Monday, June 1, 2015

Michelle Rodriguez: Exposing Disenrollment on College Campuses II: Telling the PERSONAL STORIES

Guest Blogger Michelle Rodriguez, disenrolled from Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians had a positive reaction to a recent post about my cousin, UVINA CAMACHO using her college classes to get the stories out about disenrollment.   Activism can be done in many places, not just a protest in front of the BIA.  Educate our family and friends, our classmates and teachers.

Right on! Keep the word lit Uvina! As tribal disenrollment is becoming more common in Indian Country and is at an epidemic level within what is politically California, our greater Indian community at large is becoming more familiar with it because they have been affected by it directly or know someone who has.

When I was a student at SFSU (2004-2008) I gave power point presentations within the classrooms of the Ethnic Studies department which is home to the American Indian Studies program and classes (BA).

I would open with: When I was in high school a few years back (before we had been disenrolled), my mother and I were on our way somewhere and began discussing in the car how this act on any Indian family was wrong, and how we couldn't believe our tribe (Picayune Chukchansi) was the next on the list to put this practice in place.
Our voices elevated as we furthered how hurt and disgusted we were in even the thought.. we got lost in our own words on the issue and forgot we had our baby of the family in the back. Only 9 years old and her voice cut through our frustration like a hot knife. Baby raised her voice in honesty and confusion."I, I just don't get it! How can we be Indian one day, and not the next?" From the mouths of babes!

This question to the class would lead to touching on the consequences and the further explanation of this identity theft as loss of birth right through paper genocide, and how this directly related to the loss of health care, the loss of education, the loss of opportunity and the loss of home, community and sense of place.

Disenrollment is self destructive insanity, and tribal suicide for those that participate in this untraditional behavior of trimming rolls, and the federal government conveniently says their hands are tied due to "tribal sovereignty."

As I say, how convenient. I felt my family's experience, although emotionally difficult to share with strangers, this difficulty was becoming the experience of so many others that we have to continue to keep talking, because no one else will do it for us, our elders, our babies and those yet to be born. It is our responsibility.

Presenting to the American Indian Studies classes I was taking gave me some clarity on how to process the emotions and thoughts surrounding this plague, and presented the perfect platform for the passing of this information to non-Indians, and Indian professor's who may also be trying to learn more.

With these presentations I found so many non-Indian students were poorly educated on Indian issues and affairs in general but were genuinely interested and unsettled, and the professor's felt they were doing a service as well to our people by providing this safe place for a 21st century Indian woman to express.

Most of those in these classes had raised their hands at least two times each after the presentation was through. Toward the completion of the presentations I wanted to tell my fellow students that this wasn't a fight without hope. I included a list of links to video, articles, and organizations that are related to tribal disenrollment to show our communities rallying against this practice, and to supplement my classmates in what they had taken away from the class if they were interested in learning more.

This issue is not going away, it will keep being talked about, it will continue to come through the halls of academia in the forums of the classroom, and the cases, papers and eventual books of lawyers, analysts and professor's, and it will be dealt with on a larger scale.
Even if the start is informing our non-Indian friends and allies to not provide state compact votes and business to disenrolling tribes, because most often this injustice is intertwined with casino revenues, this is a start. We are with hope, as the tide changes!

Share YOUR story,  Share THIS story:  GOOGLE +, Twitter and Facebook, thank you Michelle
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