James Mills: Sovereignty trumps paternalism in tribal enrollment

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

James Mills, the president of Creating Stronger Nations, argues that tribes should conduct audits of their membership but only to prevent future mistakes and not just to disenroll people:
Almost every tribe I have worked with, and I have worked with hundreds, have problems in enrollment. The mere fact that they can still enroll people using the records that they currently have is remarkable. If the foundation of everything you work from is a problem, then you are bound to create more problems going forward. So doing an audit to make sure the sins of the past are not continued, makes sense. Doing it to disenroll people, does not make sense. It is a sure fire recipe for disaster. There are plenty of examples out there for us to look at.

That said, tribes have an absolute right to determine their own membership. They have fought long and hard for that right and no one should take it away from them. So if a tribe decides to disenroll someone, then that is their right. And no matter how I disagree, and no matter how I object, it is still their right. Any notion that the federal government should get involved in that decision is quite frankly, dangerous and irresponsible on the part of the person or persons recommending such involvement.

The United States has sovereignty over itself. Can France tell us what to do when we make mistakes or even when we make colossal blunders? No they cannot, even if we repeat the same mistakes over and over again. France can make recommendations and we can choose to follow them or not, but we don’t have to listen. That is good and bad as is any kind of sovereignty. So will tribes make mistakes? Of course they will. Nothing is perfect.

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James Mills: Disenrollment: Why Tribes Must Audit Membership (Indian Country Today 1/26)

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