With the recent National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) Case with the St. Croix Tribe pending, DrydenWire.com was also made aware of another situation that has been ongoing over the last few years.
The St. Croix Five, who were illegally disenrolled more than once, have been fighting for the last 30 years to get their membership reinstated. They were enrolled in 2013 after years of waiting and then disenrolled again in 2016. Also in 2016, the St. Croix Five won an appeal of their disenrollment, but without any apparent legal or procedural authority, the Tribal Court reversed that appeal decision in violation of the due process and equal protection rights of the St. Croix Five.
This week, we had the opportunity to learn more about the St. Croix Five (Tony Ammann, Brooke Mosay Ammann, Brady Lowe, Jordan Lowel and Seth Stoplman).
You can read the Q&A in its entirety below.
Who are the St. Croix Five?
Tony Ammann: Until recently, I worked for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe of Minnesota Department of Labor as an Intake Specialist. I previously worked for the St. Croix Tribe as a Turtle Lake Casino Employee. I am now unemployed and seeking a new job. I have been shunned by my Tribe for most of my life, despite possessing ½ degree Indian blood quantum and meeting all the requisite Tribal Membership criteria. I have a B.A. in Native American Studies from the University of Montana, an AA in Tribal Management and another AA in Small Business Management. I sought a higher education in part, to better myself and in part, to become a well-educated leader of my Tribe. Because I have been denied my St. Croix Tribal Membership for the majority of my life, my Tribal political aspirations are unrequited and I have struggled financially my whole life. The Tribe needs only to reinstate my Tribal Membership and Tribal hiring preference would open up numerous employment opportunities that would help me obtain financial security for my family. I was working for the St. Croix Casino in Turtle Lake when I was disenrolled and had my health benefits down-graded from member health benefits to employee health benefits.
Brooke Mosay Ammann: I am the Director of the Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Institute on the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation. I received my Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College and obtained a Master’s degree in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University. I am currently a doctoral student studying Indigenous language and culture revitalization at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo. I am especially devastated at being unable to gather food and medicine within the ceded treaty territory, a right that my ancestors earned through their negotiations and suffering. My family remained as “squatters” in the Balsam Lake area when most of the community was forcibly relocated to the Round Lake reservation. I was fortunate to return to the area in 2002 to work within the tribal education department, helping other students receive training and degrees, as well as negotiating with the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College to re-establish an outreach site in Hertel. Part of my reason for joining this legal action is a pursuit of fairness that has been denied to many associated with the St. Croix tribe. The way my family, descendants of Mosay (Moose) and Wakemeup lines, have been treated is symptomatic of the greed that has replaced adherence to cultural values. This is only one family who has had ancestry arbitrarily altered for personal political gain. In addition to undermining the integrity of the court, this abuse of the law is an affront to the most basic values of justice, fairness, and the basic human right to an identity that all tribal members, human beings, deserve.
Shelly Lowe (Mother of Jordan Lowe): My son Jordan is the only Native American to be on the national honor society to ever graduate with honors and is now in his fourth year of College. He won many tribal scholarships but was denied after he was disenrolled. These scholarships would’ve paid for almost his whole 4 years but because he was disenrolled it has all been out of his pocket. He also was deprived of his minor payments, which would have helped him dearly with tuition, bills, and housing while in college. In addition, Jordan is an avid hunter and has not been able to get hunting and fishing licenses to go hunting and fishing with his Father and extended family on areas reserved exclusively for Tribal hunting and fishing prior to his enrollment and after he was disenrolled. He has not been able to attend the Tribal gatherings and programs reserved for Tribal Members and has not been allowed to vote in Tribal elections. Because he was denied his Tribal Membership for the majority of his life, his losses are too many to count. Most of all Jordan has been denied his sense of Tribal belonging and his Tribal identity.
Shelly Lowe (Mother of Brady Lowe): Brady was born with Cerebral Palsy and is wheel-chair bound. He has not only lost out on the same Tribal Membership rights as Jordan Lowe, his brother, but he has also lost out of the native programs that assist Tribal Members with special needs. The minor monies Brady Lowe missed out on would have been available to help purchase the medical equipment he needs that is not covered by medical insurance, which will not even cover a handicapped equipped lift van. Brady is now 21 years old and his parents now facing the reality that they cannot lift Brady Lowe in and out of his wheelchair to get him in and out of a car. Tribal per capita could help buy the equipment needed to keep Brady comfortable. Additionally, he is currently confined to two rooms of their house because they can’t get a handicap house to meet his needs. According to the Tribally managed HUD program, when he turned 18 he would be eligible for a handicap accessible house that suits him. However, at this time he is missing out on this benefit as well.
Phyllis Lowe (Grandmother of Seth Stoplman): Seth is the son of Rodney Lowe and is my grandson. He was born in 1984 and an application for Tribal Membership was submitted on his behalf when he was a child. In 2013, when his application for Tribal Membership was approved, he was 19, but his application for Tribal membership had been pending for years while he was still a minor with road block after road block placed between him and his rightful Tribal recognition. Seth Stoplman, a 27-year-old single father, is raising his teenage daughter on his limited seasonal work income and the loss of his Tribal benefits hit he and his daughter very hard, causing them to struggle to make ends meet financially every month. This loss of his Tribal benefits was a huge financial loss for Seth and his daughter. Once the Tribe reinstates the Tribal Membership of Seth Stoplman it will be a quality of life changer for Seth and his daughter.
What does it mean to be enrolled or disenrolled from a Tribe and what kind of Tribal benefits are affected?
Tony: It’s home. It’s foundational for us as individuals to have a tribal identity. It gives credence to Tribal sovereignty by giving us the right to vote and elect credible, well-intentioned, honest and fair leaders who want to create a new tribal government that will responsibly lead us as well as be representatives to the US Govt. It is a continuation of the recognition the Federal Government gave to us as a people to be self-sustaining as a community. Tribal Membership is a statement of accountability for its Treaties that we have with the Federal government, which means all the benefits that are promised in the covenants the US made with the Tribes are fulfilled to the members of Federally Recognized Tribes. Any Indian that is not part of a Federally Recognized Tribe is left out and does not receive the rights associated with Tribal Membership.
Treaty rights include Hunting, Fishing, and Gathering Rights as well as Economic Development commerce and industry of and by the Tribe as outlined in the Commerce Clause of the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution.
Being enrolled gives us the right to Medical Benefits with Indian Health Services as well as Employment Preferences, Educational and Business Scholarships and Grants. Per capita payments are also part of the benefits reserved for Tribal Members. It would also be important to be a Tribal member if adopting or fostering children within the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Tribal Membership verifies our identity as people as it distinguishes us from Non-Natives.
When were you enrolled and disenrolled?
Tony and Brooke: We had applied in 1980, were granted membership in 1983 and in 1985 were arbitrarily removed without notice. And then again in 2013 we were added back on, stayed on for 2.5 years but were removed again - so that’s TWICE we were arbitrarily removed. We did nothing wrong to deserve this.
Shelly: For Jordan and Brady, an enrollment application was submitted to the Tribe for Jordan Lowe in 1997, shortly after his birth when he was a minor. Likewise, an enrollment application was submitted to the Tribe for Brady Lowe in 1999, while he was still a minor.
Phyllis: For Seth, an application for Tribal Membership was submitted on his behalf when he was a child. In 2013, when his application for Tribal Membership was approved, he was 19, but his application for Tribal membership had been pending for years while he was still a minor with road block after road block placed between him and his rightful Tribal recognition.
Why were you Disenrolled? Why your family?
Tony and Brooke: Our disenrollment is related to the judgment awarded to the Chippewas of Lake Superior from the Indian Claims Commission (Public Law 99-146), in which the St. Croix Chippewa Indians received a large award related to land claims in the ceded territory. These payments were made to the tribe and were to be distributed equally among members. Additional funds after that distribution were to revert to the Tribal Council. It was during this time that my sister and I were disenrolled along with other members of the Round Lake Community.
We all agree that this is due to family infighting - One family is pitted against another and personal vendettas. We are simply caught in the crossfire being used as pawns.
On what grounds did they feel they had the right to disenroll you?
Tony and Brooke: The Tribe is claiming we do not possess enough Indian Blood Quantum to be Tribal Members. The Indian blood quantum requirement to belong to this tribe is 50%. We possess 50% Indian Blood Quantum but those in power claim we do not, even though the Tribal Judge who heard our appeal found we do have enough Indian Blood Quantum and do quality for Tribal Membership.
In the case of Dora (Mosay) Ammann our mother, they altered her records in the enrollment office saying that she was 7/8ths. However, our records from Washington DC have proven she is 100%. Our Dad is white. We are 50%. We belong.
Phyllis: For Brady, Jordan and Seth, they were told that their Grandparents Susie and Charlie Lowe did not meet the 100% requirement, which was proven wrong in Tribal Court.
What is your response to the NIGC Report?
Tony: Regarding the NIGC report I see what’s happening to my Tribe now and it breaks my heart, but there’s nothing I can do to help. We are not working for the Tribe now. But my sister Brooke and I would be happy to come back in and help.
We find it interesting that those listed in the NIGC Report cited by the NIGC for squandering Casino earnings designated for the Tribe were the same ones who disenrolled us at the same time. How much tribal money were they spending on their big-name Minneapolis lawyer to defend themselves against us? And as the NIGC Report only looks at spending in relation to the Casinos, what were they spending from the Tribe itself? (E.g., the new construction of the New Hertel Casino – how was that funded?)
You had verified all your blood quantums and provided the correct documents, why did the council suddenly disenroll you again?
Tony: We all agree that it was a vendetta against the family. We heard that one of the council member's first order of business after getting elected was to disenroll those who had been enrolled during Phyllis' time on the Council. Their reasoning had stated that there was an adult moratorium on enrollment but there were other adults that the council member enrolled as Director of the Enrollment Office and as a Council Member. After losing the last election, the council member somehow got hired back as the Director of the Enrollment Office and works there to this day.
Why would the Council want to do this to you?
Phyllis: Selective enrollment. If you keep the right people out and bring the wrong people in, you can keep the balance of power according to what you want. Also, political power.
Paula M. Fisher (Attorney for the St. Croix Five): Money: The fewer the pieces of the pie, the bigger the slice.
What other implications does this have for them if they have not followed their own rules or the Indian Civil Right’s Act?
Tony: There are numerous. The current St. Croix Chippewa Tribal Govt. may be found to be operating as an illegal entity in light of not following the Judge’s order on the St. Croix Five Verdict.
Can the tribal elections in 2015 and 2017 be nullified?
Tony: It could happen. The BIA has effectively shut down other Tribal governments in the past by ceasing government-to-government relations with other tribes and the Federal government has shut down gaming operations of other Tribes for similar reasons in the past.
How long of a time period can the St. Croix Casino be shut down by the Federal Government?
Tony: That will depend on how the Tribe responses to the Federal government's demands.
What would you the theme is in this case?
Paula: Politics and a failure to honor the law. How can a Judge overturn an opinion of another Judge in the same Court on the same case without a hearing? There is no law to support this result. What has happened here to the St. Croix Five is without any legal basis whatsoever.
What is your current situation? What are you doing about this?
Tony: We have sent a 19-page request to meet and discuss this with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Department of Interior in Washington D.C. We have been waiting for a response from them for the last two months. We think it would be beneficial if the NIGC and our elected leaders would assist us in encouraging these Government Offices to listen to our story and our plea for intervention.
What was said to the BIA? What would you like to see happen?
Paula: My One-Page Summary of the Request, states:
The BIA has the authority and the duty to intervene to require the re-instatement of Tribal Membership of the St. Croix Five based on the Tribe’s Constitution which requires that the Bureau of Indian Affairs provide oversight over the membership matters of the SCCIW. The following is a summary of the arguments for BIA intervention:
- The BIA received and approved the 1975 Great Lakes Agency St. Croix Tribal Roll and that endorsement has not been revoked or revised so the BIA retains its authority to enforce it.
- The original 1985 disenrollment of Anthony Ammann and Brooke Ammann violated the ICRA because it violated due process.
- 2016 disenrollment of the St. Croix Five violated the ICRA because it violated due process.
- The BIA Funds the Tribal Court so it has an obligation to ensure that the Tribe is following Tribal Law.
- Failure to honor the Tribal Membership of the St. Croix Five invalidates multiple Tribal Council elections.
- Failure to pay retroactive per capita to the St. Croix Five since the August 11th, 2016 Tribal Court order, puts the Tribe in Violation of its Revenue Allocation Plan per the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
- PL 99-146 gives the BIA both the authority and the obligation to act to require that the Tribal Membership of the St. Croix Five be reinstated.
- The Tribal Court’s “administrative decision” violates the Tribal Constitution, the Tribal Code and the Enrollment Ordinance as well as Federal Law.
- Relief Requested: As was stated in their February 12th, 2019 request, The St. Croix Five hereby request a meeting with the BIA and request that
- 1) The BIA require the Tribe to determine that the March 27th, 2017 “Administrative Decision” is in violation of law and is void;
- 2) The BIA determine that the August 11th 2016 Court Order to reinstate the Tribal Membership of the St. Croix Five is valid and must be followed;
- 3) The BIA determine that the Tribal Membership of the St. Croix Five must be reinstated with payment of back per capita and other benefits going back to the initial date of their first application when they were eligible for Tribal Membership;
- 4) Or in the alternative, the BIA determine that the Tribal Membership of the St. Croix Five must be reinstated with payment of back per capita and other benefits going back to the initial date of their 2016 disenrollment;
- 5) The BIA to issue an administrative directive to the Tribe to shut down gaming because of violation of the Tribe’s RAP if the St. Croix Five are not immediately re-enrolled with full back benefits;
- 6) The BIA to void the Tribe’s most recent two elections, because the Members of St. Croix Five who were eligible to vote were not allowed to vote and issue a declaration that the current Tribal Council are not eligible to run for council in the future due to malfeasance;
- 7) The BIA to withhold funding for Tribal Court because it is not providing due process and not following its own law;
- 8) The BIA shut-down the Tribe’s gaming until they are back in compliance with their RAP and the IGRA;
- 9) The BIA suspend government-to-government relations until the Tribe is back in compliance;
- 10) The BIA require that the Tribe award the St. Croix Five compensation for all losses, including but not limited to per capita payments, bonuses, holiday bonuses, hunting rights, et. al.;
- 11) The BIA mandate that the Tribe reimburse the St. Croix Five for Attorney’s fees and costs at an amount to be determined.
Paula M. Fisher is licensed in 15 different Tribal Courts in 5 states and has practiced in the area of Tribal Enrollment litigation for over 18 years.
"Tribal Disernollment is a National epidemic. Thousands of Tribal people have lost their Tribe Membership and their Tribal Identity all over the Untied States. Disenrollment is a made-up word. It is not part of any Tribal language. It is ot part of the traditions or culture of Tribal people. Disnrollment was invented to further the political agenda of the Tribal Councils who want to keep Tribal Membership from those they consider outsiders or political threats. The Federal government has a trust over-sight duty that cannot be circumvented by the Supreme court opinion in Santa Clara Pueblo vs. Martinez . Eventually, disnerollment must be stopped, or the remaning Tribes will tear themselves apart and wither and fade away." - Paula M. Fisher