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Constitution of the Big Lagoon Rancheria

Last amended: 1985


We the Indians of the Big Lagoon Rancheria in California in order to establish a formal constitution and to promote our common welfare, do hereby adopt the following constitution.

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The Indians of the Big Lagoon Rancheria shall be known as and operate under the name Big Lagoon Rancheria, herein after "Tribe."

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The jurisdiction of the tribe, with its general council, business council and tribal courts shall extend to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law to the following:

(a) Notwithstanding the issuance of any patent, all lands, water and other resources within the exterior boundaries of the Big Lagoon Rancheria established by Executive Authority of the Secretary of the Interior dated July 10, 1918.

(b) All other lands, water and resources as may be hereafter acquired by the tribe, whether within or without said boundary lines, under any grant, transfer, purchase, adjudication, treaty, Executive Order, Act of Congress or other acquisition;

(c) All persons within any territory under the jurisdiction of the tribe; and

(d) All tribal members, wherever located.

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Section 1. The membership of the Big Lagoon Rancheria shall consist of:

(a) Those persons whose names are listed on the document entitled Plan of Distribution on the Assets of the Big Lagoon Rancheria dated January 3, 1968, in accordance with the provisions of P.L. 85-671, as amended by PL 88-419.

(b) All lineal descendants of those persons specified in Section 1 (a) above who possess one-eighth (1/8) degree or more Indian blood.

(c) All Indian persons who possess (1/8) degree or more Indian blood upon whom membership is conferred by adoption pursuant to an ordinance to be promulgated by the business council in accordance with applicable federal law.

Section 2.
An official membership roll shall be prepared in accordance with an enrollment ordinance which shall be promulgated by the business council. Such ordinance shall provide for an enrollment committee and procedure for keeping the roll current.

Section 3.
Withdrawal of Membership. Any person who wishes to withdraw from membership in the Big Lagoon Rancheria must submit his withdrawal in writing to the tribal council chairperson, who shall direct the enrollment committee to adjust its records accordingly.

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Subject to the limitations imposed by this constitution, all members of the tribe shall enjoy equal political rights and opportunities to participate in the tribal government, tribal economic resources, tribal assets and all the rights that are conferred upon a tribal citizen, and no member shall be denied freedom of speech, religion, the right to peaceful assembly, or other rights guaranteed by applicable federal law, nor shall any member be denied the right to petition the business council, general council or the tribal courts for redress of grievances against the tribe, or otherwise be deprived of life, liberty or property without notice and an opportunity to be heard.

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The governing body of the tribe shall be the general council. In addition, for the orderly transaction of business, there shall be elected from the general council a business council. The general council shall exercise all powers of self-government through the initiative, referendum and recall procedures specified in Article IX of this constitution. The business council shall exercise all powers delegated to it by the general council as set forth in this constitution. The tribal government shall exercise its powers of self-government subject to any express limitations contained herein or imposed by federal law.

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Section 1. Electorate

All duly enrolled tribal members eighteen (18) years of age or older shall be members of the general council of the Big Lagoon Rancheria and shall be eligible to vote in all tribal elections, referendums, recalls, repeals and at all meetings of the general council. For general council meetings a quorum is thirty percent (30%).

Section 2. General Council Reservation of Powers

The following powers shall be exclusively reserved to the general council. No exercise or abridgment of these powers by the business council or by any other agency or officer of the tribe shall be effective unless the general council has given its consent to such action by a two-thirds vote of its eligible voters:

(a) The power of initiative, referendum and recall;

(b) The power to sell or relinquish land owned by the tribe or land held in trust for the tribe by the United States of America. Except that, the tribal council may by majority vote of the entire council authorize grants of rights of way over tribal lands or interests therein for the purpose of providing municipal services, such as water, sewer disposal, electricity, telephone and roads, to and for the benefit of tribal members, or the heirs and descendants of tribal members who hold a land use assignment or lease.

(c) The power to sell or relinquish any tribal hunting or fishing rights;

(d) the power to terminate the Big Lagoon Rancheria;

(e) the power to grant or relinquish any tribal jurisdiction to any other government, agency, organization, or person;

(f) the power to revoke, terminate or diminish a right reserved or delegated to the tribe by federal law;

(g) the power to waive the tribe's immunity from suit.

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Section 1. Business Committee

For the orderly transaction of business, there shall be elected from the general council a business council known as the BIG LAGOON RANCHERIA BUSINESS COUNCIL. It shall be the duty of the business council to govern all people, resources, land, and waters reserved to the Indians of the Big Lagoon Rancheria in accordance with this constitution, such laws as may hereinafter be adopted by the tribe and such limitations as may lawfully be imposed by the statutes or the constitution of the United States. All rights, powers and authority, expressed, implied, or inherent, vested in the Indians of the Big Lagoon Rancheria not expressly referred to in these Articles shall not be hereby abridged but shall be exercised by the business council by the adoption of appropriate amendments, ordinances, laws and agreements.

Section 2. Enumerated Powers

The business council shall have the following powers, to be exercised consistent with this constitution and applicable tribal and federal laws.

(a) On behalf of the tribe, to consult, negotiate, contract, or conclude agreements with federal, state, local and tribal governments and with private persons and organizations;

(b) To employ legal counsel of its choice on behalf of the tribe or for the benefit of tribal members and to fix the fees for such counsel in accordance with federal law.

(c) To make recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior, or to his authorized representative, with regard to all appropriation estimates for all projects which are for the benefit of members of the tribe, prior to the submission of such estimates to the office of Management and Budget and Congress, or to the State of California;

(d) To borrow money from public and private sources and to pledge, mortgage or assign tribal assets except as otherwise provided in this constitution;

(e) To set aside and to spend tribal funds for tribal purposes;

(f) To impose taxes on all persons, property and any business activities located or conducted within tribal jurisdiction; provided no tax shall be imposed on real property in trust by the United States of America;

(g) To regulate the use and development of all tribal lands, whether assigned, or unassigned, and to manage, lease, or otherwise use all unassigned tribal lands in accordance with federal law.

(h) To charter and regulate corporations, cooperatives, associations, special districts, housing authorities, educational and charitable institutions, political subdivisions and other entities;

(i) To license and regulate the conduct of all business activities within tribal jurisdiction;

(j) To establish enterprises as branches or agencies of the tribal government and, otherwise to engage in business activities and projects which promote the economic well-being of the tribe and its members;

(k) To purchase and to acquire in other ways land and other property;

(l) To condemn for tribal purposes real property or interest in real property within tribal jurisdiction; provided that the owners of assignments of property condemned by the tribal council shall be paid fair market value for the assignment or property, and all improvements made thereon by the assignee or owner, and provided further that an assignee of condemned tribal lands shall be assigned alternative tribal lands of comparable condition and value.

(m) To manage, develop, protect and regulate the use of water, minerals, and all other natural resources within tribal jurisdiction;

(n) To enact laws, statutes and codes governing conduct of individuals and proscribing offenses against the tribe; to maintain order to protect the safety and welfare of all persons within tribal jurisdiction; and to provide for the enforcement of the laws and codes of the tribe;

(o) To establish tribal courts or courts of Indian offenses, from time to time as may be required, and to provide for the court or courts jurisdiction, procedures, and a method for the selection of judges;

(p) To prescribe conditions under which nonmembers may enter and remain on the reservation and to establish procedures for the exclusion of non-members from any land within the tribe's jurisdiction;

(q) To assert as a defense to lawsuits against the tribe the sovereign immunity of the tribe; except that no waiver of sovereign immunity can be made by the business council without prior approval of the general council;

(r) To regulate the domestic relations of members of the tribe; to provide for the guardianship of minors and incompetent persons within tribal jurisdiction; to provide services for the health, education and welfare of all persons within tribal jurisdiction;

(s) To regulate the inheritance of all lands within tribal jurisdiction and all property owned by persons within tribal jurisdiction; and to provide for escheat of property to the tribe; provided that no law, statute, code or ordinance governing the inheritance of property owned by tribal members shall be in violation of applicable federal law;

(t) To enact ordinances consistent with this constitution establishing procedures for the nomination and election of tribal officers;

(u) To appoint, direct and set the compensation of a tribal business administrator or manager; and to establish policies and procedures for the employment of tribal personnel;

(v) Subject to any limitations contained in this constitution, to delegate any powers vested in the business council to subordinate tribal officers, tribal employees, or other appropriate person; and

(w) To take all actions which are necessary and proper for the exercise of the powers delegated to the business council and to delegate said power to any person or committee under supervision of the business council.

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Section 1. Composition

The business council shall consist of five (5) members duly elected to serve two (2) year terms.

The tribal council shall elect from its membership a chairperson, a vice-chairperson, a secretary-treasurer, and may appoint or employ such officers and committees as may be deemed necessary.

Section 2. Qualifications

Members of the tribal council shall be subject to the following rules of eligibility:

(a) Each must be an enrolled member of the Big Lagoon Rancheria and be at least 18 years of age;

(b) Each must reside and have physically resided for the previous year within one hundred (100) miles of the Rancheria.

Section 3. Vacancies and Removal From Office

(a) Vacancies may occur on the tribal council by reason of any of the following:

(i) By death or resignation of the member.

(ii) By a member being convicted of a felony involving dishonesty.

(iii) By a member having been expelled or suspended from the council by a majority vote of the general council at a meeting called for that purpose or by a vote of at least four (4) of the (5) members of the tribal council by reason of neglect of duty, gross misconduct, or because of the member becoming mentally or physically incapable of performing his/her duties. Before any vote for expulsion or suspension is taken, such member or official shall be given a written statement of the charges against him or her at least five days before the meeting of the general council or business council at which the matter of expulsion or suspension is to be decided, and shall be given an opportunity to answer any and all charges at the designated council meeting.

(b) If any member of the business council during his or her term of office shall die, resign, be removed or recalled from office, the business council shall declare the position vacant. If less than twelve (12) months of the term remains, the business council shall fill the vacancy by appointment of a member of the tribe who qualifies for candidacy to the vacant position. If more than twelve (12) months remain in the unexpired term, a special election shall be called to fill the vacant position.

Section 4. Bonding

The business council may require all responsible tribal officials and employees to be bonded. The person responsible for the costs of such bondings to be determined by the business council.

Section 5. Business Council Meetings

All meetings of the business council shall be opened to all tribal members, except in those cases where the matter under discussion would invade the privacy of an individual tribal member. Meetings shall be held in accordance with the following provisions:

(a) Frequency. Regular meetings of the business council shall be held quarterly in the months of January, April, July and October on a day to be designated by the chairperson. The place and time shall be posted at the tribe's office (1) week prior to the date of the meeting. The business council may set more frequent regular meetings as necessary; provided that it shall cause to be published the schedule of all such meetings.

(b) Quorum. A majority of members, that is, three (3) members, shall constitute a quorum at all business council meetings.

(c) Proxy Votes. A proxy vote may be approved by the business council for absences caused only by illness, military service, hospitalization or approved tribal business. Requests to the business council to vote by proxy shall be in writing and signed by the requesting council member.

(d) Meeting Notice. At least seven (7) days notice shall be given to each member by the chairperson, unless a regular time is specified by business council resolution.

(e) Absences. Absences from regular meetings must be excused by a majority vote of the business council members present. More than two successive absences not excused by majority vote of the business committee may be cause for removal of a business council member from office.

(f) Special Meetings. Special meetings of the business council may be called by the chairperson and shall be called when requested by a majority of the business council or upon written request of a majority of eligible voting members of the general council. The notice in regard to any special meeting shall be given at least seven (7) days prior to the meeting and shall specify the purpose of the meeting. Emergency meetings may be provided for in a business council resolution.

(g) Voting. Each member of the business council shall have one (1) vote on all matters, and all matters to be acted on at a business council meeting shall be approved or disapproved by a majority vote of those present and voting, unless provided to the contrary in this constitution.

(h) Statutes, Code and Resolutions. Copies of all statutes, codes, resolutions or ordinances adopted by the business council, its committees and subcommittees shall be maintained at the tribal office and shall be available for inspection, upon reasonable notice, to all enrolled members of the tribe.

Section 6. Procedures

All meetings of the business council shall be conducted in accordance with Robert's Rules of Order.

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Section 1. Initial Business Council Election and Term

Within thirty (30) days after the approval of this constitution by the General Council an election shall be called pursuant to the requirements of this constitution, herein to elect the members of the Business Council. Election shall be by secret ballot. The three (3) members receiving the highest number of votes in the first election shall hold office for a period of three (3) years and the two remaining members shall hold office for a two (2) year period. Thereafter, all the terms of office shall be for two (2) years. Council members shall hold office for their term or until their successors are elected, qualified and installed.

Section 2. Election Date

Elections shall be held each year on the first Thursday of November. At the first regularly scheduled meeting following elections conducted pursuant to section 2 above, the business council shall select from among its members a chairperson, vice-chairperson and a secretary/treasurer to serve until their successors are selected as set forth herein.

Section 3. Statement of Intent

Any qualified member of the tribe who desires that his or her name be placed on the ballot as a candidate for the business council shall file with the tribal secretary a statement of intent stating his or her name, address and desire to become a candidate. Such statement shall be filed not less than thirty (30) days prior to the next election; provided, however, if only one or fewer qualified members files a statement of intent for candidacy a special meeting of the general council shall be convened for the purpose of taking nominations from the floor for a candidate or candidates for office.

Section 4. Form of Ballot, Rules of Election

The business council shall enact an ordinance prescribing the form of ballot, rules for calling election, absentee balloting, procedures, selection of election officials, establishment of polling places and other similar matters.

Section 5. Referendum, Initiative and Recall

(a) Referendum - The council shall, upon receipt of a petition signed by thirty percent (30%) of the qualified voters, submit any enacted or proposed tribal legislation to a referendum of the eligible voters. The decision of a majority of the voters voting in the referendum shall be final, providing thirty percent (30%) of the qualified voters voted. The tribal council shall call the referendum within (30) days from the date of the receipt of a valid petition. The vote shall be by secret ballot.

(b) Initiative - The qualified voters of the tribe reserve the power to independently propose tribal legislation. Any proposed initiative measure shall be presented to the business council accompanied by a petition signed by not less than thirty percent (30%) of the eligible voters of the general council. Upon receipt of such a petition, the business council shall call a special election for the purpose of allowing the members of the tribe to vote on the initiative measure. The election shall be held within thirty (30) days from the date a valid petition is presented. The initiative shall be final providing that thirty percent (30%) of the qualified voters have voted in such election.

(c) Recall - Upon receipt of a petition signed by at least thirty percent (30%) of the qualified voters of the tribe demanding a recall of any member of the tribal council, it shall be the duty of the tribal council to call a special election on the question of the recall within thirty (30) days from the date of the filing of the valid petition. The elections shall be held in the manner prescribed in an election ordinance to be promulgated in accordance with Article XI, Section I. Should the business council not call an election within thirty days (30) the office shall be declared vacant. The decision of a majority of the voters voting in the recall shall be final providing at least thirty percent (30%) of the qualified voters voted.

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Section 1. Chairperson

The Chairperson shall exercise the following powers as the chief executive officer of the tribe:

(a) To preside over and vote at all meetings of the business council;

(b) Subject to the approval of the business council, to appoint all non-elected officials and employees of the tribal government and direct them in their work, subject only to applicable restrictions embodied in this constitution or in the enactments of the business council establishing personnel policies or government personnel management;

(c) Subject to the approval of the business council, to establish such boards, committees, or subcommittees as the business of the business council may require, and to serve an ex-officio member of all such committee and boards;

(d) Subject to the approval of all contracts by the business council, to serve as a contracting officer or agent for the tribe, including authority to retain legal counsel;

(e) Subject to such regulations and procedures as may be prescribed by statute, enacted by the business council, and subject to approval by the business council, to grant pardons or restore tribal members to eligibility for elective office in tribal government;

(f) Subject to the approval of the business council, to appoint tribal judges, tribal law enforcement officials as are from time to time required to assure the administration and enforcement of tribal laws; and

(g) The chairperson shall not engage in private renumerative employment which may pose a conflict of interest with the tribe's enterprises or business activities during his or her term of office.

Section 2. Vice-Chairperson

The vice-chairperson shall, with the consent of the business council, in the absence of the chairperson, perform all duties and assume all the responsibilities vested in the chairperson. The vice-chairperson shall, upon the request of the chairperson, assist in carrying out the duties of the chairperson. The vice-chairperson shall perform such other duties as the chairperson may direct.

Section 3. Secretary/Treasurer

The secretary/treasurer shall have the following powers and duties:

(a) Call the roll, handle all official correspondence of the business council, keep the minutes of all regular and special meetings of the business council and general council, certify to the Superintendent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs the duly elected officers of the business council within fifteen (15) days from the date of any election.

(b) To accept, receipt for, keep and safeguard all funds under the exclusive control of the tribe by depositing them in a bank insured by an agency of the federal government, or in an I.I.M. Account or tribal trust account with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as directed by the business council and shall keep or cause to be kept an accurate record of such funds and shall report on all receipts and expenditures and the amount and nature of all funds in his or her custody to the business council at regular meetings and at such other times as requested. The secretary/treasurer shall not pay or otherwise disburse any funds in the custody of the business council except when properly authorized to do so by the business council;

(c) The treasurer may be required to give a surety bond satisfactory to the business council; and,

(d) All checks drawn on tribal funds shall be signed and all vouchers shall be approved for payment by the secretary/treasurer and at least one officer or designated check signer of the tribe in accordance with a written procedure approved and adopted by the business council by resolution.

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If any provision of this constitution shall in the future be declared invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, the invalid provision or provisions shall be severed and the remaining provisions shall continue in full force and effect.

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This constitution may be amended by a majority vote of the qualified voters of the Rancheria voting at an election called for that purpose by the chairperson of the business council, provided that, at least two thirds of the qualified membership votes. It shall be the duty of the chairperson to call such an election or referendum at the request of a majority of the business council, or upon presentation of a petition proposing an amendment signed by at least fifty percent (50%) of the qualified voters. Amendments shall be effective from the date of approval of the General Council voting at a duly called election. Amendments shall be submitted to the Secretary of the the Interior as a courtesy.

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This constitution, when adopted by the majority of the qualified voters of the Big Lagoon Rancheria voting at an election called for that purpose in which at least two thirds of those entitled to vote shall vote, shall become immediately effective but shall thereafter be submitted to the Secretary of the Interior for his information and approval.


Constitution approved on May 5, 1985.

Virgil Moorhead, Tribal
Beverly Moorhead, Tribal
Dale Lara, Tribal Vice

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