David Wilkins: Disenrollment case devalues tribal sovereignty

David Wilkins comments on the disenrollments within the Nooksack Tribe of Washington:
I have followed with keen interest the divisive issue of disenrollment of tribal members across Indian country. It is a complicated and depressing subject but, regardless of individual circumstances, the protection of sovereignty is rightly a priority for all those involved. I was therefore shocked and disheartened to read the devastating language used by the Chief Judge of the Nooksack Tribal Court in a case involving the potential formal disenrollment of 306 Nooksack tribal citizens.

In an attempt to explain the court’s decision, the Chief Judge used a rationale that may return to haunt not only the Nooksack but all Native nations. Even as she affirmed the power of a sovereign nation to set its own membership criteria, the Chief Judge managed to devalue the very essence of Native nationhood by negatively comparing Native loss of citizenship to that of non-natives loss of United States citizenship.

To her credit, it appears that the Chief Judge was attempting to console the disenrollees and explain a decision that gravely disappointed them. Unfortunately, she also utilized words that profoundly diminished indigenous sovereignty.

Get the Story:
David Wilkins: The Disenrollment Disaster: My Citizenship Is Better Than Yours! (Indian Country Today 11/7)

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