Wednesday, July 1, 2015

An Essay on the Modern Dynamics of Tribal Disenrollment

Disenrollment is predominately about race, and money, and an “individualistic, materialistic attitude” that is not indigenous to tribal communities.

Because many tribes have maintained the IRA’s paternalistic and antiquated definition of “Indian” vis-a-vis blood quantum (as discussed in “An Essay on the Federal Origins of Disenrollment“), tribal membership has largely become “an explicitly racial conception of Indian identity.” Suzianne D. Painter-Thorne, If You Build It, They Will Come: Preserving Tribal Sovereignty in the Face of Indian Casinos and the New Premium on Tribal Membership, 14 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 311 (2010).

The racial construct has worked well for disenrollment as “American Indians have one of the highest rates of interracial marriage in the U.S.” Gosia Wozniacka, Disenrollment leaves Native feeling ‘culturally homeless’, Associated Press, Jan. 21, 2014. Indeed, Indians of any quantum (defined as “portion”) of Indian blood are by federal design, multi-racial. In addition, “many Native Americans don’t live on reservations, speak Native languages or ‘look’ Indian, making others question their bloodline claims.” Id. In those illustrative ways, Indian conceptions of both race and class converge, with tribal classism also catalyzing disenrollment.

In turn, tribal officials who wish to target political foes or large swaths of politically weak or unpopular members, can “voluntarily invoke race-based definitions of ‘Indian’ [to] narrow the pool of tribal members, perhaps in an effort to limit gaming revenue and federal dollars to [those targeted] tribal members.”Painter-Thorne, supra. These disenrollment stories bear this out. See e.g. Liz Jones, ‘We’ll Always Be Nooksack':Tribe Questions Ancestry of Part-Filipino Members, NPR/KUOW, Dec. 16, 2013; Joanne Barker, The True Meaning of Sovereignty, New York Times, Sept. 16, 2011.

The “forced transition to a cash economy” has likely played a large part in the dramatic spike in disenrollment as well. Jana Berger & Paula Fisher, Navigating Tribal Membership Issues, Emerging Issues in Tribal-State Relations 61, 66 (2013). Prior to the recent disenrollment epidemic, which is estimated to have already vanquished over 11,000 Indians, tribal governments were very inclusive, frequently wanting to have large “membership” numbers. Aside from a greater amount of funding from federal agencies relative to increased tribal membership, from a practical standpoint tribal governments recognized that “there is strength in numbers.” Id.

 But over the last couple decades, as tribes became more dependent on the U.S. economic free-market system, primarily through gaming entrepreneurship, disenrollment began to rear its ugly head. According to Charles Wilkinson.
Just as federal education practices reverberated throughout tribes, so too did the forced transition to a cash economy. The concept of sharing, integral to Indian societies, did not jibe well with the individualistic, materialistic attitude that drove the nation’s economic system. As one Navajo stated, “When a relative needed help, you helped them out. When you needed something else, you could rely on a relative to help out, it all worked out in the long run. With money it doesn’t work anymore, now the relative with the money is expected to help out, what is needed for most everything is money and the poor relatives never have any.” 
Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations 54 (2006).

As Professor David Wilkins observes, tribal communities historically used ceremony and prayer to resolve intra-tribal tension or conflict; because traditionally speaking, “you don’t cast out your relatives.” Wozniacka, supra. But today, when the political going gets rough in tribal communities, the individualistic, materialistic Indian attitude that Professor Wilkinson describes, increasingly leads to disenrollment of one’s own relatives–instead of towards any holistic or indigenous values-based solution.

Galanda Broadman is an American Indian owned firm dedicated to advancing tribal legal rights and Indian business interests. The firm represents tribal governments, businesses and members in critical litigation, business and regulatory matters, especially in the areas of Indian Treaty rights, tribal sovereignty, taxation, commerce, personal injury, and human/civil rights.

An Essay on the Modern Dynamics of Tribal Disenrollment

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Article: KBIC legalizes tribally sanctioned same-sex marriage


BARAGA - The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community legalized tribally sanctioned same-sex marriages Saturday, when it passed the third reading of amendments to its marriage ordinance. The amendments passed by a narrow 5-4 vote, with one abstention.

The meeting wasn't heavily attended, but the vote was met with a smattering of applause. Tribal voters had given their support to same-sex marriage legislation in a nonbinding referendum in December, and Carole LaPointe, a former council member who proposed the referendum last year, said she was happy to see the result.

"Love should have no barriers," LaPointe said. "If a woman loves a woman or a man loves a man, it shouldn't matter. It's no different for a woman and a man.

Nikki, left, and Audrey Reenders-Arens plan to wed under the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community’s newly-amended marriage ordinance, which allows for same-sex marriage. (Courtesy Nikki Reenders-Arens)

"Many same-sex couples have children, and they're raised just the same."

LaPointe's daughter Bridget LaPointe and her partner Mariah Dunham, a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, said in December they hoped to marry if the legislation was successful.

"I think it's the right direction," agreed KBIC member Nikki Reenders-Arens in a later interview, adding she and her partner Audrey Reenders-Arens had already talked about marriage and planned to apply for a license soon. In December, she explained that despite already being joined in a civil union in IllinoiAudrey would have no legal right to their son, which Nikki had given birth to, if something was to happen to her.

"It's important to the future," she said. "It protects our son, and we're finally being seen as equal."

The extent to which the state of Michigan will recognize that equality will likely depend on a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Currently, Michigan does not recognize same-sex marriages regardless of origin, but that's being challenged on the basis of the Constitution's equal protection clause. A ruling on the case is expected this summer.

At the federal level, eligibility for spousal social security benefits depends on where an individual or couple resides. Tribally-married same-sex couples are eligible if they live on the reservation, but not if they live in a jurisdiction - for now the rest of Michigan - where same-sex marriage isn't recognized.

The legislation was accomplished with minimal changes to the existing ordinance, which allows for the marriage of any Native American - not just KBIC members - to whomever they choose. The most significant amendments were changing references to marrying as "between a man and a women" to gender-neutral references to consenting adults.

Tribal council President Warren "Chris" Swartz, who spoke of the amendments as "two-spirit marriage" legislation, referring to the traditional Native conception of people with non-traditional sexual orientations, said the amendments would become law as soon as he could sign them Monday or Tuesday. Depending on administrative procedures, couples could begin applying for marriage licenses at the tribal courthouse by the end of the week.

Susan LaFernier, one of the council members who voted against the amendments, said she wasn't necessarily against same-sex marriage, but "thought it was such a controversial issue that we should have taken more time," and been more careful in the wording of amendments.

LaFernier said the tribe should also have taken the opportunity while making amendments to increase the legal age for marriage, and to change some of the wording on adoptions. Currently, the marriage ordinance allows for minors as young as 16 years old to marry if they had a guardian's approval. Council member Eddy Edwards voted for the amendments with no apparent reservations.

"This acknowledges that people can love each other, whoever they may be," he said. "We need all the love we can have in this world."

Original article -- KBIC legalizes tribally sanctioned same-sex marriage

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Poem: The Androgynous Man in Brown Pants, Part 2

Great Grandmother - Cecelia Veronica Shalifoe & Great Grandpa - Henry Francois LaPointe

Female/Male/Gender binary,

He's over here,
No he is there,

She is here,
Are you there?

The Androgynous Man in Brown Pants is confused,
One time he had left his wallet on the table,
Spectators peered into his life,

"This," the crowd-gossipers-masses said,
"This... is the Androgynous Man in Brown Pants,"

The crowd-gossipers-masses continued on,
Shuffling away to mainstream meanderings,
Of de-evolution an de-enlightenment,

Meanwhile the Androgynous Man in Brown Pants carried on,
With a pocket sized notebook,
And a pencil,
To take notes and observe,

She was feeling her heart/agender/ogichidaakwe/two-spirit,

This was a horrible terrible thing to do,
Feeling the heart was a terrible disaster,
A huge risk,
So through the door and out in the same step,
A terribly daunting task,

He closed his heart/female/male,

Back to un-feeling the heart,
The Androgynous Man in Brown Pants,
Made and effort of the heart.

- - - - -

Please see the original - The Androgynous Man in Brown Pants

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Documentary: Hollow Water

This documentary profiles the tiny Ojibway community of Hollow Water on the shores of Lake Winnipeg as they deal with an epidemic of sexual abuse in their midst. The offenders have left a legacy of denial and pain, addiction and suicide. The Manitoba justice system was unsuccessful in ending the cycle of abuse, so the community of Hollow Water took matters into their own hands. The offenders were brought home to face justice in a community healing and sentencing circle. Based on traditional practices, this unique model of justice reunites families and heals both victims and offenders. The film is a powerful tribute to one community's ability to heal and create change.

You can also purchase the DVD here.