Sunday, May 19, 2013
Cedric Sunray: Cherokee Nation Places Sovereignty At Risk
A law has no meaning unless it was rendered with morality, ethics, heart, and equity at its foundation.
Disenrollment, Baby Veronica, and countless other issues all share the common denominator of being brought to the proverbial card table of contention by none other than the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.
Legalese has determined “tribal sovereignty” the royal flush, while in all honesty the dealer manipulating the deck and the primary player holding the winning hand, the CNO, would better fit the image of the Joker.
The Indian Child Welfare Act was created in response to the massive theft of Indian children from Indian homes. Its contested resurrection is due to the multi-million dollar intervention of what is assumed to be the nation’s largest Indian tribe.
Defining an entity of over 300,000 individuals, which is primarily of white racial descent and scattered across every state in the nation and many countries abroad, a tribe, is another argument altogether; especially when the small, identifiable Cherokee cohesive communities which still exist within the CNO jurisdiction in Oklahoma have little access to the CNO Council’s power.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs pays out on numbers and when an entity such as the CNO is adding tribal citizens at such an astronomical rate, they tend to have the funds to pay massive lawyer fees, to take just about anyone and everyone to court, and to ensure successful lobbying campaigns second to none in the Halls of Power.
Unfortunately, the Cherokee Nation has convinced the rest of Indian Country to support their rhetoric which allows for a 3/256 “Indian” child to be the catalyst for defending ICWA under “tribal sovereignty," to allow the Indian Arts & Crafts Act which protects state recognized tribes to be marketed as for “federal tribes only” in order to protect “tribal sovereignty," and to hide their prejudicial truths of disenrolling tribal citizens with Black ancestry as protecting “tribal sovereignty."
To stop the acquisition of land by the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (a federal tribe in Northeastern Oklahoma which requires ¼ or more blood quantum for enrollment ) in order to maintain their gaming monopoly as an act of “tribal sovereignty” is a further continuation of the sincere misuse of the term, especially when the dealer and winning hand holder currently enroll persons with blood degrees as low as 1/4,096.
Don't get me wrong, the argument is not about "who has more Indian blood", but it is definitely about a group with such enrollees being so two-faced in attacking the identities of others. The irony is so blatant that the only people missing it are those who are purposefully trying to suppress it.
Supporting the campaign of “tribal sovereignty” over tribal cohesiveness, cultural retention, close kinship connection, community involvement, and other factors which clearly identify Indian communities, bands, tribes, and nations is a fool’s game.
Buying into the “all or nothing” scam that is being thrown at Indian Country by the CNO is dangerous business. Which tribe reframed disenrolling tribal members as an act of “tribal sovereignty?" Which tribe sent a council member to last year’s National Congress of American Indians annual conference to declare that none of the twenty or so “non-federal” documented boarding school tribes ever attended Haskell Indian Nations University, just prior to NCAI unanimously drafting a resolution supporting them?
How does that look when the very Haskell alumni from these “non-federal” tribes are seated in the very same room where the fictitious attack is leveled? How dare a group with 1/4,096 blood quantum tribal members play identity police to anyone, at anytime.
The reason that historic, legitimate tribal communities can’t become recognized is because the super-sized CNO is receiving so many federal dollars, that the argument that the pie is to small to split becomes an actual economic reality. If the total of an entities identity and continuation rests in the confines of “tribal sovereignty” over previously mentioned factors, then “tribal sovereignty” becomes all there is left to cling to.
While tribes certainly have a diversity of experience and historical narratives to consider, those who choose the far off descendant model of enrollment as the only criteria have an ethical and moral responsibility to not impose their agenda on the rest of us.
It is time to let the CNO know that their political agendas fueled by their gaming revenues and massive federal allocations are not the responsibility of the rest of Indian Country to uphold. The CNO isn’t protecting our collective tribal sovereignty, they are continually placing it in jeopardy. Today the card game has come down to diamonds over hearts. Diamonds may have the power to force hands, but only have the “sincerity” to move the weakest of hearts.
Cedric Sunray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.