Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Interview with Native American Activist Emilio Reyes OnTribal Disenrollment

I'm lucky enough to be friends with Emilio Reyes, who has done some excellent work in our archives in support of San Pasqual and he has found critical evidence on Pechanga and Pala.  Here, he gives his interview as research for a university project that many of us are involved with.  PLEASE read, PLEASE share and PLEASE comment.

Kill the Indian save the man has now become disenroll us and make us disappear” – Emilio Reyes

Interview with Native American Activist Emilio Reyes 

Interview Questions from Dayna Barrios Research on Disenrollment among 
Native Nations in Central and Northern California

1. What are your thoughts on current tribal membership criteria for Native Nations in California?

In 1978 the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government played no enforcement role over tribal governments in the case of Santa Clara Pueblo v Martinez. Therefore existing tribes can create a membership criteria to determine eligibility based on their tribe’s constitutions. Some tribes do implement the United States constitution to their tribal’s constitution. In some cases, tribes require to be a certain Indian blood degree, while others don’t have a blood degree requirement and some tribes as long as you can proof you are a direct descent from their base roll, you would be eligible for membership of the tribe. Since blood quantum or Indian blood degree was created by the American federal government to help individuals, assimilate and to qualify for federal services, it shouldn’t be used in any tribe’s constitution. My way of thinking is based in ancestry. Blood quantum is a white way to make you and your descendants disappear. Being 1/16 or 1/32 will not make you less Indian or less descendant. Anyone should be eligible for tribal membership as long as the individual can proof their genealogy to the tribe’s base roll as long as the base roll is reasonable and acceptable by its members. 

2. What kind of experiences have you had with disenrollment? 

At first I thought I was the only one who had incorrect information on the 1928 California enrollment application. Then after time I started hearing the same story for many other individuals, then I started tracing families to verify this information. Today, tribes know that the 1928 California Indian applications are inaccurate therefore cannot be reliable or be used as a base roll. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has openly admitted that the 1928 applications cannot be used as form of a base roll to determine tribal membership. Today in days, many tribes such as Pechanga, San Pasqual, Pala, ETC use the 1928 application of an individual ancestor against their own members. So I started helping families, and started comparing their information, and started seeing the patterns. 
Individuals were getting disenrolled from their tribes and getting kicked out because of one error in the 1928 California Indian Judgment Roll. In 1928, Fred Baker’s document that relates to the “Instructions to applicants,” allowed to leave information blank or even write unknown on the 1928 California Indian application if your ancestor wasn’t sure on the information requested. Today this is used against tribal members to disenroll. 
If I were to trace every tribal leader I can guarantee there is at least one thing wrong in their family history including blood quantum or something that could be easily disenroll them for just one error. Hundreds, and thousands today lack on baptism records because of “fires” or in some cases, Indian ancestors who did not entered the missions so their baptism was not recorded. In some cases, some Indians were listed as “gente de razon“ on their baptism record which was a category generally used to designate non-Indians in the Spanish period.  It was a problematic label even those persons who were half-Indian were typically identified as “gente de razon.” by the Spanish, which would make an individual non-Indian. Tribes who are familiar with this history take advantage of this Mission/BIA mistakes to disenroll members and use anything they can against their real heritage. Others are getting disenrolled for having their ancestors live off reservation lands. But you cannot blame them, in the early 1900s the federal government provided minimal help financially to tribal members so in order to survive you had to leave the reservation and try to assimilate. It wasn’t until after 1928 in the Meriam report that Lewis Meriam provided a report on the conditions across Indian country and advised the Department of Interior to put more money into Native American reservations and some did returned but some still preferred to stay out a reservation. 

3. What are your personal thoughts on disenrollment? 

Tribal disenrollment is because of Casino profits. Before the 1st casino opened in California after California V Cabazon Band of Mission Indians in 1987 disenrollment was not an issue. In fact most traditional Indians were against blood quantum and against the experiments the federal government tried to do to natives to determine blood quantum. Our ancestors fought very hard to keep everything traditional ways so that these corrupted tribal leaders change everything into the white way. Reality is, the more citizens they disenroll, the more per capita they get into their pockets. Simple

4. What kind of effects do you think disenrollment has on the individual who has been disenrolled? 

It’s a cultural genocide. It’s a termination of your Indian ways, your language, and your way of living. You lose your allotment, your place in the reservation, you cannot vote, you practically have no say in tribal meetings. It is also a way to have our people assimilate into the white culture, to forget about heritage and live non-traditional and white ways. When the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 was created to “protect” Natives in reality it offered no protection to our people, in fact, there is no punishment to anyone who violates our Indian civil rights. Other than losing your per capita you lose everything else including not eligible for tribal services as a federally recognized tribal member, so you are practically not recognized by the Federal Government or your tribe to be an “Indian.” 

5. What are some positive and negative aspects of disenrollment

In a perfect world, disenrollment should not be an option. Once a member is a member he/she should be a member for life. Being a member is because of ancestry not because of blood quantum or any other “criteria.”

6. What kind of activism have you done in regards to disenrollment?

When I noticed how many individuals were affected by disenrollment I opened up a Facebook page (Disenrollment) and just waited to see how many people would follow. After just 2 months, I had close to 5k followers. Which made me aware that many individuals were affected with disenrollment or had an interest in this cultural genocide. I constantly receive messages and I try to help as much as I can and guide individuals the right path to get answers to their questions. I do visit frequently the National Archives and help individuals find missing links of their family history and I also help in the area they need assistance to validate their claim as eligible for tribal membership. All my work has been voluntary with no pay. I have also had the privilege to help San Pasqual descendants with the last couple protests at the San Pasqual Reservation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Riverside. Because of my past experience in other protests and twitter storms. I created a twitter storm on tribal genocide and started bringing awareness to congress and other individuals that Natives Lives DO matter and that disenrollment should not be happening to our people. So I created the hashtag #stoptribalgenocide which I constantly use on Facebook and Twitter hoping to bring more awareness to the public and also hoping everyone would support this good cause. 

7. What would you like to see done in regards to disenrollment?  

Since the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, American Indians became citizens of the United States of America and under the US constitution, Bill of Rights, federal laws and tribal laws, we are all entitled for a fair due process. Even though sovereignty protects a tribe, Congress can waive a tribe’s immunity whenever a valid reason is in place. When a tribe disenrolls, Congress must waive the tribe’s immunity and hear their cases by a special committee and determine if a valid reason exists for disenrollment. In such case, this should be heard by other people to avoid conflict of interest possibly by a non-Indian Committee who have no interest in this matter. Ideally, this committee should be created by people such as historians, genealogists, who are no conflict of interest to the individual who is in the process of being disenrolled. The BIA must not get involved and the tribe should not make the decision but this special committee should present their findings to a higher authority for approval or disapproval such as the Senate on Indian Affairs or the Secretary of Interior with no recommendation needed from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has been always a conflict of interest in any disenrollment matter, it hasn’t worked in the past and it will not keep working in the future. 

8. Should tribes make changes to prevent disenrollment? If so, what steps can they take?

Even though many tribes adopt the ICRA into their tribal constitutions, some still act outside their constitution and they do this because sovereignty “protects the tribe.” Because of the government to government relationship the US needs make a compact with every tribe where if the constitution is violated, tribes should pay penalties fees and/or have sovereignty terminated for a time period. Since most tribes disenroll because of casino profits, the US government should immediately shut down the casino in such case a claim is made where the tribe is acting outside their constitution, and have the DOJ investigate. And if the IRS and the FBI must get involved, they should do so without fear of violating sovereignty. 

9. If you could give disenrolled members words of advice, what would you say?

Our ancestors made it this far for us to be illegally remove from the tribal rolls. Never give up, if you know you belong, you fight, until you win. Assimilation is still in process, and believe it or not it’s still the goal of the federal government for us to adapt to the white way.  It’s not your fault to be illegally removed, it’s the greet of the corrupted tribal leaders who are trying very hard to kill your history and to ”kill your Indian to save their casino.” If you lack on a baptism record for your ancestor, it doesn't mean your ancestor was not Indian, it just means your ancestor was traditional and did not entered the mission which you should feel proud he/she was not a follower but kept the tradition very alive. If there is no baptism to proof you ancestry, do not worry because there are hundreds of ways to proof your ancestry without the help of the BIA or Department of Interior. The creator made you Indian and he can only give final authority on your total blood degree, not Sally Jewell. So please, don’t let anyone change your history because you are what you are and you will survive this only if you are a warrior on the fight.  

10. If you could give tribes words of advice on disenrollment, what would they be?

150 years ago our ancestors were given smallpox to make them disappear, today we get disenroll to get disappeared once again. HISTORY ALWAYS REPEATS! but this time by our own people. Tribes need to understand Sovereignty is not immunity of civil rights. Sovereignty is not a way to do whatever you want. It’s more than anything a government to government relationship, between the tribe and the federal government. Our traditional ways are more than casino profits. In the colonial period, our ancestors looked over each other, and we should be doing the same for our people and keep following our traditions. Our ancestors warned us this would happened. The money and greed is for the white society, the more they have they more they want. Once the disenrollment started which I call the modern assimilation, many are losing their history, the culture, the language and background. We need to fight together and keep working defending our rights in Native America. Also remember, corrupted tribal leaders are also mainly the ones who lack in ancestry records, so they like to stay for years as tribal leaders so that they can avoid any challenges that may come. If a tribe requests to do the genealogy of every tribal member, the tribal council must accept the genealogy provided by the genealogist if all the genealogy can be proven. And if you are a tribal leader you must also show your documents to your members and council to proof your claim as an eligible member of the tribe. Because you are also a “member” and not just a tribal leader.  Do not wait until it’s too late that congress needs to step in and offer another damaging decision, Termination Policy #2. 

We Survived Christianization, Indoctrination, Acculturation, Termination, Extermination, Relocation, Reservations, Assimilation, Treaty violations, and we will survive what is next. 

You can follow Emilio on twitter: tribalgenocide / emilioleprado 
On Facebook: Disenrollment #stoptribalgenocide 

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