The History of the OCEN Tribal Constitution

Taken from an e-mail created by Lorraine Escobar for a tribal member:


Here’s a list of the OCEN Tribal Governing Documents


  1. Tribal Constitution
  2. Non-Profit Association Articles of Membership
  3. Council By-Laws
  4. Election Ordinance
  5. Enrollment Ordinance


As for the tribal constitution, there are a couple of versions floating out there. This is not to get confused with the non-profit articles of membership. That is a totally different animal though it looks similar. The key word to look for is “Association.”  In actuality, we have been calling it a “non-profit constitution” when it is not a constitution but articles of the association. We should probably straighten out that terminology from here on out.


The history of the tribal constitution is clear although some would like to muddy the facts. In the beginning of the reorganization effort, we used the Muwekma constitution as a model. (Theirs has since been radically changed.)  It was adopted on November 29, 1992.


From 1992 to 1994, we had problems keeping a regular tribal council secretary. We also had problems with full council attendance. Between the initial adoption and the ratification of the revised constitution, we had decided that we did not need a secretary to be part of the council.


Therefore, in March 1994, Ann Cominos [former tribal administrator] had typed up a version that was tailored to our tribe. This version had some typos in it and some radical changes. One of those changes was the omission of the secretary as a council position.  At the time, it seemed like a good idea and that constitution was ratified in April 1994.


The problem with the revisions was that the whole design of the council body concept was skewed and not taken into account in other parts of the constitution, i.e., what happens to the 2/3 majority needed for a quorum (6 out of 9 was 2/3 but a 2/3 majority of 8 comes out to 5 5/8).  We tripped over it a very long time. In June 1999, we finally decided that 5 were a quorum and that was that.


The other problem was that the Council Secretary was an elected position in the council body as is reflected in Article V, Section 3 “The Chairperson and Secretary shall be elected in odd numbered years…”  That part of the verbiage was not addressed.


Sometime later (I’ll have to look it up for a date), Loretta Wyer [former tribal chair] and the council tried to change and amend the constitution by stating that the council secretary can come from within or outside of the tribe. Of course, that was unconstitutional because no constitutional amendments can be made by the council alone, at least, it would have to be ratified by the people – which it never was.


We have several resolutions that modify various ordinances, some of which are actually suggested amendments to the constitution. Had we not been railroaded by the Thielman effort, those resolutions would have already been put to a vote by the people. As it is, we will be doing it in August 2004. Those resolutions were worded to show that the action was pending a final vote to be put to the people. So, obviously, we still have to do it. 


But, there are many flaws in our constitution and they will all have to be addressed. This is why we are having a committee to address these issues.


Now the by-laws, that’s a different story. The council has the authority to modify those along with all the other ordinances that are enacted. There are written resolutions and modifications that are on record. But, those are only available on paper. Those I will have to provide to you on paper copies. These are not particularly anything that the rest of the council has to have with them but it might be good if they are interested in referring to specific resolutions that have yet lingering effects, i.e. the Monterey Band and the Grandfather roll, the staggered terms of election, etc.  On the other hand, the Council Secretary is supposed to have a copy of all of these resolutions but, then again, we don’t have a Council Secretary thanks to our earlier decisions.


Hope this helps,


Lorraine Escobar

March 16, 2004