Our friend Erick Rhoan has a post up on the disenrollment at Pala Reservation.
His blog is Strict Liability in Blog and I encourage you to visit.
After delving into the issues, here's Erick's thoughts:
Personally, I have never looked up to the BIA for much, if anything. I think it is a completely useless organization that should have been jettisoned into the administrative void along with the racist policies it has been enforcing since its inception. If you want a research project to do this weekend starting googling around and find out how many colossal screw-ups this agency has made over the years. Search for things like the “Cobell Settlement,” if you want a starting point. Or, for recent, local news, look up their lack of involvement in the Chukchansi/Picayune spectacle.
Another item to consider amidst all this is the reliance on blood quantums to determine who is or is not a Native American. This too is another relic that needs to be forgotten. Aside from the historical and sociological fact that ethnic bloodlines in a multi-cultural society will dilute, we need to stop and realize that Indian-ness is not contained in the blood. Being Indian is a culture, a religion, a way of life, a society, a hierarchy, and a family all balled into one. It is spiritual, familial, and societal. It is not a matter of simply being a fervent environmentalist or feeling strongly attached to nature. It is your life’s code. Just because you are 1/8th, 1/16th, 1/4th or whatever, means absolutely nothing. The more and more people cling to this useless yardstick to measure “culture,” the more it sounds like arguing for racial purity, and no one does that in this world anymore. And this is assuming that the higher the concentration of one ethnicity in your background leads you to be more “Indian” than the guy who’s only half. How many full-blood Indians have sat on tribal councils within Native America who have betrayed their own people? Why can’t conduct, attitude, and respect be just as much a measure of Indian identity than one’s blood quantum?
Now that the motion for the TRO has been denied, the plaintiffs in this case will have to wait for their appeal results from the BIA and I don’t know how long that takes. And in the meantime, their disenrollment will take effect, stripping them of their Native American identity, their monthly gaming allotment, their healthcare, and who knows what else. Even if the BIA recommends they be reinstated, the Pala tribe doesn’t have to obey it.
This is not the first time a tragedy like this has befallen an Indian family and, unfortunately, it will not be the last.
Write your Congressperson. This needs to stop.