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Redistricting in California Finally Puts Tribal Reps on School Board

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After being ignored for nearly six decades the Grindstone Indian Rancheria, located in Glenn County, California, will receive its own representative on the Stony Creek Joint Unified School District Board of Education in Elk Creek, California. On February 25, 2014 the District adopted a tentative District map that includes a member designated to the Tribe on the School District’s Board of Education. As a result of a long in coming redistricting of the school district’s boundaries, which includes the Grindstone Rancheria, District boundary lines now include a district that encompasses the Tribe’s Rancheria, providing the Tribe and its membership its own representative.

Redistricting is the process whereby a school district’s representation boundaries are adjusted to reflect its population by the County Board of Education. Redistricting, as required by the California State Board of Education, requires that the School district boundaries be reviewed, at a minimum, every 10 years, in conjunction with the United States Census, to ensure that district members receive equal voting opportunities. The County Board of Education can implement recommendations to enlarge, and eliminate, boundaries to provide for equal voting opportunities. The California Voting Rights Act and established legal precedent, such as Thornberg v. Gringles 478 U.S. 30 (1986), also require that the redistricting not result in the disenfranchisement or dilution minority group voting rights.

Tribal Chairman, Ronald Kirk, who is very active with the two hundred plus member bands educational pursuits stated, “we have been here for thousands of years, you would have thought as we have represented a majority of the District’s population for many years, that our vote would be equal to everyone else’s. It’s a long time coming and we are very proud to have our own representative.” Rachel McBride, Executive Director of the Four Winds of Indian Education, a non-profit Indian education provider, who pushed for the redistricting commented, “the redistricting was for whatever reason an on again off again issue over the years. After meeting with District representatives and making them aware that legal counsel was looking into the matter, a revised map was adopted by the Board.”

Interestingly, the Tribe potentially may have two representatives on the Board as member Ken Swearinger, a Grindstone Tribal member, was elected at large before the redistricting and currently sits on the Board of Education and will not be districted out.

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The Grindstone Indian Rancheria is located in Elk Creek, Glenn County, California. The Tribe’s Rancheria was placed in trust with the United States since the early 1900’s. Over one-hundred members live and work within the one-hundred acre Rancheria.

Jack Duran is affiliated with the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo of El Paso, Texas and is the owner of Duran Law Office, a Roseville, California, based Native American law firm. Jack can be reached at (916) 779-3316 or via email at