The California Valley Miwok Tribe (CVMT) is a federally recognized tribe governed under a traditional governance structure and its membership is certain. CVMT has been continuously recognized by the United States since at least 1916. The historical record, and by BIA’s own dealings, shows that Silvia Burley, Rashel Reznor, Angelica Paulk and Tristian Wallace are members of the Tribe.
The California Valley Miwok Tribe is Organized under traditional tribal law and governing documents outside the IRA
- The Tribe is self-governing and the law protects the Tribe’s right to maintain or establish its own form of government.
- Unless surrendered by a tribe or abrogated by Congress, tribes possess inherent and exclusive power over matters of internal tribal governance.
- Tribes may adopt governing documents and constitutions outside of the IRA process.
- The Tribe has governing documents that create a General Council. In 1998, the Tribe, with the assistance of the BIA, adopted a resolution that has served as its governing document outside of the IRA.
The BIA is allowing a casino developer funded group of outside individuals to hold an IRA election to make themselves members of CVMT
- The BIA has approved a request from a group of individuals to reorganize an already federally recognized and organized tribal government.
- This bold request came from non-members of the tribe.
- It is unknown whether these non-members are members of other tribes
- It is unknown whether these non-members are individuals who are attached to petitions for federal recognition before the Department.
- It is unknown whether these non-members are Indians.
- The BIA violated the Tribe constitutional due process rights: The BIA failed to provide notice that it approved holding a Secretarial election to organize the Tribe under IRA.
- The non-members and their legal team are funded and influenced by a casino developer.
- BIA has no authority to validate a petition for a Secretarial election by people that are not members and most importantly are not an Indian tribe as defined by the IRA.
- The decision by the BIA failed to consider the threshold issue whether the IRA should be applied at all.
- For the petition of the Secretarial election to be valid, the non-member petitioners must be an “Indian tribe” under Section 16 of the IRA.
- Therefore, the BIA has misinterpreted the Indian Reorganization Act’s application to this Tribe.
- The Decision to hold a Secretarial election is an unlawful interference in a membership dispute of the Tribe. There is no leadership dispute because Yakima Dixie, a member of the Tribe, died in December 2017.
- Non-members seeking membership in the Tribe must apply in accordance with tribal law, not circumvent this process entirely by petitioning directly to the BIA.
The Tribe does NOT have to reorganize nor have an IRA election
- The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA), among other things authorizes Indian tribes to reorganize and adopt constitutions.
- Indian tribes only may take advantage of the right afforded them by Congress under Section 16 of the IRA.
- To do so, Indian tribes must proactively seek and invoke those provisions.
- The California Valley Miwok Tribe has NOT petitioned the BIA for a Secretarial election under IRA.
- Only Silvia Burley, Rashel Reznor, Angelica Paulk and Tristian Wallace can request a Secretarial election under Section 16 of the IRA.
- There is no requirement pursuant to statute or judicial order that requires CVMT to organize or reorganize under IRA.
- The BIA has acted beyond its statutory mandate.
The Assistant Secretary should assume Jurisdiction over this internal tribal membership matter
- Staying the April 15, 2019 election minimizes the impact; if the election is held pulling it back is an extraordinary task for all involved—conceptually similar to taking land into trust
- The Secretary has assumed jurisdiction in similar matters where it is that this is a membership dispute of or the circumstances are unusual.
- The BIA has approved a Secretarial election without a careful consideration of whether the IRA’s elements were met.
- The BIA merely got a petition from non-members and applied the regulations and mechanically plodded forward.
- Just because the BIA has known there might be so called potential members, the BIA can point to no statute or juridical order or tribal governing document that allows the application to the federally recognized Tribe known as the CVMT.
- The law does not allow for a hiatus tribe and therefore CVMT, headed by tribal Representative, Silva Burley is the last recognized government.
- The absence of Yakima Dixie means this is fundamentally a membership dispute.
- Non-members are trying to use the leadership dispute created by a dead member of the tribe to bootstrap and secretarial election.
- There is little doubt that the motivation of the non-members is control of the tribe backed by casino development interests.
- The CVMT, through tribal representive Silvia Burley, are not seeking a casino; the Tribe wishes to resolve this matter, stop the secretarial election and return to government-to-government relations with the United States in earnest and resolve its membership matters under tribal law.
- If the so-called “Secretarial election” scheduled for April 15, 2019 is allowed to proceed as planned, the interference with tribal self-determination and the inherent sovereignty of a tribe to self-govern will result in irreparable harm to the Tribe.
The Precedential Impact on Indian Policy
- If the BIA’s decision stands, CVMT Secretarial election precedent may encourage others to create leadership disputes to reorganize similarly situated tribes.
- Such precedent potentially exacerbates long-standing membership disputes in other tribes nationwide and create an avenue, real or perceived, that the Secretarial election process may be used to seek BIA assistance to interfere and open the sacred internal affairs of tribal membership.
- If the BIA’s decision stands, CVMT Secretarial election precedent may encourage individuals that are part of groups that have or are seeking federal recognition to petition the BIA for membership in existing tribes.