David Wilkins: Honor Seven Generations by ending disenrollment

Participants in a #stopstribalgenocide protest at the Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Riverside, California. Photo from Original Pechanga / Twitter

Professor David E. Wilkins, a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, discusses the dangers of disenrollment to future generations in Indian Country:
When tribal leaders focus only on themselves and what it takes for them as individuals to succeed, then we have the basis for the surge of disenrollments we witness every day, where both the living and the dead are cast out and hope for the future is deeply compromised.

These disenrollments occur for a number of reasons. Some, such as fraudulent enrollment, dual membership, or failure to maintain contact with the home community are arguably legitimate; others, however, are fundamentally tainted and bear the mark of rank injustice—political power plays, economic greed, and pseudo-scientific arguments about insufficient blood quantum, among others.

And while the number of unjustified disenrollments continues to plague Indian Country, a small but determined and diverse chorus of individuals, organizations, and even a few Native nations (Spokane most recently), are raising substantive challenges to the egregious practice of dismembering otherwise legitimate citizens. It raises hope for those that have already been terminated and gives succor to those who face imminent dismemberment.

We have to keep in mind that nearly 500 of the currently recognized Native nations are not engaged in these acts of suicidal sovereignty. It behooves us, then, to ascertain what it is within those communities that has precluded them from cannibalizing their own kin. All nations have struggled mightily with the core question of who is entitled to clanship, citizenship, or membership. We are left with the legacy created by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other federal agencies and departments as they imposed regulations and policies designed to reduce the number of Native citizens deemed “eligible” for federal or even treaty-based benefits.

Get the Story:
David Wilkins: How to Honor the Seven Generations (Indian Country Today 6/18)

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