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The tribe’s constitution spells out who is a member of the tribe and who is not.
My family members are direct lineal descendants of the tribe’s distributees Marian and William Wilder. No matter how much Wandesha’s family wish it weren’t so, it is there until the earth blows up and disintegrates all particles of the earth.
My family qualifies as categories A, B, and C, according to the specifications of the tribe’s constitution. It would only be category D eligible applicants that must go before the General Council of the tribe, which is comprised of all of the adult qualified registered voters of the tribe, to be voted into the tribe or not. Allegedly, this process has only happened once.
Because each of our family members were born from an original distributee listed, and their qualified dependents, and their children, that is how we are constitutionally connected to the tribe.
Historically, preceding the current structure of the tribe’s political status, my direct ancestors were listed as one of the original people who were placed to live on the designated lands that were purchased in 1908 to get homeless Indians out of the way of the general population of the nearby “American” establishments. Before then, the Pomo’s would been seen utilizing ancient Pomo Pathways that trailed from what is now Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma Counties.
Every Indian was a homeless Indian in the eyes of California. For legal reasons and others, California’s Bureau of Indian Affairs sent out to have rancheria lands purchased in large scales up and down California. Some locales, such as Round Valley in Covelo, CA had many tribes smashed together to comprise one tribe. They have a very documented brutal historical account of how Round Valley became.
In a romanticized PG rated version, the rancheria systems were created where the local Indians can live peacefully and privately so that they may carry on their ancestral traditions without interference.
In 1928, the federal government conducted a grand scaled undertaking to formally register and document every California Indian. Among those of my family members who were documented were my great grandmother Marian Edwards Wilder and her grandmother Laura Wilbell who were both registered, documented, signed, sealed and resided in Hopland Rancheria.
These 1928 California Indian Judgement Rolls would become one of the most important documents for the future rights and enrollments of any other California indigenous Indian. It is from these documents that determined certain things for certain people. Namely, land assignments that would later become land allotments that later became distribution of assets for Hopland Band of Pomo Indians of the Hopland Rancheria.
My grandmother Marian Wilder and her husband William Wilder were almost not included on the tentative distribution plan back in 1960 because Chester Elliott was claiming her parcel. We share zero blood with the Elliott family, so this wasn’t a familial claim.
The bureau offered a “protest” period before finalizing the distribution plan. This gave the Indians a time-frame in which they can formally correct any discrepancies, request to have any changes made or to even complain that they weren’t being considered for distribution in name.
My grandmother Marian wrote a two page protest to the BIA declaring that she had a right to a parcel along with her grown daughters. In her protest, she attested to certain things that were happening on the reservation and the attempts by a select few in power at that time in unfair practices (sound familiar?) such as rigged elections, land theft, violent retaliations, etc.
The BIA certified a letter back to my grandmother, acknowledging her letter of protest and granted her the right to her parcel. In the BIA acknowledgment letter, the agent also acknowledged that the current claimant who was Chester Elliott, would be removed from the parcel and be given another. We have the certified letters from the BIA to both our grandmother and Chester Elliott clearing this discrepancy up. Chester also acknowledge the discrepancy and requested another parcel.
All said and done, my grandmother is on both the tentative and finalized tentative parcel maps. She was also a legit distributee of parcel lands of the tribe.
Chester Elliott is not. For whatever reason, Chester Elliott is NOT listed on the distribution list for the Hopland Band of Pomo Indians. Therefore, before the tribe revised their unratified constitution back in 2009, his children and grandchildren would be Category D members of the tribe and thus, needed to be voted in by the General Council. But have they?
Before the tribe revised the constitution, you must prove direct lineal descendancy to a distributee. Now, you only have to prove just blood lineage, meaning you can skip generations now. Direct lineage means you cannot be enrolled by a skipped generation.
But only for certain families are those rules thrown out the door.