Donations and Denial of Freedom of Speech – Another Cog in Tribal Politics

July 4, 2008, by Lorraine Escobar

 

It has recently come to my attention Louise Ramirez, and her group, is continually harassing former Chair Cari Herthel regarding a donation Gary Gomez had made to the tribe, Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen Nation, in his mother’s name, in August 2006. Here are the facts:

 

In June 2006, at a legitimate tribal council meeting, it was reported that the former tribal webmaster, was not responding to the council’s repeated requests to update the tribal website (www.esselennation.com, which is now no longer valid). Rather than delay the tribe’s need to have a current website, the council decided that it would be acceptable to establish another formal tribal website through the purchase of another domain name – www.esselennation.net. I agreed to pay for the costs with the understanding that my costs would be reimbursed when possible. This website was launched that same day using my name and my credit card.

 

In August, 2006, Gary Gomez made a donation to the tribe in honor of his mother, Josie Gomez. Rather than receive the monies herself, former Chair Herthel asked Gary that he allow me to hold the money. During a dialogue between Gary and me, he agreed to reimburse me for my costs for hosting this website. I insisted that he confirm that in an e-mail, which he did.

 

The website continued as the formal tribal website until December 2006. At that time, a rogue group turned over the legitimate tribal council, which ultimately led to illegally installing Louise Ramirez as tribal chair. As a result of the new group’s hostile actions, I withdrew my support as webmaster and changed the purpose of the website. I changed the name of the website to the OCEN Chronicles. I did not change the domain name – just the name of the website. The funds used to support this newly changed website then came out of my pocket and others who volunteered to support this new website.

 

In January, 2007, I learned that the rogue council was maligning Gary’s philanthropic actions. Subsequently, Gary expressed he wanted his donation reimbursed. I complied with his wishes but did not reimburse him for the entire amount. I sent him a check for the difference of $200 less the amount it cost to maintain the tribal website for six months as per our agreement. I also sent a letter to Gary along with a letter that reiterated our agreement and reminded him that this donation did indeed honor his mother, Josie Gomez, despite the political machinations of the rogue council.

 

It was bad enough that the rogue council decided to “take back” votes that were cast in good faith to move the tribal government forward. Now they want to “take back” donations for honest services already performed and harass former Chair Herthel for her honest effort to support the tribe when the former council wouldn’t even show up at a council meeting to get the job done. It always amazes me there are people who still think blowing out their brother’s candle makes their own candle burn brighter…

 

Pam Tanous, former tribal council member, gave the ad hoc tribal council $20 to pay for making copies of tribal council meeting minutes since last Fall. They agreed to make the copies and send them to her as long as she does not allow them to be “published” on this web site. She made this request months ago. Her attempts to get copies are still falling on deaf ears.

 

Lastly, the ad hoc council is having an event and calling it a tribal gathering. Considering recent events, it is no surprise that to attend one has to sign an agreement to behave. In other words, the tribal members have to give up their right to free speech if they want to attend this event. (See OCEN Tribal Constitution, Article VIII, Section 1. – Rights of Members: The rights of the members of the Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation to hold religious beliefs, speak and write freely, the right to assemble and petition their government shall not be disturbed.”) I heard from several members who attended a council meeting. They were not allowed to speak on their chosen topic. It seems obvious now – freedom of speech is not a right that this ad hoc council cares to protect. What next?

 

Well, it’s a good thing that this forum exists. Here’s Pam’s opinion on that! If you want your opinion published on these matters, let me know.