David Wilkins: National organizations must take on disenrollment

Some voices from the #stopdisenrollment campaign. Photos from StopDisenrollment.Com

Professor David E. Wilkins, a member of the Lumbee Tribe, calls on the National Congress of American Indians, the Native American Rights Fund and the National Indian Gaming Association to speak out against the tribal disenrollment epidemic:
To avoid yet another sovereignty-diminishing decision, it is incumbent upon our accepted pan-national leadership to tackle this issue without delay. We certainly have the capacity to comprehend that protecting the rights of both individual tribal citizens and their Native nations are not only possible, but are, indeed, two sides of the same sovereign coin. Our political, legal, and economic leaders must finally step forward with swift, decisive actions to identify the tribal governments that have acted in illegal and unethical ways as well as to exonerate those who have undertaken these grave actions for legitimate reasons. It is critical that they also provide the same for tribal citizens so that bonafide citizens may finally go on with their lives secure in their fundamental political liberty as Native citizens.

To date, I am not aware of any official, public stance taken by any of your organizations in response to political, legal, and cultural terminations of native citizen rights that threatens all Native people’s sovereign existence. I call upon you to act, following the outstanding examples of the National Native American Bar Association and the Association of American Indian Physicians, to enact strong resolutions that urge tribal political leaders to reconsider disenrollment policies.

Last year these organizations took a clear stand because it had become blatantly apparent that the consequences of statelessness—the horrific mental, physical, and economic consequences that result when citizens are robbed of their identities, health care, and access to justice—go beyond individual suffering to ultimately cause deep, abiding damage to all of Indian Country.

Each of your mission statements tout your core commitments to the pursuit of sound ethical policies grounded in traditional values, such as kinship. Each one of your organizations has certainly demonstrated that commitment in response to outside threats or when attempting to right past wrongs done by outside abusers, such as state officials and the federal agencies.

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David Wilkins: Leading Native Interest Groups Must Step up on Dismemberment (Indian Country Today 3/23)

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