In response to the Sept. 27 column by Peter Kenney regarding the denial of basic human rights on Indian Territory I can assure your readers that this problem is national in scope and of deep concern to all Native people. The actual practice of disenrolling tribal members began among the Oneidas of New York State in 1995 when a group of Native women expressed their concerns about the total lack of financial accountability with regards to the Turning Stone Casino. When the women sought a forensic audit they were harrassed, threatened, branded as "traitors" and finally stripped of all of the their tribal benefits.
They took their case to the US federal courts but in a historic decision handed down by the liberal Second Circuit Court of Appeals (see Shenandoah v. Halbritter) in New York they were told that although the justices were sympathetic to their condition the women had no recourse under US laws. The Court further ruled that the Bill of Rights under the federal consitution, which establishes the freedoms hundreds of thousands of Americans have died to protect, does not apply in Indian country.
As reprehensible as this is to most Americans the Second Circuit's ruling was sustained by the US Supreme Court. Once the Oneida Tribe was free to supress its own people other Indian governments followed suit from California to Massachusetts. At the bottom of this are those external interests who seek to use Native people for their own material gain without the encumbarances of democracy.
The governor of your state has a way to resolve this: insist that any tribal government enact an enforceable Bill of Rights and provide for open accountability of all gambling operations before signing a gaming compact.
Oneida, NY 13421