Ruth Hopkins: Just who decides who is an Indian these days?

Ruth Hopkins dives into the debate of who is Indian and who is not:
Who decides who is Indian? In pre-colonial times, it was obvious. Indigenous individuals were part of a whole tribal society. They were simply one of the People. They lived in the village, performed daily work, spoke the language, participated in ceremonies, hunted and gathered with the rest, intermarried, and had children within that group.

Enter the federal government, wielding it's militarily enforced termination and assimilation policies against Natives. From a western legal standpoint, the government now says who is Indian. Suits in D.C. decide whether or not to federally recognize Tribes, and then delegate Tribal enrollment authority to those Tribes. Blood quantum was invented and utilized in the first Tribal rolls. Whether or not you're ‘Indian’ became a matter of paperwork. One could completely assimilate—cut their hair, convert to Christianity (or any other religion), move away from the Reservation and their people, never speak a word of their language, and know absolutely nothing about their tribal heritage, lineage, or culture, and still be deemed ‘Indian’, with enough blood quantum.

Post-boarding school era, we now find ourselves in the midst of a Native awakening. Lucky for us, traditional holdouts kept Native languages, ceremonies, and cultural teachings alive. They passed them onto us, and others who returned to the ways. There is no doubt in my mind that these individuals, ones who keep the language and the ways, are Native; enrollment records be damned.

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Ruth Hopkins: Who Decides Who's an Indian? (Indian Country Today 11/10)

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