Gabrielino Indian sues the Department of the Interior

For over five years I’ve done extensive research on the records created by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. During the last three years, when I started researching the families affected by tribal disenrollment, the BIA began to act in a spirit of non-cooperation and transparent under my Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) Requests.

In 1995, the Bureau of Indian Affairs affirmed a finding that Marcus Alto Sr. was a full-blooded San Pasqual Mission Indian and upheld the enrollment of Alto and his descendants. However, in 2007, the tribe’s enrollment committee provided new evidence to challenge Alto’s ancestry.

The Enrollment Committee concluded that Alto did not qualify for enrollment in the San Pasqual Band, the Committee claimed the decision was based on information subsequently determined to be inaccurate, claiming Alto was adopted by the person(s) in which he claimed membership. In their recommendation it was ordered for Marcus Alto’s tribal citizenship be terminated, deleting his name and descendants of the San Pasqual Indian rolls.

The controversy exists in inconsistencies by the tribal council of the San Pasqual. Allen Lawson, JR, who is the current Chairman of the tribe and a descendant of the Trask family, his father Allen Lawson SR was in fact adopted by Helen Agnes Trask Lawson.

For hundreds of years, adoption in Native American culture was and still is traditional. Therefore, critics argue that the San Pasqual Enrollment Committee failed to follow their cultural laws of tradition.    

Between 1910-1950, the Trask family occupied the San Pasqual Indian Reservation. Several San Pasqual families attempted to move onto the reservation, however, they were forbidden entry by the Trask family.

In 2015 The Alto’s attorney noted that a critical eye was needed because the tribe owns and gives its members profits from the Valley View Casino and that by removing the 66 descendants of Alto, the tribal commission was increasing its own payouts.

The Ninth Circuit on September 20, 2016 declined to revive a suit by dozens of the descendants of Marcus Alto Sr. who claimed they were illegally disenrolled from the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians.

In my research of families affected with unjust tribal disenrollment, the inconsistencies exist mostly not by the genealogy of the family in question, however, in the actions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and in most cases, by the tribal councils.

The number of civil rights violations in Indian Country has reached epidemic proportions. Thousands upon thousands have been stripped or denied the basic due process and equal protection rights provided for in the United States Constitution, the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 (“ICRA”), and tribal laws.

Read the Complaint HERE.

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