Osiyo! (hello) ‘n Osda Sunalei (Good Morning), I’ve decided to write this new diary, in the attempt to clear up any misconceptions, and/or misinformation imparted on this blog site regarding this question and obviously an issue with some others. My intention is to impart the truth of the matter regarding who is Native American/Indian? Hopefully, this will clear up any and all misconceptions and misinformation, and/or opinions on the topic by revealing the truth of how things are determined on and in Indian Country (USA)……..
Now, there is no single definition of the term Indian. Determining who is an Native American / Indian can be difficult, even controversial. For example, people who have one-eighth Native Indian blood and seven-eighth Caucasian, Negro, and Hispanic blood may call themselves Indian, but other people might disagree with that characterization. The term Native American Indian, can be defined in either an ethnological (racial) or in a legal sense. Native Americans / Indians are a distinct race of peoples, as are Caucasians, Negroes, and Mongolian. However, neither in an ethnological nor legal sense is there a universally accepted method of determining who is an Indian. Each government – Tribal, State, and Federal determines who is Indian for the purposes of that government’s laws and programs. This can result in someone being an Indian under Tribal Law but not under Federal Law, under Federal Law but not under Tribal Law.
For some programs, anyone of Indian descent is eligible to participate. For other programs, the applicant must have a minimum blood quantum ( often one-fourth Indian blood), and still other programs allow all members of federally recognized Indian Tribes to qualify, regardless of how these tribes have defined the term. As a result of these different standards, the same person may qualify as an Indian for one program but not for another, ( this is known fact).
With that being all said, allow me to explain further the common practice amongst Native Tribes here in the USA in regards to tribal membership: Each Native American / Indian Tribe, has eligibility requirements for membership. Many tribes require that a person have at least one-fourth Indian blood to be enrolled, but other tribes less. To become enrolled in some tribes the applicant need only be descended from someone listed on the tribes membership roll. Fact–Native American / Indian Tribes, have the authority to determine who is an Indian for tribal purpose’s, but not for State or Federal purposes.
Thus, when the federal government distributes federal money to, or creates programs for tribal members, it determines who is eligible, and can ignore the tribe’s membership list and adopt a different standard. Fact–To be considered an Native American / Indian for federal purposes, an individual must have some Indian blood. Consequently, a non- Indian adopted into an Indian Tribe cannot be considered an Indian under Federal Law.
So, the question that comes to bear is, “Who controls tribal membership : the tribes or the federal government?”. The answer is, actually they both do. Native American Indian Tribes determine tribal membership for tribal purposes (such as deciding who is eligible to enroll in the tribe), and the federal government determines tribal membership for federal purposes ( such as deciding which tribal members qualify for federal education scholarships andor federally funded medical benefits). As with all Federal recognized tribes, Congress can limit tribes in their own enrollment policies, but Congress rarely has done this.
In closing, this brings me to point out the obvious and that is this; Fact- not one Native American / Indian Tribe or organization has the right nor the authority to determine who’s Native/Indian, nor who’s a tribe or not. They do not have authority to tell another tribe how to exercise their membership policies as it has been explained earlier on in this diary. The Tribes have the inherent authority to determine who can join the tribe, If a tribe lost this power, they would not control their future. Tribal authority to determine membership includes the power to disenroll (take membership away from) a person. It also includes the right to adopt persons into the tribe which benefits of membership they will have. A tribe’s ability to determine its membership lies at the very core of tribal self- determination. There is perhaps no greater intrusion upon tribal sovereignty than to interfere with a sovereign tribe’s membership determination policies.
No tribe has the right, nor authority to dictate to another tribe on its tribal policies on who they have determined to be Indian for the purposes of their tribal membership or sovereignty. Not one tribe has the right nor authority to impose questions in regards to their tribal membership rolls or question their tribal by-laws, it is not their place to do so and its as simple as that, because that is an intrusion on the tribal sovereignty and tribal business. The bottom line is this, in Indian Country (USA), its common place to determine ” who is Native/Indian” by the following : One must have Native/Indian blood one-fourth or more. One must be recognized as Native/Indian by a Native/Indian community. One must be able to trace one’s ancestry back to a descendant of a Native American/Indian Tribe. These are the qualifiers that have been used, and used today for determining who is Indian by the Native community as a whole. This is also based upon Federal law as well.
I hope that I’ve cleared up any and all misconceptions that people have on this subject matter. “Wado/Wanishi”…… ” Ah-nah-gee-ss-dee Nahs-squah Oo-ney tlah-nuh-he” (Go with God)……Chief Ross