I received this via email, and without my computer, so I'll attribute it when I can. I think its important to get this out there. Carmen George's article can be found in our archives.
I found the Sept. 29 Sierra Star article by Carmen George about disenrollment of Chukchansi tribal members very informative and well written, although it is very disheartening to see what is happening to the Chukchansi people. Unfortunately, disenrollment is all too common with many tribes today.
I serve as the District 6 representative for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation which covers the southern half of California from near the Kings River to the Mexican border and the southern half of Nevada, representing about 1,900 members of our 30,000-plus member tribe headquartered in Shawnee, Ok.
Myself and the other 15 members of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Tribal Legislature recently took a Native Nations rebuilding course through The University of Arizona's Native Nations Institute. What is happening with the Chukchansi Tribe fits the "standard approach" profile as described in the course material to a tee.
So many tribes fall into the pit of the "standard approach" to economic development and nation building. The typical results are almost always failed enterprises, a politics of spoils, brain drain, outside perceptions of incompetence and chaos that undermine the defense of sovereignty and the confidence of the community.
Per capita payments, or "stipends" as they were called in the article, are at the heart of what is driving the Chukchansi disenrollments. Rather than reinvesting casino profits into nation-owned and operated enterprises that further economic development, create jobs within the community, insure self-determination and lessen dependency on federal aid, the profits are fought over and eventually squandered and the community remains in chaos and poverty.
It saddens me to see this. While I am not Chukchansi, I am Native American. But it also concerns me and because while the Bureau of Indian Affairs may appear to be hands-off with the tribe's enrollment issues, you can bet they are watching the chaos and dysfunction of the tribal government.
If there are enough petitions, protests and law suits, the BIA has everything it needs to lobby for removal of the tribe's federal recognition. Without federal recognition the tribe will basically cease to exist. No grants, no casino, no tribe.
On a much wider scale, there are some who would like to see the Indian Self-Determination Act and Education Assistance Act of 1975 repealed. Some are of the opinion that there should be no special agreements with native nations. There were many activists who fought long and hard for Native American rights to self-determination.
My hope and prayers are that there are enough native nations with the vision and courage to be self-determined. I am proud to say that the Citizen Potawatomi Nation is one such tribe. We are the ninth largest federally recognized tribe and the only federally recognized tribe with member representation outside of the tribe's geographic jurisdiction.
I wish there was something I could do to help the Chukchansi tribe but I wouldn't know where to start, even though I was raised in the area. Frankly, I don't think there is much hope if the leadership isn't taking the "long look" (seven generations into the future). OP: There Is! keep writing, write the BIA in behalf of the Chukchansi disenrolled.
The tribal government has to have public-spirited leadership instead of boxing ring politics where factions fight to control the goodies. Without these key elements within the tribal government it would be very difficult to impact change.
My hope is that this letter will stir within the Picayune Chukchansi leadership a desire to consider what is best for their tribe as a whole rather than the select few currently in power.
It is heartbreaking that fluent native speakers are in the mix of disenrollments. This sends the message that money is more important than heritage, culture and traditions.