Snoqualmie Council Banishes Leader, Members Over Casino Issue

On April 28th, 2008, as their multimillion dollar casino facility approaches its opening, the members of the Snoqualmie tribe are fighting so terribly that even one division of the tribe has been banished, including the tribal chief.

About eight tribal members, including tribal head Bill Sweet were banished by the tribal council, which means that they are not allowed to enter tribal land and can no longer receive tribal benefits. A few dozen tribal members were disenrolled, which means that they have lost their chance to vote and their right to run for tribal office but retain their rights to receive benefits.

Legal analysts commented that tribal head Sweet and other members who have been banished by the tribal council questioned the decision but there are really no specific laws regarding such problems within the tribe. The problem just shows the troubles that some Indian tribes are experiencing with the evolvement of gaming as the main source of profits for these tribes. Some tribes even had to examine the way that membership applications were handled in the past.

These shows a questionable area in U.S. law, which features limited solutions to tribal members who are banished and shows tribal problems that do not show publicly. A law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, Carol Goldberg, who has thoroughly studied federal Indian law and tribal systems, commented that the law usually has a hands-off approach regarding tribal membership problems because it is an internal problem. She added that the federal courts have only reviewed one banishment case in California and it was resolved out of court in 2004.

In the tribal land of Snoqualmie, which is 25 miles from Seattle, the argument can be traced back from when the tribe decided to construct a casino facility after gaining federal recognition in 1999.

The casino facility, which is scheduled to open its doors to customers later this year, is likely to attract a lot of customers. The Snoqualmie tribe first encountered a series of problems, losing millions of dollars to the first contractor that they have hired to build the casino facility.

One of the tribe members who have been banished, Carolyn Lubenau, commented that those members who were either expelled or banished had questioned the decisions of the tribal council regarding the casino and now has no one to ask for help regarding the problem. The tribe has no existing tribal court. The Snoqualmie tribe has six hundred members and has raised millions of dollars to build the casino facility.