In the last days before Christmas, a notice was handed down to one of the Chukchansi Tribal Elders working at the Tribal Offices of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians. The notice was direct and to the point.
Yvette Good was fired by Tribal Council Chairperson Dixie Jackson from her position as an Administrative Assistant in the Tribal office. The reason given for this action: Yvette was being accused of inappropriate language or behaviour during a disenrollment hearing for a member of the Walker family earlier in the month.
Yvette had completed extensive research into the allottment holdings of the Walker lineage over the past 18 months in anticipation of disenrollment hearings. She had gathered dozens of pages of evidence to support the Walker family claim of lineal descendant of Chukchansi Indians who held "public lands as described by the 1887 General Allotment Act" which is one of the three criteria for membership in the Tribe. The other two qualifications are: Distributee's-Chukchansi Indians and their lineal descendants who were terminated under the Rancheria Termination Act in 1961 and listed in the Federal Register as Distributees of the Picayune Rancheria; and Petitioners: Chukchansi Indians who were not Distributees of the Picayune Rancheria termination in 1961, not lineal descendants of Chukchansi Indians who held "public lands as described by the 1887 General Allotment Act."
Prior to the exchange of views with the Council, Yvette was disqualified to be called as a "witness" regarding the research she done on the Walker family allotment land because of the so-called "conflict of interest" due to her job at the tribal office. Yvette was previously removed from her Enrollment position due to the "possible perception of conflict of interest" regarding the up coming disenrollment hearings for part of her family and now was being disqualified as a witness altogether.
Yvette was given one option if she wished to testify: she would have to resign from her position at the Tribal office. There are no stipulations of this type within the Enrollment Ordinance or the Constitution of the Tribe, nor within the Personnel Policies for the Tribe. This action was uncalled for and provides outside viewers with a rare look into true Tribal politics at work. If Yvette wanted to speak on behalf of her blood relative, she would have to sacrifice her income and family stability to do so. Yvette is the sole support of four family members whom she could not ignore in her decision not to testify.
Instead, she spoke up. Obviously the words Yvette spoke, clearly, upset some of the council members. Yvette said, "The few words addressed to four council members, in essence, were, 'You, who is considered as family [Herb Punkin]; You, the so called Spiritual leader [Harold Hammond, Sr.]; You, who works in mental health [Joyce Burel]; You, part of your family has been disenrolled [Dixie Jackson]; how can you cut the Heart out of the people and tear it apart by signing your signatures to these disenrollment papers!?! How can you hurt the people like this? Don't you know what you are emotionally doing to them?'"
Chairperson Dixie Jackson is reported to have responded that Yvette was "totally out of line" and "inappropriate". Council Treasurer Dora Jones was reported to state "she has made ONE comment TOO MANY!" Chairperson Jackson then ordered, "ESCORT HER OUT OF HERE!" Yvette was escorted out of the hearing.
Laura Wass became the spokesperson on behalf of the Walker family members who were being disenrolled that evening. She was not suprised by the moves or the motives of the Council to prevent Yvette from speaking. She did challenge Chairperson Dixie Jackson's right to sit in judgement of the Walker files since she claims to be from the Walker linage.
After the hearing, theTribal Administration and members of the Council were questioned concerning this conflict, especially since Yvette wasn't allowed to be apart of the disenrollment hearings of the Walker family. The apparent concensus was, "NO", the chair was NOT entitled to participate, nor should she have been allowed to either.
In her termination notice, she was also informed that she was being disqualified for her Christmas bonus that was being paid to all the Tribal Office employees. Her termination from her position would have been the grounds for a lawsuit if it had occurred in any other business or governmental agency. The Tribe's personnel policy does not contain any language regarding a Tribal employee speaking out at a political function of the Tribe, nor does it state that doing so will result in the loss of the Tribal employee's job.
In Indian Country today, these are just one of many issues facing Tribal members and Native Americans subject to the whimsical interpretations of Tribal laws by Tribal Councils across the State and the Nation. In writing this article, it is feasible that the Council could take further actions against Ms. Goode simply because they don't like anyone to know what they are doing. The Tribe had no comment on this matter and has declined to return any messages as of this posting.
If Tribal governments are to be given more and more authority to govern the affairs of others, it must be a requirement that these governments are bound by laws and regulations that are consistent with the laws of the US Constitution so that the rights of the individual Native Americans are not trodden into dust by the corrupt and abusive systems in place today.