As the tribal administrator of the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians and a tribal member, I am writing in response to The Press Democrat editorial castigating our tribe for its ongoing efforts to preserve our people, culture and traditions ("Power, abused in determining tribal roots," Nov. 21).
Had the editorial board talked with all of our tribal leadership prior to publishing this inaccurate piece, they could not possibly have described our membership determinations as "nonsense." The editors lack of respect for us, our culture and our government is a disappointment.
Our history is important to us. It is part of how we govern ourselves. Pomo Indians occupied this valley and preserved its resources and beauty for centuries before Europeans came here. We governed ourselves throughout those centuries and do so today.
The U.S. Constitution recognizes Indian tribes as sovereign governments along with states and foreign governments. One hundred and eighty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged our political independence and sovereign status. The ability to determine our membership, as with the United States' ability to determine its citizens, is the core principal of self-governance.
Many Indian tribes do not have Western-style constitutions, but that does not mean our rules are "unclear and loosely applied," as the editorial board claims. The courts of this land are filled with citizens seeking clarification of the law.
The Dry Creek Band of Pomo Indians identifies its members in accordance with its founding Articles of Association, its written ordinances, its customs and traditions. The tribe makes these decisions with care and respect for the individuals and families affected and for the preservation of the culture and traditions of the tribe.
It saddens me that The Press Democrat did not extend to us the same degree of care and respect.
Pomo people have persevered over the centuries, despite the pressures of the majority society and against great odds. We will carry on governing ourselves with respect for our history and our people. We will continue to be good neighbors and contributing members of this community.
I hope that The Press Democrat, in the future, will be less reckless and more respectful of the interests of my tribe.
<i>Gus Pina is tribal administrator for the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians.</i>