have the resources to investigate enrollment questions until they rebuilt their governments with gaming revenues. For another, before gaming arrived, there was no reason to investigate people who may not have belonged on the rolls. Now there's a reason.

Strickland doesn't offer any evidence that the disenrollees' claims are legitimate. Even if he did, this evidence comes from the disenrollees, so it may be biased. Until all the evidence is out in the open, the issue will remain unresolved.

Related links
The facts about Indian gaming—disenrollment

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