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Generations ago, banishment of offending members was the ultimate in tribal justice. The traditional practice of banishment among tribes has been revived recently and has been used effectively in dealing with modern day criminals. For tribal members living on the reservation, banishment means loss of access to basic services or political representation and for some tribes, loss of per capita payments. Banishment is akin to a jail sentence but in some cases, the practice leads to permanent disenrollment from the tribe.
Per capita payments, usually offered among gaming tribes, are often relatively small sums, such as $500.00 per year. But for residents of hardscrabble reservations with little or no jobs, every penny counts. Only a handful of gaming tribes are able to offer their membership the whopping $5k or more per month, stories of which are so often portrayed in the mainstream media.
Many in Indian Country allege that banishment and disenrollment are sometimes being used as political tools by tribal leadership to silence opposing voices within the community. Some also say that these practices are the results of plain old human greed. Since the ability for American Indian tribes to determine their own membership is such an essential element of tribal sovereignty, banished or disenrolled members have little recourse. A recent U. S. District Court decision in Washington State, however, is presenting a viable challenge to this practice. Judge James Robart ruled that the under the Indian Civil Rights Act, the Snoqualmie Tribe failed to follow due process in banishing nine of its members.
Carolyn Lubenau told the SnoValleyStar, “Banishment is a horrible, evil punishment.” Lubenau, who was tribal council vice chair before her banishment hopes to help other American Indians who have been banished from their tribes.