Sunday, November 8, 2020

After DECADES of Disenrollment Avoidance, NCAI Finally Brings Resolution on Protecting Tribal Citizenship

We have written for years about the National Congress of American Indians avoidance of the question of tribal diseenrollment, which strips the rights to belong of over 10,000 Native Americans  Read Pechanga Casino News Report.... to see video of what's happening.   Now, indigenous attorney Gabriel Galanda writes that NOW, after hundreds of elders have walked on without justice, the NCAI is bringing the issue up.

But, is it to protect tribal citizens from the abuse of their own corrupt leaders?  WHO PROTECTS THE DISENROLLED from the ABUSES of disenrollment? At Pechanga, their own hired expert confirmed that MY ancestor had more right of belong to Pechanga than ANY OTHER FAMILY.

NCAI will convene its annual meeting on Monday and consider a Tribal citizenship protection Resolution, at the urging of a broad coalition of former NCAI Presidents, Native Nations, inter-Tribal organizations, and Indigenous leaders, educators, and advocates.

Past NCAI President Ron Allen proposes Resolution #PDX-20-001, which would affirm that “since time immemorial, each Tribal Nation retains the right to determine its own membership and each Indigenous individual enjoys the right to belong as a citizen of his or her Tribal Nation, according to its traditions and customs . . .” 

“Our tribal citizens—the People—are the foundation of our sovereign nations,” said Allen, the current Chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.  “We must protect against outside attacks on tribal citizenship, whether from the U.S. Congress, federal courts or anti-Indigenous groups.”

Tribal citizenship has increasingly come under attack by the federal government and anti-tribal groups. 

In the Baby Veronica case, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito derided Tribal belonging in the first line of his majority decision that undercut the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), with this statement: “This case is about a little girl  . . . who is classified as an Indian because she is 1.2% (3/256) Cherokee.”  

Earlier this year the Goldwater Institute cited Tribal blood-quantum citizenship criteria to assail ICWA as an unconstitutional race-based law before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Brackeen v. Bernhardt. 

The Trump Administration likewise mischaracterized Tribal governmental health care beneficiaries as a racial class for Medicaid purposes, and also attempted to unilaterally stop issuing the federal Indian blood degree certifications that many Tribal governments utilize for citizenship purposes. 

The NCAI Resolution “will help prepare NCAI for frontline defense of tribal citizenship and nationhood,” Allen continued.  Former NCAI Presidents Brian Cladoosby, Susan Masten, and Mel Tonasket also support the Resolution, which as of this morning awaits referral by NCAI’s Executive Board to a committee of jurisdiction.

During yesterday’s NCAI Executive Board Meeting by Zoom, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians President and Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman shared these words with the Board:

It is Indian identity and citizenship that underpins Native nationhood.  According to Dr. Joe Kalt of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development: “Nothing is more central to any nation’s sovereignty than the power to determine who shall hold rights of citizenship and belonging,”   

Observing that Tribal leaders frequently contact the Harvard Project for advice regarding Tribal citizenship challenges, Dr. Kalt sees the Resolution as an opportunity “to bring much-needed focus to these critical matters” and to “strengthen the self-governing powers of all Indigenous nations.”

The Jamestown and Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribes, Yakama Nation, and Spokane Tribe of Washington State, the Organized Village of Saxman in Alaska, Robinson Rancheria of California, Hualapai Tribe of Arizona, and Citizen Band of Potawatomi Nation in Oklahoma are urging NCAI to adopt the Resolution. 

Those western Native Nations are joined by the Great Plains Chairmen’s Association and eastern and southern Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes. 

The Association of American Indian Affairs (AAIA), National Urban Indian Family Coalition, National Native American Bar Association, National Native American Law Student Association, and Association of American Indian Physicians Association have also endorsed the Resolution, understanding the great extent to which Tribal citizenship undergirds Indigenous life, health, safety, culture, and law.

Believing it is “imperative that Tribal leadership have open dialogue about protecting Tribal citizenship, nationhood and identity,” Shannon O’Loughlin, a Choctaw citizen and AAIA’s Executive Director, remarked: “It is time that our Nations be the example of what it looks like to the world to protect human rights and cultural sovereignty.”

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