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would anyone be willing to answer an "ask a..."


Ravin
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There are a couple topics I'd love to see, but top would be if one or more Native American/First Nations people would be willing to answer questions. Because I'm studying Federal Indian Law and would love to hear perspectives of how this stuff impacts people who aren't lawyers or law students. Plus I think a lot of people are clueless about contemporary Native life and culture (to start with, what a sweeping generalization that is).

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I can try to answer them, if you want. I am Native American {Blackfoot & Cherokee with possibly a little Pequot way back} but not papered nor grew up on the rez. But I was raised very much Native, and identify strongly with it. Mom grew up in NW OK where pretty much everyone was Native. Dad was one of those everyone knows we're native but we don't admit it deals. I do have relatives & friends who are papered / live on various Rez. I've helped a few friends deal with some of the Native Bureaucracy on things before as well. 

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Dh and I could try to help.

 

Dh is 1/2 Indian and a tribal member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa/Chippewa Indians.  His mother and siblings were removed from their family and sent to Catholic boarding schools in the early 50s to "civilize" them.

 

I am 1/4 Cherokee but no papers.  My grandmother's family hid in the mountains of NC to avoid the Trail of Tears.

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I can try to answer them, if you want. I am Native American {Blackfoot & Cherokee with possibly a little Pequot way back} but not papered nor grew up on the rez. But I was raised very much Native, and identify strongly with it. Mom grew up in NW OK where pretty much everyone was Native. Dad was one of those everyone knows we're native but we don't admit it deals. I do have relatives & friends who are papered / live on various Rez. I've helped a few friends deal with some of the Native Bureaucracy on things before as well. 

 

 

Dh and I could try to help.

 

Dh is 1/2 Indian and a tribal member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa/Chippewa Indians.  His mother and siblings were removed from their family and sent to Catholic boarding schools in the early 50s to "civilize" them.

 

I am 1/4 Cherokee but no papers.  My grandmother's family hid in the mountains of NC to avoid the Trail of Tears.

 

Here's some questions to start for both of you:

 

1. How does being a recognized tribe member or not affect members of your family? Does having that political affiliation help them in life? 

 

2. How closely is formal federal recognition tied to Native identity in your community? Do people without "paper" get flack for being "not Indian enough"? How important is it to continued cultural identity?

 

3. Do you use the term Indian, or Native (American) by preference, or just usually talk about your actual nationality (Cherokee, Chippewa, etc.) if and when it comes up?

 

4. For those who have ties to tribes with blood quantum requirements for membership, has this affected your status or that of your children? Is there community pressure to marry within the tribe because of it, or for other reasons?

 

5. Do any of you (or family members) have possessory interest in any trust allotments, and how big a headache does the property transfer issue make for your family when someone dies? Does it actually provide any income? Does it hold symbolic value for members of your community who have it?

 

6. For those who have ties to a reservation but don't live on it, why not? is there anything that might draw you to move to a reservation in the future? How important is the reservation/land to your community's sense of identity and cultural cohesion?

 

7. How is your native culture involved in your daily life? (Religion, differences in family culture from non-Native families in your area, language, etc.)

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Here's some questions to start for both of you:

 

1. How does being a recognized tribe member or not affect members of your family? Does having that political affiliation help them in life?

 

It allowed dh to get a free college education.  His tuition and fees were paid for through the Native program.  He just had to pay for books.  Now with Obama care tribal members can buy a health plan and pay the monthly premium but they do not have to pay the co-pays for doctors or pharmacy and no deductibles.  It only counts for dh though, not the rest of us. This is part of the treaties from years ago where the US government promised the Natives health care.

 

2. How closely is formal federal recognition tied to Native identity in your community? Do people without "paper" get flack for being "not Indian enough"? How important is it to continued cultural identity?

 

We live about 3 hours from the reservation in an area with not very many native people........and the ones that are in our area are mostly relatives of dh.  He was teased some growing up as being a "half breed" but nothing really bad.  We used to attend more of the pow wows in neighboring areas but not as much lately just as we are really busy.

 

3. Do you use the term Indian, or Native (American) by preference, or just usually talk about your actual nationality (Cherokee, Chippewa, etc.) if and when it comes up?

 

We use all interchangeably and none offend him at all.

 

4. For those who have ties to tribes with blood quantum requirements for membership, has this affected your status or that of your children? Is there community pressure to marry within the tribe because of it, or for other reasons?

 

Dh is 1/2 Native but his blood quantum is only 15/32 (1 /16 shy of being 1/2) as a great grandfather was Native but from a different tribe and they only count the blood quantum for this tribe, not total blood quantum (different tribes do it differently).  That would mean that any of our bio children would not have the 1/4 blood quantum to be a tribal member even though I am 1/4 and he is 1/2.

 

Our children' were placed with us through the Michigan Indian Child Welfare Agency (MICWA) when they entered foster care.  The ICWA laws were designed to prevent Native Children from being placed in non native homes when they were placed into foster care/adoption (see above about MIL being removed from her family).  DS has enough blood quantum for membership in the same tribe/band as dh but doesn't have the paperwork to prove it so can't become a member.  The girls are 1/4 Cherokee but no paperwork.

 

5. Do any of you (or family members) have possessory interest in any trust allotments, and how big a headache does the property transfer issue make for your family when someone dies? Does it actually provide any income? Does it hold symbolic value for members of your community who have it?

 

We don't have any land, etc. in trust other than what the tribe as a whole owns.  The tribe also owns 2 casinos, some fishing, a bank, 3 hotels (one of which is a large 4 star resort), and some other businesses.  Each tribal member gets a per capita (per person) check twice a year based on a percentage of their profits.  They also give a huge chunk to the state and local governments and pay off debt and reinvest a great deal of it along with providing a lot of on the reservation services.  His checks are quite small.  Elders (those over 55) get $300-700 additional a year---starts at $300 and goes up slowly as they get older.

 

They are still working with the state on many land issues as much of the land that was deeded to the tribe as part of their reservation/treaties, etc. has never been placed in the hands of the tribe-----and premium land like along the northern shores of Lake Michigan, etc. 

 

If the treaties were fully honored by the state and federal government, life would be quite different.

 

6. For those who have ties to a reservation but don't live on it, why not? is there anything that might draw you to move to a reservation in the future? How important is the reservation/land to your community's sense of identity and cultural cohesion?

 

Dh was not raised there and we still live just 2 miles from where he was raised.  If he could find a good job on/near the reservation we might move there.  If you own a home though on the reservation if he dies I could stay living there but I couldn't pass it on to our kids, it would go back to the tribe as part of reservation land.

 

7. How is your native culture involved in your daily life? (Religion, differences in family culture from non-Native families in your area, language, etc.)

 

Not much on a daily basis.  MIL more so.  We just had a family reunion and many of MIL's siblings were there with their extended families.  Some traditional native foods were made, some songs sung, etc.  Sometimes we go to the pow wows and we have camped up there before.  MIL is involved in the Kateri circle which is a Native American "branch" of the Catholic church.  They have Native saints, etc. and do Native crafts, foods, activities, etc.  We though are not Catholic and likely the only Natives in our 900 member church congregation.

 

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Ottakee, what state was it that applied ICWA to children not actually eligible for membership in a tribe? Was it the state's ICWA that applies it that way? I'm very curious because one of the big reasons ICWA hasn't fallen to an equal protection claim is that the federal law defines an Indian Child based on membership/eligibility for a recognized tribe, not on race. Or were they adopted from tribal jurisdiction because a parent was a member?

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Ottakee, what state was it that applied ICWA to children not actually eligible for membership in a tribe? Was it the state's ICWA that applies it that way? I'm very curious because one of the big reasons ICWA hasn't fallen to an equal protection claim is that the federal law defines an Indian Child based on membership/eligibility for a recognized tribe, not on race. Or were they adopted from tribal jurisdiction because a parent was a member?

 

My son was placed with us through ICWA based on his mother's membership.  He was placed with us as we were licensed foster parents and dh was from the same tribe and band as ds's bio mother.  They left his case with MICWA but the tribe wasn't that involved.

 

Our older dd was placed with us through MICWA as her bio father claimed Native membership.  Tracking down all of the paperwork etc takes time so they try to place the kids with a Native family pending the outcome of the research.  It was determined that she was not eligible for tribal membership so her case was actually transferred to the local DHS office.  We had fallen in love her with her by that time so we continued her placement just through DHS instead of MICWA.  Younger dd (full sister) was placed with us at birth as we had older dd.

 

A friend of mine (white with white dh) adopted a Inuit (Eskimo) daughter.  This was a voluntary placement by the birth parents but the tribal government still had to make special approval of this adoption as the girl was full blood and a member of the tribe.  The tribe requested that my friends allow dd to retain her tribal membership and rights and a few other provisions.

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Here's some questions to start for both of you:

 

1. How does being a recognized tribe member or not affect members of your family? Does having that political affiliation help them in life? I never used to find it mattered, but more & more now I am being asked if we are papered or not, and if not papered instructed to put White instead. It really grates on me. This mostly comes up on applications & such.

 

2. How closely is formal federal recognition tied to Native identity in your community? Do people without "paper" get flack for being "not Indian enough"? How important is it to continued cultural identity? I live in a major city, so there isn't a huge Native community here. The Native community here we touch base with a couple of times a year at Powwows, and it's never an issue. However I have seen on some folks who look white sometimes they are questioned a bit - I look {as one local elder told me at my 1st Powwow} like a half-breed {golden olive complexion, brassy hair, etc}. My dd is a throwback & looks VERY Native, so the only question she gets is "what Tribe?". I found it funny in college - out of our little group of friends 3 were Native. 2 weren't papered - myself & a guy who SCREAMED Native in both behavior & looks. The only one who WAS papered was a little white blond thing who looked Russian {she took after her grandparents} and didn't know anything about Native culture except curse words she picked up from visiting her grandma. Yet because she was papered, she got scholarships & a check every month.

 

3. Do you use the term Indian, or Native (American) by preference, or just usually talk about your actual nationality (Cherokee, Chippewa, etc.) if and when it comes up? I use Indian even though it isn't politically correct. It's what I grew up using. I am approximately 1/8 Blackfoot & 1/32 Cherokee, with a dash of Pequot. I most closely identify with My Blackfoot / Sioux ancestry. If asked, I expand on it. I'm not sure if I would count as Cheyenne as well or not - dad was a blood brother to a modern chief with full tribal rights lol but I have no idea if it passes down or not.

 

4. For those who have ties to tribes with blood quantum requirements for membership, has this affected your status or that of your children? Is there community pressure to marry within the tribe because of it, or for other reasons? Well, my dad was sort-of papered Sioux. The tribe knew he was Native, but because the link was his mom born in 1912 & not issued a birth certificate on account of being half Native, it's not provable. She wasn't put on the rolls on account of being half white. Typical catch-22. Because the tribe only gave him honorary membership since it couldn't be proven, it didn't pass down. Mom's family lived white & went west ahead of the trail of Tears & never were papered. I don't know about in the community, but there was definate family pressure to marry Native.

 

5. Do any of you (or family members) have possessory interest in any trust allotments, and how big a headache does the property transfer issue make for your family when someone dies? Does it actually provide any income? Does it hold symbolic value for members of your community who have it? No. My SIL does however - she is Cheyenne I think. Maybe it's another C tribe - there are so many in NW OK lol. She gets a little income, when the local Native Government isn't frozen on account of fraud or lack of funds. It can't be depended on at any time - you never know when it will show up. She gets more in tribal benefits than anything else - the tribe does a back to school voucher for all kids, free health care, some transportation, free head start, etc. When my brother passed away, because she was a tribal member they helped pay for the funeral.   

 

6. For those who have ties to a reservation but don't live on it, why not? is there anything that might draw you to move to a reservation in the future? How important is the reservation/land to your community's sense of identity and cultural cohesion? I have considered moving to the rez for my tribe in Montana. If I had funds & was in better health, I'd do it, even though I wouldn't be a papered member of the tribe. While I've never been there, I've seen film / TV about life there and it just feels like HOME. I feel the same way about thre as a friend of mine who was adopted from China as a small infant did when she went to visit - it's like coming home & a part of you that you didn't realize was empty is now suddenly full. It's wonderful to look around & see people who look like YOU instead of being the odd one out all the time. I would love my dd & I to learn our Native language & culture more than we can from half-way across the nation via the net.

 

7. How is your native culture involved in your daily life? (Religion, differences in family culture from non-Native families in your area, language, etc.) I try to emphasize our Native ancestry to dd - I want her to identify with it. I was raised very Native in some ways - especially the Native idea of shaming a child instead of spankings, etc. I was also raised to NOT show emotion in times of stress / danger - something I have since learned was an old Plains tribal behavior. It's been both a blessing & a curse. I learned to be aware of nature & learn from it, something I try to teach dd. While I wouldn't say it has influenced my religion {I'm Muslim - not too many Native Muslims lol though we do exist}, it definately did my Fathers. He was raised by his grandparents & taught quite a bit of what I now know to be Native beliefs / practices, though always with a veneer of White X-ianity. He always believed in spirit guides, and swore up & down that several times in his life his spirit guide kept him alive, including while fighting in the Korean War. His was always the same - a Tall Native warrior on horseback with battle gear on.

 

Hope that helps

 

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Have either of you looked into whether you might be eligible for "papers" with a tribe? Why or why not?

 

I have, and still am. On my mom's side, the 1/32 Cherokee is too low to be papered unless she was {the lowest for joining is 1/16th I believe, but once a family member is in then their children are even if less.}. On my dad's side I have spent 20 years trying to nail down & prove the tribal ancestry so I can formally join the tribe. It's not been easy. Short of taking a multi-week trip to St. Paul, MN to dig in archives & such it probably isn't going to happen. But I keep trying every little bit when I have free time.

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Thanks to both of you for answering my questions! It's not really the sort of thing I can pin down a fellow law student and quiz them on, kwim?

 

Here's another one:

 

To what extent do you see tribal politics as corrupt? Does it get worse with infusions of money, like with casino profits? I'm sure it varies a lot from one government/tribe to another. Do you know anyone involved in tribal politics? What is your understanding of why they became involved? Do you see it as any worse than other local or state politics, or more of the same?

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Ameena, I thought Cherokee membership was based entirely on descent from particular rolls, with no blood quantum attached? Or does it depend on which Cherokee band?

 

It does depend on the band. It's been a few years since I looked into it, but if I recall correctly most do require a descendant from someone named on the rolls. I believe the two bands that didn't require such were the Eastern Cherokee out of NC & the Texas Cherokee band {who came west before the trail of tears}. 

 

Thanks to both of you for answering my questions! It's not really the sort of thing I can pin down a fellow law student and quiz them on, kwim?

 

Here's another one:

 

To what extent do you see tribal politics as corrupt? Does it get worse with infusions of money, like with casino profits? I'm sure it varies a lot from one government/tribe to another. Do you know anyone involved in tribal politics? What is your understanding of why they became involved? Do you see it as any worse than other local or state politics, or more of the same?

 

IME, most governments are corrupt :) The more money, the more corruption. Tribal governments are no different. The only difference I have seen is the Navajo Nation - they seem to be the least corrupt & to work in the best interests of the tribe as a whole.

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It does depend on the band. It's been a few years since I looked into it, but if I recall correctly most do require a descendant from someone named on the rolls. I believe the two bands that didn't require such were the Eastern Cherokee out of NC & the Texas Cherokee band {who came west before the trail of tears}. 

 

 

IME, most governments are corrupt :) The more money, the more corruption. Tribal governments are no different. The only difference I have seen is the Navajo Nation - they seem to be the least corrupt & to work in the best interests of the tribe as a whole.

 

Funny, I almost held out the Navajo as an example where they seem to complain a lot..usually people thinking of their own Chapter complaining about Window Rock (I've been to a couple of conferences discussing economic development issues, and the Navajo Nation makes the news out here somewhat regularly). Things do seem to be functional for them, and where they aren't there are pretty clearly Federal bureaucracy or problems with the State or corporate mineral lessees that can be pointed to as the cause of problems. Mostly they have a lot of messes that need cleaning up and are trying to find ways to do that. And just about any major decision is bound to displease someone or other.

 

OTOH, one of my professors has recounted stories of other tribes where a coup de tat involving armed gunmen occupying the casino were involved in changing over tribal government, or where they shut down the tribal courts because they didn't like a tribal supreme court ruling that said they shouldn't be disenrolling half their members...

 

The takeaway message I've gotten is that your own corrupt politicians are at least better than someone else's corrupt politicians. And the tribal leaders I have met or seen speak appeared to be genuinely concerned with the needs and troubles of their people, not just with lining their own pockets or anything like that...but I guess the ones lining their own pockets probably don't attend economic development conferences focusing on sustainability. 

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We looked into getting papers for me but since my grandmother's birth certificate says WHITE and they were never on any Cherokee rolls officially I can't.  She was a full blood, very obviously looked it, was a medicine woman for the tribe (she was born in the late 1890s).  When she was born they had the local white doctor (had been kidnapped as a child by the tribe and later served as their doctor) put WHITE down on all of their papers as to them, at that time in history it was "worse to be Indian than it was to be black" ---which says a lot (or a little) for those living in the south in the late 1890s/early 1900s.

 

My dh's tribe only enrolls members down to 1/4 blood quantum while I know other tribes do 1/8, 1/16 and some maybe even less.

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