William Masterson: Saginaw Chippewa Tribe disavows history

William Masterson says Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan ignores its own traditions and treaty in disenrollment effort:
The recent decision by the Tribal Court of Appeals to uphold Article III, Section 1 (c) of the Tribal Constitution illuminates inadequacies in the document’s capacity to fairly and truthfully determine rightful members of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe. The article states that the Tribal Constitution only allows the enrollment of lineal descendant named in one of the Constitutional base rolls, which are the allotment rolls of 1883, 1885 and 1891, as well as a list of members compiled in 1982. There are two major problems that arise from using just these rolls to define Tribal membership.

First, membership is dependent on the very limited timeframe of just eight years. We call ourselves the Anishinabe, which literally means “from whence the male of the species was lowered down,” referring to the creation story in which the Creator lowered man down to Mother Earth. To base modern day membership largely on an eight-year period is counter to how we’ve traditionally defined ourselves and is woefully deficient in identifying who we are today. It is easy to envision whole families being left off the base rolls for reasons such as death of the qualifying members whose children were too young to receive allotments, incorrect recording of Native names, or illness. And it’s well known that there was reluctance by many Native people to forego their traditional ways and take up a life of farming on allotted land.

Second, the base rolls do not contain some of the most important figures in the history of the tribe. In 2011, Tribal Chief Dennis Kequom sent Tribal members a certificate that celebrated ‘the permanent and final recognition of the Isabella Indian Reservation made by the order of the Federal District Court of Eastern Michigan… as originally established by Executive Order and the Treaties of 1855 and 1864’. According to today’s Tribal Constitution, not one of the Chiefs that signed the Treaty of 1855 would qualify as Tribal members since their names do not appear on any of the base rolls. This situation creates a dilemma that cannot be easily ignored. How is it possible that a treaty signed by non-tribal members, as defined by the Tribal Constitution, can be a primary document used to establish Tribal lands?

Get the Story:
William Masterson: Disenrollment is important issue for Tribe (The Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun 11/10)

Also Today:
Historical quirks, shrinking revenue fuel Tribe's disenrollment battles (The Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun 11/10)

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Judge from Saginaw Chippewa Tribe approves disenrollments (11/5)
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