Committee Report on Idaho Delaware Issue
Prepared for and submitted to the June Tribal Council meeting, reprinted in July 2011 Delaware Indian News
A committee was appointed at the May 2, 2011 Tribal Council meeting to research the feasibility of and the best vehicle to allow the Idaho Delaware to become members of the Delaware Tribe. Tom Moore was appointed chairman. Members included Chet Brooks, Jenifer Pechonick, Charles Randall, Don Mason, Cris Klinger and others.
The committee had two conference call meetings. The duties, as understood by the committee, were to try to verify the information received at the May Council meeting and to research the best way to bring the Idaho Delaware into the Tribe, if that was what the Tribal Council chose to do.
After reviewing the available materials, performing research in applicable areas, and several discussions with the committee members, we have found two distinguishing issues that we feel must guide the Tribal Council’s next steps with the Idaho Delaware’s membership request. We have also come to a consensus on what we feel are the next appropriate steps to take if it is the Tribal Council’s wish to assist the qualified Idaho Delaware to gain membership into the tribe.
Issue #1 – There are several groups across the country claiming to be “Delaware Indians” but the Idaho Delaware group is distinct from all other groups that we are currently aware of and, as such, are due additional consideration. As many of you may know, the case of the Idaho Delaware is unique because their lineal ancestors trace back to our Oklahoma group and were part of the group who left Kansas for Oklahoma during the late 1800’s. Available information traces the Idaho Delaware’s ancestor (Rebecca Lucas) to the 1867 Pratt Removal Rolls and was due an allotment in Oklahoma like so many of our own ancestors, however, she died sometime prior to 1898 and was therefore not listed on the 1906 rolls. Her heirs/children were misidentified on subsequent rolls and eventually left Oklahoma and ended up in Wyoming and then Idaho. The committee feels that given this similar identity and history (as Delaware Indians removed from Kansas to Oklahoma), there is no other group befitting the rightful heirs to Rebecca Lucas than our own.
Issue #2 – The Delaware Tribe of Indians Constitution stipulates in Article 2, Section 1 that our tribal members be those included on the 1906 per capita roll and their descendents. The second paragraph of that Section gives the Tribal Council “the power to enact ordinances, to establish rules and regulations governing membership, adoption, procedures for enrollment, and preparation and approval of an official membership roll.” As we all know, this Constitution was re-adopted by our people and submitted to the BIA as part of the approval process to regain our federal recognition. The main issue here lies in the reading of that second paragraph. Since the terms, membership, adoption, and enrollment are not defined within the document, they are subject to interpretation. We feel that if someone in a position of judgment were to interpret them strictly, the second paragraph of that Section may read as giving the Tribal Council the authority to oversee the policies and procedures in place to ensure that the requirements of the first paragraph are met, i.e. adopting genealogy forms, enrollment cards, membership cards, etc. to prove lineage from the 1906 rolls. However, if someone in a position of judgment were to interpret the terms more broadly then the second paragraph may actually vest the Tribal Council with the ability to perform adoptions of new members into the tribe after establishing rules and regulations to do so. The problem here is that nothing in the document appears to support that broader reading, performing adoptions is not listed in the enumerated powers of the Tribal Council in Article 5 of the Constitution, and aside from one instance (occurring long before our recognition issues) has adoption been a common tribal practice. Our conclusion is that the waters are far too muddy in this area and we are provided with no clean way to add membership to our tribe that woul pass outside scrutiny from either tribal members or the BIA, and an amendment to the Delaware Constitution is needed to clarify the intentions of the language.
Rather than attempt to create some vague new regime within our constitution or rectify the above-described issue in regards to adoption and enrollment, our basic concept is to do the bare minimum change that will provide the desired result without any undesired side effects. We agree that if our Constitution included an earlier roll of those removed from Kansas to Oklahoma, whom many of us already consider to be our kinsman, were used along with our 1906 per capita roll, then the Idaho Delaware could become eligible for membership and the integrity of our tribe would not be breached. One major concern is that we would need to fully ve any list to ensure that it only includes those who share this common bond, and it is also important that the list was prepared by the federal government during roughly the same time period. This should alleviate any concerns about objectivity or impropriety in our process or reasoning.
To be clearer, the committee feels that the next best steps are as follows:
1. Determine whether or not the Tribal Council supports the membership of the Idaho Delaware in our tribe. (Funds will be required to perform the following task and support will be needed to keep this process moving forward.)
2. Contract with Dr. Obermeyer to evaluate and compare the 1906 rolls currently used with the final roll compiled of Delaware living in Kansas who opted to remove themselves to Oklahoma with the rest of the tribe– likely the 1867 Pratt Removal Roll, though research may provide a better candidate roll. (At the conclusion of this evaluation a decision will need to be made about the best way to proceed, whether that roll can actually be used without unknown complications, if a different roll should be evaluated, or any other issues that may arise through such evaluation.)
3. Seek a pre-conditioned BIA approval of a minor Constitutional change to include an additional roll as a source for membership to identify any issues. (If the BIA is adamant about denying any such requests or is unsupportive of the concept, it would be better to know early on to properly maneuver through any obstacles prior to getting the full tribal body involved.)
4. Package the information for tribal membership and either pull together 100 signatures to get an amendment including such roll in the membership provisions of the constitution or seek a 2/3 majority passed resolution from the Tribal Council to get on the ballot. (To avoid backlash over cost, this would probably need to go on a regularly scheduled election ballot.)
5. Receive 2/3-majority vote in the Tribal Election.
6. Return to the BIA for final approval of the constitutional amendment.
In closing I would like to note that we are all very appreciative of the opportunity to serve the tribe and will await further direction from the Tribal Council. During our last conference call we requested that Dr. Obermeyer prepare a cost estimate to evaluate and compare the past rolls and that will be provided once it is complete, though it is important to note, that his work is not an exact science and will be an estimate only.
Thank you, Tom Moore