The federal government has been hesitant to get involved in tribal internal affairs, according to Robert Anderson, director of the Native American Law Center at the University of Washington and an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. A group of Snoqualmie members experienced a rare legal victory in 2009 when a federal court judge overturned their banishment and disenrollment.
Disenrollment decisions are not only about membership, but also about belonging, Raquel Montoya-Lewis, chief judge of the Nooksack Tribal Court, wrote in a court decision.
“Cultural and tribal identity lay at the heart of how we know ourselves. … Belonging to a tribe gives tribal members a sense of home, of connection to a community, whether one lives there or not,” Montoya-Lewis wrote.