Catawba Indian Nation, South Carolina


U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Anderson Jr. says the BIA is partly to blame for a dispute over legitimacy of the Catawba government. Anderson said tribal leaders likely erred by delaying elections until a membership roll was published, but said he wanted to clarify the BIA position before ruling, weeks from now. "It seems that the bureau has led us into this quagmire." A 1995 letter from the BIA indicated the roll must be completed before elections could be held. A January brief supported immediate elections. "The agency is all over the map on this." At issue is makeup of the government after federal recognition in 1993. Sixteen Catawba accuse tribal leaders of protecting their positions by refusing to hold elections and of misusing $50 million from the recognition agreement. Tribal leaders counter they can't hold elections until they have an official roll. Roger Trimnal, a former Catawba member who carries a tribal enrollment card signed by his cousin, Chief Gilbert Blue, questions the rolls' makeup. "I asked for financial accountability, and I got kicked off the roll." Anderson said the case could be complicated by an appeal filed by the Western Catawba, descendants of five families that left the tribe with Mormon missionaries in the 1880s.