Four people are dead and two critically injured after a recent shooting spree in the tribal headquarters of the Cedarville Rancheria, a small American Indian tribe in Northern California. It all happened, police say, during a meeting at the Alturas headquarters where tribal leaders were discussing the banishment of Cherie Lash Rhoades—who has been arrested for the violent acts—and her son. Frustrations are boiling over in tribal membership disputes, reaching epidemic proportions, and this was only the most recent sign.
In the case of most American Indian tribes, historically the tribes have had the power to determine tribal membership. For centuries tribes “banished” people as punishment for serious offenses. In recent years, however, a trend has been evident with tribes canceling membership, or “disenrolling” tribal members due to claims of inferior membership qualification.