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Disenrollment leaves Natives ‘culturally homeless’

Posted By Toyacoyah Brown January 27th, 2014 Last Updated on: January 27th, 2014

Mia Prickett's ancestor was a leader of the Cascade Indians along the Columbia River and was one of the chiefs who signed an 1855 treaty that helped establish the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde in Oregon.

But the Grand Ronde now wants to disenroll Prickett and 79 relatives, and possibly hundreds of other tribal members, because they no longer satisfy new enrollment requirements.

Prickett's family is fighting the effort, part of what some experts have dubbed the “disenrollment epidemic” — a rising number of dramatic clashes over tribal belonging that are sweeping through more than a dozen states, from California to Michigan.

“In my entire life, I have always known I was an Indian. I have always known my family's history, and I am so proud of that,” Prickett said. She said her ancestor chief Tumulth was unjustly accused of participating in a revolt and was executed by the U.S. Army — and hence didn't make it onto the tribe's roll, which is now a membership requirement.

The prospect of losing her membership is “gut-wrenching,” Prickett said.

“It's like coming home one day and having the keys taken from you,” she said. “You're culturally homeless.”

The enrollment battles come at a time when many tribes — long poverty-stricken and oppressed by government policies — are finally coming into their own, gaining wealth and building infrastructure with revenues from Indian casinos.

Critics of disenrollment say the rising tide of tribal expulsions is due to greed over increased gambling profits, along with political in-fighting and old family and personal feuds.

But at the core of the problem, tribes and experts agree, is a debate over identity — over who is “Indian enough” to be a tribal member.

“It ultimately comes down to the question of how we define what it means to be Native today,” said David Wilkins, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota and a member of North Carolina's Lumbee Tribe. “As tribes who suffered genocidal policies, boarding school laws and now out-marriage try to recover their identity in the 20th century, some are more fractured, and they appear to lack the kind of common elements that lead to true cohesion.”

AP Photo, Don Ryan

AP Photo, Don Ryan

Read more on the story from MSN News.


Home » Native American Articles » Native American Culture » Disenrollment leaves Natives ‘culturally homeless'

About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with PowWows.com readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.



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HM Senita

I am sad as well for all of our peoples.When have you ever owned anything? Red or other nations own nothing but we have one another.My people escaped to Water Town then Missouri no one was enrolled exept some relatives they are all gone now Iam the eldest woman in our family we have the history in our hearts and the hearts of our children. We all pay taxes so who owns what for taxes are forever but a fool and his money are soon to part.
Get with your people as you can but remember hitler had his rools too. Donahdahgowahhv.

Jack Anderson

I left the Crow res 38 years ago with my grandmother. I was 14 years old. I did not live there but spent time there during summers. I have been waiting since for my “INVITATION” to come home. I am only an eighth crow so there for unrecognized as a native by the crow tribe. Funny thing the rest of the country sees things differently. My children and grandchildren think our heritage is just a fairy tale. They aren’t even sure Chief Plenty Coups ever was. QUIT PULLING PEOPLES LIFES APART!!!!! This is not just about the paper work people. This is our lives!!Our identities! Our Beliefs! Our Families! Our Bloodlines!! This is about everything we know and you just shuffle it aside.

Wrongfully Disenrolled

I hate to see that we as Indians have to be treated in such away, the way I see the native that are causing this harm to us by taking our citizenship from us is WRONG and put you in the thought of the times long ago, when the Anglos did what their doing to us to them. I’m a member of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, and they have disenrolled all of 138 member of my family saying my great-great-grandmother’s name is on the 1916 census, first off her parents both her mother and father and siblings are on there and Agent John Terrell has her listed by her nick name, further more in applying for membership the tribal application said for her to trace her ancestry to someone on the 1916 census and she did her mother and father. How can one be a member for decades and when your tribe resigns a compact for $500million the largest family gets disenrolled ? How do you trust tribal courts and trust that the ruling is going to be fair, when you kno the judge is paid by the very evil people that plotted against you. They came in sought for the younger generation in the 1990’s to get the numbers ( us as an individual ) to get the numbers needed to get their casino, grants and other funding. We were used and now they have what they want so no use for us. It’s not about the money but our history,elders and future.

Wrongfully Disenrolled

I hate to see that we as Indians have to be treated in such away, the way I see the native that are causing this harm to us by taking our citizenship from us is WRONG and put you in the thought of the times long ago, when the Anglos did what their doing to us to them. I’m a member of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, and they have disenrolled all of 138 member of my family saying my great-great-grandmother’s name is on the 1916 census, first off her parents both her mother and father and siblings are on there and Agent John Terrell has her listed by her nick name, further more in applying for membership the tribal application said for her to trace her ancestry to someone on the 1916 census and she did her mother and father. How can one be a member for decades and when your tribe resigns a compact for $500million the largest family gets disenrolled ? How do you take it to a hearing within tribal courts and trust that the ruling is going to be fair, when you kno the judge is paid by the very evil people that plotted against you.

Kitty Sutton

I am an author of Native American historical fiction. I write about forgotten, or hidden history which has never been revealed. At the moment my books are about events in Indian Territory immediately after the Trail of Tears of the Cherokee. I right about actual events that have never been told to the public and I try to give voice to the history that has been suppressed intentionally.

My husband is Cherokee and has his card to prove it. I know that I am also Cherokee and Osage, however I have not yet found the the right names on the rolls and am still searching. Even if they are not there, I am no less Indian. However, I am having a hard time reconciling the reasons why the tribes continue to use the white government’s rules as to who can be Indian, or in this case Cherokee.

While researching for my books I found that during the civil war, Indian Territory was split in two and the territory was decimated. The south took possession of the territory and the northern or Union sympathizers fled to nearby states like Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas. My people fled to Missouri. So much was ruined, farms, livestock and families wiped out. For some Native Americans who had been forced to Indian Territory had nothing to come back to. So they remained where they were. Coming back to Indian Territory meant stepping back into poverty, starvation and being under the thumb of the government. When the Dawes rolls were enacted, many families in these other states had no idea that they were required to be living in Indian Territory in order to be placed on the rolls as a tribal member. And that is how it stands to this day.

I am no less Indian, but I find it difficult to swallow that the tribes, who have suffered against crimes of genocide instigated by that same government, continue to use that government’s definition of who can be Indian. The way I see it, by their allowing this, those tribal governments have thus joined forces with the U.S. government against those of their own bloodlines, just because they were not on the spot when the rolls were taken back in the early 1900’s.

Now that we have so many improvements in DNA testing, I don’t understand why the tribes would not jump at the chance to bring these families back into their ranks. I suppose it is because the Native tribal governments have decided they can have it all and the fewer the numbers of tribal citizens, the more money to go around.

Whether this is true, or there is some other underlying reason for this movement, it is undeniable that the U.S. government from way back in the 1700’s has finally gotten what they wanted. The land, the assets and if they wait long enough, the families actually enrolled will eventually die off and the tribal governments can be disbanded entirely.

This problem was brought home to me when the Cherokee Tribe in Tahlequah refused to allow my books to be sold in their own gift shops. Not because the stories are not true, but ONLY because I cannot prove my Indianness. So they would rather their people not know the truth of their heritage so they can use the white government’s rules as who can be Cherokee. On that bases and only that basis, they exclude my work.

On the other hand, this last year both my books, Wheezer and the Painted Frog (about the mass starvation in Indian Territory and its causes) and Wheezer and the Shy Coyote (about how whiskey was used to subdue and control the tribes of Indian Territory), have been accepted by the U.S. National Park Services and can be sold in any of their gift shops. Why? I asked one of the gift shop managers. He told me that the Park Services wants to find writers who write about the true history, white or Indian, that shows what actually happened on the land they have now made into a national park. He told me that I have been the only writer to dig up the facts of these particular events which happened around Fort Smith in Arkansas, and write about them and it is valuable to the parks. But that leaves me a little angry. I thought I was helping the tribes of Indian Territory to know their true historic facts that took over a year of research for each book. Then to be refused only on the bases that my family has not yet been found on a roll instituted by the U.S. Government, which, by-the-way, effectively took away a vast amount of land from the tribes and allowed Indian Territory to be settled by white settlers, thus violating the governments own promise to those tribes: namely, that the land would be theirs “as long as grass grows”. It’s ironic, isn’t it?

I may never understand it. However, I do know that all of mankind are the same, no matter what color. They are all capable of great good works, as well as great vile works, greed, and all manner of hatefulness, even against their own people. It is the same around the world, not just here and that mankind is quickly ruining the earth. And I know that there will be a huge change, very soon and it won’t have anything to do with tribal affiliation or who thinks he owns what. The Great Creator of all has already set a date and he promises he will destroy all the governments of the earth.

In the meantime it is everyone’s responsibility to think about where he/she stands and what they stand for. I know that this last comment sounds off of the subject. But, it is not really, because these questions cannot be solved by mankind. Only Jehovah can make right what is wrong on the earth and save it and its inhabitants, both animal and human. There are problems so huge that threaten to drive man and all his tribes into extinction and ruin the earth for millennia to come unless He steps in to save us from ourselves. The problem is much bigger than the struggles of the Native American tribes, but is world wide effecting all peoples of the earth. It is food for thought.

Kitty Sutton

Sorry for the few typos. I wrote it in a hurry. Wado Kitty

Thomas Singingcrow Smith

In the Indian world, those who have BIA ”cards” are considered “real Indians” and those who don’t, aren’t. It’s a sad commentary, really, because it draws a line in the sand and actively, systematically encourages both discrimination and the eventual elimination of Indian tribes, well, of government sanctioned Indian tribes, as we know them. Why? Because unless the tribal members “marry native,” eventually, their blood quantum, the percentage of Indian blood they carry, will be reduced to under the amount required for tribal membership, a percentage established by the tribes themselves. Then there won’t be issues about obtaining that precious BIA card from the government that identifies them as “Indian,” and entitles them to a number of services, because there won’t be any more “Indians.” They, along with the BIA who issues the cards, will have legislated themselves into the group of “have nots,” the “not real” Indians that the card carrying Indians so often disdain. Indeed, the line in the sand that includes/excludes the BIA card and tribal membership encourages discrimination both inside of and outside of the Native community.

I have often wondered if this is just another kind of long-term institutionalized genocide, one that Native people and tribes have bought into in order to obtain the services today that their people need. In time, the “Indians” will be gone, in another generation or two, which was, after all, the original intention of the government – to exterminate the Indians one way or another – through death, sale into slavery, religious conversion, assimilation – anything to make them non-Indian and to “go-away,” of course, leaving their precious land behind. By the tribes’ own definition of who is and is not an Indian, they will shrink their own numbers until they become extinct or so small as to be inconsequential. So the government doesn’t have to do anything, except wait, because the “shrinking” criteria for being “Indian” has been established and agreed to by all parties involved.

Why, you ask, wouldn’t the Indian tribes simply change their definition of blood quantum to include more people? That is a political question, and the answer even moreso, but in essence, there is a pot of money, often including casino revenue, and the pot must be divided by the number of tribal members. Some tribes have actually tightened their membeship requirements.

greenriverkate

Thomas, I have to say your post is one of the best explanations I have read. I congratulate you on the understanding of this problem, as so few have no idea! My kids are registered but not their kids. Three of my grandkids are four different tribes and a toss of white so they could not be registered until they dropped the blood quantum. My other granddaughter, very proud of her Native blood can not be registered. It is a sad state of affairs when the heart is Native and the “blood” is not. Her near full blooded grandfather would be furious with the state of affairs. Everyone got along on the rez, regardless of tribal affiliation UNTIL money entered the picture, Now you hear “are you registered”! People that have lived together, grown up together, eaten together have drawn a line in mother earth. Without a doubt, even though many claim they don’t want to “act white” have truly learned the white act of greed I see councils stealing money from their own people without conscience! To steal from your own is a horrendous act! It breaks my heart to see people pulling away from each other. I never cared if someone was “registered” or not, I cared about their heart. People I have considered family are now split into groups! I refuse to play the game! There is no light at the end of this tunnel. Again, thank you for an intelligent post about Natives and the damn government

Jason

What a beautiful and strong native woman Mia Prickett is for standing up for her rights and the rights of her ancestors. There is no mistaking that this woman is native to this land. This makes my heart sad. 500 years of fighting for our land and maintaining our identity as native people. For some of us, our ancestry is all we have. I am truly grateful to have my native ancestry. Our ancestors fought the good fight, and they will keep on fighting until it is made right. Mia I am so sorry for your plight. You are a strong beautiful native woman, you and your ancestors are survivors of over 500 years of oppression. Keep on fighting Mia.

Eva Packer

Wow, the better things get the worse they get! So we have casinos on the reservations across this nation to HELP our Native Americans build better schools/hospitals and homes. Even better connections to water, electricity and gas. But all we seem to hear about is corruption, mis-use of tribal funds and now this. We tell the white man that they did our ancestors wrong, our treaties were not honored and genocide took place and still is, BUT when we have a chance to stand up straight and take care of ourselves in an honorable way we start fighting EACH OTHER over money!!! Our ancestors are shedding tears for us, for we are shameful!!! We should clean up our reservations, get rid of the old cars and trash around our homes, take pride in who we are and stop being the subject of the white man’s pity or power. If we can’t take care of this problem without looking like jerks we have been caught in the white’s man trap and here we sit and die.

Nancy Richard

I agree,its heartless,mean.I have 3 American Indian blood running through my vains.My aunt registered me when i was little,the tribe i had the most(Comanche).She passed away,could not find my card or papers.wanted to register my children.but cant.cause for some reason they cant find my register paper.they told me i would have to start all over.How am suppost to that when my family is no longer here.

Ethel Marquez

This is shameful! What is happening to our people? I have met many Grand Rhonde Tribal members and it is all about the money. Shameful. We are people who take care of our own not dis enroll them so our check is bigger. Really look back at our peoples history we always took care of our elders! ALWAYS!!!

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