In my opinion, the board of trustees of our Umatilla Confederated Tribes made a serious mistake in criminalizing noncompliance of tribal pandemic social gathering guidelines.

Chuck Sams, pandemic incident commander, claimed that the guidelines were never intended to punish anyone, but were enacted out of community health concerns.

However, there are provisions in the guidelines that clearly have the intent of being punitive. For example, only after admitting, or being found guilty, or pleading no contest in tribal court a violator could be sentenced to up to a year in jail and be fined up to $5,000. Jail time could only be interpreted to be punitive. I fail to see how a year in jail could be considered a health concern.

Also, tribal prosecutor Kyle Daley has a documented record of recommending severe sentences to tribal court for tribal member defendants. For example, not too long ago the Confederated Umatilla JournalĀ reported Daley recommended a lengthy jail sentence for a tribal male involved in a minor incident with another tribal male.

The criminal pandemic guidelines and an overzealous prosecutor set the stage for a divisive tribal community situation that is ongoing and will get much worse before it gets better. Daley charged immediate members of a tribal family, and about 15 of their guests, for attending a traditional tribal ceremony in alleged violation of pandemic guidelines.

Without due process, the tribal newspaper has already found the defendants guilty as it reported the primary defendant "admitted" violating the pandemic guidelines. In the context of the law, this is only hearsay.

There has already been a community march in protest of the charges, and in support of the family and the others charged. This is clearly is a negative and divisive situation that should not have happened. It is important to the situation to know there was no outbreaks of COVID-19 as a result of this gathering.

Bob Shippentower

Pendleton

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