My young cousin, Cassie Whitten, who still resides on our family’s allotment on the Pechanga reservation in Temecula CA, gives her perspective on reconnecting with her heritage and her native spirit. So many of us who are older like me, feel the sting and injustice differently.
Cassie suffered trauma after our disenrollment, after Pechanga chairman Mark Macarro sent his jackbooted tribal rangers to physically remove Cassie and her other young cousins from the tribal school. PLEASE READ HER EXPERIENCE detailed here.
It’s been crazy and something I never thought I could or would do again to tell you the truth. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the journey to reconnecting after disenrollment in hopes other native people who have been affected want to also.
The healing journey is the hardest because some wounds are still open. A few years ago I started really reconnecting to my people and my culture. When I did I realized how strong and resilient I am and have been.
Disenrollment is traumatizing and makes it hard to connect or reconnect to your people when you’ve been told you do not belong for so long. The affects after disenrollment can take an emotional and physical toll on you. I have been blessed not only to meet amazing mentors and community members but people who support me and the work I do. Doing the work to stop tribal disenrollments is also traumatizing and I’ve seen my own elders, family, and cousins be traumatized by the work and see how it affects them as native people. Native people need to heal also in their own communities and then work on bigger issues.
Lateral oppression is real even in native communities, disenrollment is lateral oppression.
The one reason I decided to reconnect and I hope this makes others want to also was for the future generations.
I love passing on knowledge to our young ones now and to the future generations that are not even here yet. I knew to do that I had to want to reconnect even if it’s traumatizing to heal. I’ve always wanted to be a foster parent in ICWA and then eventually adopt and still have those dreams in the future. But to do that I had to learn and take the time to dive into my culture and people. When I did I met some amazing people along my journey who made me feel like I could do the work in my communities or make change. From their Wisdom and their teachings I started feeling more empowered and motivated to do the work and realized there’s so much work to be done. So many people sit on these injustices and do not care. I truly believe culture can heal and we need to start teaching and empowering each other more in our own communities to do the work.
The journey is not over and never will be but I pray if you have been affected by disenrollment you feel empowered to speak up and get more involved in your community.
Do not let people push you out or tell you you’re unworthy or do not belong. If you’re passionate about your people and want to see change do not stop.
I believe there will be change to stop tribal disenrollments one day but until that day comes we will keep learning, teaching, and fighting for the ones who came before us and fought for us to be here to continue the work.