Opinion | Federal Recognition

Christie Michelle Poitra: Stop hating those non-recognized tribes

A scene from an Eastern Delaware Nations powwow in 2011. Susan Taffe Reed can be seen on the right, in the white shirt. Photo by John Braun / Facebook

Christie Michelle Poitra weighs in on the Susan Taffe Reed controversy, whose claims of Native ancestry are in question after being hired as the new director of the Native American Program at Dartmouth College
Those of us familiar with the recognition process know how/why it came about (i.e., colonization); about the politics surrounding the recognition process (i.e., colonization); and why it is difficult to gain recognition (i.e., colonization). Yes, colonization.

There are a number of Native Nations across this country that maintained societal cohesion (in spite of horrendous social and political actions committed against them). As a general rule of thumb, I think it’s disgusting to degrade a community’s identity because they haven’t been able to successfully navigate a lengthy and complex bureaucratic process (that is specifically designed for tribes to fail). So to say a tribe is not a tribe because they have been unsuccessful at gaining state and federal recognition is victim blaming.

Now, I cannot speak to Reed’s identity or her community’s status because I am unfamiliar with their historical and political contexts. I am not defending her. But what I can speak to is the underlying assumption of this article: should state and federal definitions of Nativeness (based upon longstanding colonization ideologies) set the bar for measuring the legitimacy of a tribe’s identity?

Get the Story:
Christie Michelle Poitra: Sham Reed Controversy: Stop Hatin' on the Non-Fed Tribes! (Indian Country Today 9/23)

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