TRIBAL DISENROLLMENT of Native Americans by Native Americans.
Monday, January 7, 2013
WHO Belongs in the Snoqualmie Tribe? It's a MESS
He traveled with a notebook in his pocket, on an urgent mission.
All over Western Washington, for two years beginning in late 1916, Indian agent Charles Roblin sought out homeless, landless Indians, left behind and hiding out during the treaty-making era, who had never received the benefits promised in return for the loss of their land: a school for their children, tools for farming, money.
On sandbars in the rivers in northern Puget Sound, he found Sauk Indians chased out of communal gardens that had sustained them for generations, run out of the forests where loggers didn't want them, and burned out of villages where fishermen didn't want them, either. He traveled to Tolt, where Snoqualmies had lost their livelihood when the hop ranches were destroyed by aphids.
Roblin took down their names and family history, and recorded their enrollment in tribes according to their bloodline, so they could secure the benefits they had been promised under the treaties.
Those records are called Charles Roblin's Schedule of Unenrolled Indians, dated Jan. 1, 1919, or Roblin Rolls for short. In those records Roblin used a red pen to denote families that did not qualify to be enrolled at Snoqualmie, because they were already enrolled in other tribes.
But the red ink was undetectable in the black-and-white copies and microfilmed records that made it to Northwest archives, and at least three major families called out in the Roblin Rolls nonetheless claim Snoqualmie ancestry today.
Seattle anthropologist Jay Miller discovered that secret as he combed through the original Roblin Rolls — organized in a rainbow of colored papers and folders, and notated in colored inks — to help resolve an ongoing tribal enrollment dispute under a contract signed by Snoqualmie tribal secretary Nina Repin.
Miller's research indicates that Shelley Burch, chairwoman of the tribal council, several other council members, and some tribal members claiming hereditary chief status are descended from families nixed by Roblin in red ink. The mismatch with the original record shows that contemporary records used to claim membership today are unreliable, Miller said. "Most records after 1920 are inaccurate, messed up, corrupted or intentionally falsified," Miller said.
Some question the reliability even of the Roblin Rolls, because tribal members were self-identifying their lineage; the oral history they related could have been embroidered, and other complications defeat a perfectly square-cornered foundation.