Friday, March 7, 2014

William Pink's Letter to Tribal Leaders

Dear Tribal Leaders       

Honorable Members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Staff, Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs

In a recent decision by the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs, Kevin Washburn, surrendered the sovereign power and pre-emptive authority of the United States to determine the Degree of Indian Blood of an Indian person. He has formally recognized that this is now a reserved power of Tribes or their duly elected/appointed committees governing Tribal membership.

The decision was the result of various appeals made by recently disenrolled members of the Pala Tribe in California as well as myself, challenging a Tribe’s right to determine an individual’s degree of Indian Blood. (Please see the enclosed decision as it pertains to me)

At first glance this decision may appear to be harmless and even innocuous. The fact is this may be the most important decision ever made with respects to the relationship between Indians and the United States.

Tribes are now empowered to adopt ordinances/regulations, delegating to themselves the authority to determine who is and who is not an Indian and not just a Tribal member. This seems harmless but the reality is that such a system is subject to extreme abuse and it already has been.

It means that Tribes, depending upon their governmental structure, can make Indians into non-Indians and non-Indians into Indians and hence duly Federally recognized. As such the United States will be obligated to provide services to these non-Indian Indians and refuse service to Indians made non-Indians. One would have to surmise that Tribes will also have the authority to recognize non-citizens as Indian too. (Remember that Tribes were often split apart by international boundaries) This now provides an opportunity for these affected parties to become members of Tribes within the United States. This is an action long opposed by the United States.

A quick and short summary of the facts in my particular case is that my Tribe’s Executive Committee reduced the Degree of Indian Blood of my great grandmother from 4/4ths Indian to 1/2  Indian. This single action caused the disenrollment of more than 170 descendants of my great grandmother and a reduction of the degree of Indian Blood of more than 100 other descendants of my great grandmother. 

On appeal, the Pacific Regional Officer held that my great grandmother was indeed 4/4ths Indian but due to the Tribe’s Ordinance the BIA could not overcome the Tribe’s action and has allowed the decision to reduce my great grandmother’s Degree of Indian Blood to 1/2  to stand. Assistant Secretary, Kevin Washburn concurred.

Many of you, both Tribal and representatives of the United States, may think this a simple matter and of no concern. I promise you that if you take even a minute to consider the ramifications of this decision you will quickly realize that the ability to truly determine who is and who is not an Indian reaches catastrophic proportion.


A small Tribe can now enroll hundreds of people not entitled to Tribal membership while a large Tribe can now disenroll hundreds of people who are entitled to membership. 

I and my family have been rendered helpless in this matter. It is my hope that courageous individuals will take up this matter and stop this new genocide. 

You can find the complete details of this case at:


William J. Pink

No comments: