Elko Daily Free Press

Tribal enrollment dispute gathers momentum




ELKO - Irate Western Shoshone Indians gathered outside Te-Moak Tribal headquarters Thursday evening while a committee met individually with those facing threatened loss of tribal membership.

While they waited, they collected signatures for a recall petition against all Elko Band Council members except the chairwoman, Glory Two Eagles.

Two Eagles said she supported those fighting to retain their membership in the wake of a new ordinance from the tribal council that could potentially take away that membership.

"They're violating tribal members' rights. I am here to support the constitution and tribal enrollment. We have one constitution and that's what we're going by," Two Eagles said.

The Te-Moak Tribal Council recently decided only those registered in a 1937 census and their descendants are eligible for Te-Moak membership, while opponents maintain the tribal constitution has amendments that widen the enrollment.

Former tribal Chairman Felix Ike said the tribal council sent notices to 31 Western Shoshone in his extended family asking them to appear before the new membership committee and bring documentation, but other families could face the same threat.

"What happened to my family could happen to you," he said. Ike said that when he went inside, he told the committee members they were violating the constitution, and didn't follow procedure with their new membership ordinance.

He then announced that there would be a meeting after the hearings to explain "what's going on." Ike and his family could face disenrollment, which could mean they could no longer live on Te-Moak reservation land.

Ike also said he has contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office regarding the membership controversy. Alfreda Walker, vice chairwoman of the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe, said she came from Duckwater to show support for the Ike and Sam families who received notices.

Arvilla Conetah of Elko said after coming out of the hearing that the committee asked her name and whether Marie Williams was her advocate. Williams presented documentation and that was the extent of the hearing. "They said they would let us know," Conetah said.

Tribal law officers escorted the people inside individually, and Williams was advocate for each one. Tribal Administrator Elwood Mose said last week that the amendments Ike is talking about still rely on the 1973 enrollment, and the tribal office began notifying people that their records "were in error." "There has been no disenrollment," Mose said at that time.

Stevens was inside the building for the hearing and unavailable for comment Thursday evening. The petitions prepared for signatures state that the Elko Band Council members listed should be recalled because they violated the tribal constitution.

A separate petition was prepared for each member, and another one will be prepared for Stevens. Ike was also upset Thursday evening regarding a new membership ordinance he said must have just been passed because it didn't match a copy of the one he saw earlier. He held it up for all those outside the office to see.

Last week, Ike said in a telephone interview that the "whole thing is driven by politics." Ike was re-elected to the Elko Band Council last fall but he said he was removed when he didn't attend meetings in protest to council action.

Those remaining on the council, in addition to Two Eagles, include Stevens, Darla Lozano, Marlene Cortez, Jody Abe and Dana Cassadore.

All six of them also are on the Te-Moak Tribal Council, along with Brandon Reynolds, Larson Bill, Lydia Sam, Lavona Johnson and Kristie Begay, according to Two Eagles.