Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Band Limits Membership to Robert & Dorothy Gopher Descendants

The Ahontoays Band Council moved to limit enrollment to the descendants of Robert and/or Dorothy Gopher's descendants after three contentious years of litigation regarding the late Dorothy Gopher's probate that originated in the Eighth Judicial District Court on July 22, 2010.
Melinda Gopher, Ojibway-Blackfeet
President of the Ahontoays Band, #172 OFA

Band Council members are Melinda Gopher, Band President, Missoula, MT; Belynda Hayes, Great Falls, MT; White Eagle Edmundson, Missoula, MT; Arlene Gopher, Missoula, MT; Candace Sanders, Missoula, MT, Mindy Thibert, of Great Falls, and Gerald Gopher, of Hawaii.

Upon informal advisement with Dr. Lee Fleming of the Office of Federal Acknowledgment, the Ahontoays council moved to close enrollment--the council learned it MAY NOT add descendants who were part of a prior and denied federal recognition effort.  The incomplete letter filed by Robert Gopher was revised and completed by the council in late October and a certified census forwarded to the OFA upon the federal agency's consultation.

Chief Rocky Boy, Founder
Rocky Boy Indian Reservation
The council is preparing final findings of its own in preparation of moving forward with a documented petition before the OFA. According to testimony submitted in the Cascade County proceedings, the goal of the Bear Claw Tribe Inc. was federal recognition, according to its former Founder and President, Phyllis Parker.

Based upon her testimony under oath, and under penalty of perjury, the council submitted the first and only certified roll to the OFA on October 23, 2013.  Bear Claw Tribe, Inc. made a Congressional Claim for Federal Recognition in 1992 before the 102nd Congress, upon a claim for 42 acres of land.

The council's preliminary findings also indicate because the 1992 Bear Claw claim was made from 1992-1997, that the group does not meet the definition of a splinter group consistent with FR 73-30146, the OFA process for reviewing whether there is a legitimate leadership dispute in the band.  The incomplete letter of intent submitted by the late Robert Gopher was dated February 1, 1996, the band is listed as #172.

Band President Melinda Gopher claims Mike Gopher used this
1994 staged photo event to attempt to add unqualified enrollees
 to the 1996 Ahontoays Band letter of intent to petition for recognition.
The Gopher heirs claim Mike Gopher is now misleading the
Cascade County court in the matter, and must abide by federal rules.
Melinda Gopher worked on the 1996 letter for her father, but now sees he was in error to attempt to add the rejected Bear Claw claimants, "He simply didn't have the authority to do that, he could not override Congressional plenary power, and he did not have authority to circumvent OFA laws on denied groups.  For that and other reasons, we moved to limit band membership."

"That does not mean we will not work with the other Loud Thunder clans, it only means that until this litigation is closed, we will not even vote on a path forward.  It is time to end the litigation.  Until that happens, we have ceded to the plenary powers of Congress.  The other clans can thank Phyllis Parker and Charles Walking Child, because the Bear Claw claim has proven to diminish their rights to a great degree, that is why my late father didn't want anything to do with it, or them."
The late Dorothy Gopher, whose estate
triggered a three year battle.

"We are calling for an amicable end to the litigation at this time and for Phyllis Parker and Mike Gopher to cease and desist from defrauding the local court in Great Falls. We are aware Parker has been tampering with the Ahontoays Band records since at least 2006, and has presented herself to OFA officials as a tribal official, she is not.   The court must abide by Congressional power, as we are, and defer to the OFA's authority, and to our authority as a band. Phyllis Parker never was a member of our band, and even though Mike Gopher attempted to add the Bear Claw claimants, they did so in a spirit of bad faith, after they knew their shoddily researched congressional claim was going down in flames.  I am calling in them to stop defrauding the court or face the consequences."

Iron Claw Bear Woman,
Mary Chippewa Gopher 

The Gopher family is proceeding with its effort to obtain registration and dual enrollment for its clan before the Indian Registrar, a branch of the Canadian government.  The family is preparing for a comprehensive land claim and pursuing a self governance agreement with the Canadian government.  The family hopes to renew cultural and tribal ties it has long held in the province of Saskatchewan.