John Gomez Jr., 39, a Pechanga member since childhood, was kicked out in 2004. He said gambling profits were one factor: He lost free health care and a $15,000 monthly payment. But he said he and others had questioned leaders before a tribal election.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the money, but there's a lot of it that's also about the politics," said Gomez, who co-founded the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization, a group that lobbies against expelling tribe members.
The Pechanga council has said it cut members who should never have been let in.
In Michigan, the Saginaw Chippewa want to remove about a tenth of their 2,700 members due to rules that require them to be at least one-quarter Indian.
The Cherokee Nation voted in March to deny citizenship to an estimated 2,800 descendants of tribal slaves.
Gomez says disenrollment is partly about politics. If so, it's worth noting that the Pechangas have elected and reelected Chairman Mark Macarro several times. As far as I know, there have been no allegations of voting improprieties.
Now let's look at the numbers.
I believe most of the disenrolled members in California come from four or five tribes. The Chippewas haven't removed anyone yet. The Cherokee Freedmen case is arguably about race, not money. And there's the Narragansett situation in Rhode Island.
So that's 16 out of 200-plus gaming tribes if you count every single example, even the ones that haven't happened yet. It's a few thousand people out of the 4.1 million who are part Native, according to the Census. We're talking about 0.1% of the American Indian population.
In short, disenrollment gets a lot of bad press, but it's a relatively minor problem. As I've written before.