Laura Waterman Wittstock: Enrollment matters often complex

"A ton of ink has been spilled on the subject of the Elizabeth Warren run for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. Most of the writing on the Indian side of opinion is whether or not Warren has a legitimate claim to her Delaware and Cherokee ancestry. Strong language has emerged on the subject, rightly due to the fact that so many Americans claim Indian heritage without any idea of what being an Indian is all about.

But between the Indian and non-Indian sides of the coin are a million slices of what-ifs and others. Example one: I met a woman whose husband was enrolled in Coweta Creek and got support for his considerable higher education costs. Beyond that, he knew next to nothing about his tribe. He was born into an African American family, married an African American and had a couple of wonderful children. His wife’s question to me was how she could get the children enrolled after they had been informed the children lacked sufficient blood quantum. This mother was interested in her children’s education and wanted them to have all the benefits they might be due as a result of their father’s heritage. I did not have good news for them.

Example two: my brother married a lovely French woman when he was in Europe with Patton in World War II. They married and had four great children. None of these children was enrolled in our nation because enrollment descends from the mother. Since my father’s father was Stockbridge Munsee, my brother or I could have enrolled in that tribe, but my nephews and nieces lacked sufficient blood quantum to enroll. Either way, with their 50 percent blood quantum, they could not be called Indians in the parlance of our nation."

Get the Story:
Laura Waterman Wittstock: The Elizabeth Warren Situation Is More Complicated Than Many Think (Indian Country Today 10/10)

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