kinship

Jill Doerfler and Carole Goldberg: Key Things a Constitution Should Address: Who Are We and How Do We Know? (Q&A)

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Native Nations Institute
Year

Presenters Jill Doerfler and Carole Goldberg field questions from seminar participants about the various criteria that Native Nations are using to define citizenship, and some of the implications that specific criteria present.

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Citation

Doerfler, Jill and Carole Goldberg. "Key Things a Constitution Should Address: Who Are We and How Do We Know?" Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 3, 2013. Q&A Session.

Mike Burgess:

Mike Burgess from Pawnee Nation College. My question is to both either yourself Jill [Doerfler] or Dr. [Carole] Goldberg. In your research and findings, had there been any discussion on consolidation of tribal blood quantum and make it all one tribe?"

Carole Goldberg:

"By consolidation, you mean looking at people who have blood quantum from a variety of different tribes?"

Mike Burgess:

"If a member is not enough of your blood quantum, but they have more than enough to be a quarter blood, half-blood, even full-blood Indian, which is happening to a lot of our children in Oklahoma, they're full-blood Indian, but can't get on any roll."

Carole Goldberg:

"Right."

Mike Burgess:

"So if you're consolidating that and you recognize them as a member of your tribe and make them full-bloods or half-bloods, just your tribe only. Have any tribes approached that?"

Carole Goldberg:

"Not only have tribes proposed that, but I have actually seen it in some of the constitutions in California tribes where it may well be, for example, there are so many Pomo tribes in northern California. And you may not have descendance from this particular Pomo tribe, but in times past there was all kinds of intermarriage and kinship relations. And so the view of some of these tribes is as long as you're hypothetically one-fourth is from some Pomo tribe, they'll make you a member of this particular tribe so long as you don't also try to become a member of some other tribe. It's definitely being done. I wouldn't say it's widespread, but it's definitely being done."

Mike Burgess:

"Thank you."

Robert Hershey (moderator):

"It is. It is in a number of constitutions and membership ordinances that if you are a member of another tribe you cannot be a member of this particular tribe that you're trying to be included in. So that is something you'd have to look at either through your constitution or your membership ordinance and to change if that's the result you wanted. Yes, sir."

Ray Louden:

"Hi. I'm Ray Louden with Red Lake. This is for White Earth. How is the new constitution with White Earth going to affect the constitution with the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, and then is the ultimate goal then for the White Earth Nation to be removed from...?"

Jill Doerfler:

"The White Earth Nation has tried for many, many years to engage the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe in constitutional reform at the level of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and those efforts have not been fruitful. As I said, we've had efforts at White Earth for 30 years and we've tried to engage the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe throughout that time. Minnesota Chippewa Tribe has always -- well, I don't...not always -- they've had for a long, long time had a standing committee on constitutional reform. No actual action has come out of that committee for many years, and so ultimately White Earth citizens felt that we need to move on our own. It's unclear what will happen with regard to the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, whether White Earth will still participate or how the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe will react to us having our own constitution."

Robert Hershey:

"Thank you. You're Red Lake, yes? Yeah. We have time for two more questions right now, the speakers at the microphones then we'll break for lunch. I want to make an announcement about lunch in just a minute. Yes."

Stephanie Cobenais:

"My name's Stephanie Cobenais from Red Lake. What are you deciding on how...what's going to be a descendant on your referendum stuff? What is it?"

Jill Doerfler:

"We haven't identified a base roll yet, which needs to happen. We sort of worked under the presumption that we'd use our current roll, but that isn't 100 percent clear. So a descendant would be somebody descended from a roll that will need to be identified."

Robert Hershey:

"Thank you. Yes, sir."

Audience member:

"How many tribal members do you have enrolled in your tribe?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Excuse me?"

Audience member:

"How many tribal members do you have on your rolls?"

Jill Doerfler:

"We have about 20,000 citizens right now."

Audience member:

"Wow, that's quite a bit. Yeah, we have 900 enrolled tribal members in our tribe but due to our blood quantum it doesn't allow...a lot of our tribal member...a lot of family members to be enrolled. I have a granddaughter that's six tribes. She has six tribal...she's six tribes anyway right now and she couldn't get enrolled with my tribe so she went to one of the other tribes that she represents and then she got enrolled there. But it was kind of a sad deal. But I liked your presentation and I like the way that you guys dealt with the lineal part and I think we got a lot of good ideas out of that and it made me think a lot, too, about our lineal part because here in Arizona...I know tribes here in Arizona it's a lot different here. I have family members from a lot of different tribes here from Arizona that...even some of these guys like, I'm Tonto Apache, I'm related to these guys over here. I'm related to a lot of people in the San Carlos Apache Tribe. And we have other tribes too like Yavapai, other Yavapais up north. My father is a northern Yavapai and his clan still exists. It's still up there. And then I'm also half, I'm a southern Yavapai too. So there's a lot of this stuff going on here in Arizona, it's like a big melting pot. I see a lot of that, but I saw a lot of good ideas in your presentation that really stood out to me and I think we're going to probably take some of that home to our tribe and just try to present it to our people and see what they think about it. I just want to thank you for your presentation."

Jill Doerfler:

"Well, [Anishinaabe language] thank you to you. That's wonderful to hear. I didn't have time...I'll just make one brief comment. I am not a demographer, I'm more the historian/literature-type person, but the tribe did hire a demographer to do a population study and even though...sometimes it sounds like 20,000 is a lot of people, but we are going to soon be reaching a stage where we just have an aging population at White Earth. Our death rate is going to be outpacing our birth rate and we're going to be moving towards declining numbers and so that's also motivating factor. Even though it seems like we're big, we're still really feeling a lot of impacts of blood quantum."

Robert Hershey:

"Thank you. Carole."

Carole Goldberg:

"There's just one brief observation that I wanted to make. For a very good reason we don't have members of the outside press here but if they were, I think they might be very interested in the fact that the word gaming actually has not appeared in any of these presentations about enrollment because there is such a misconception out there that is driving all of this discussion and it's really not, as I think we've seen..."

Robert Hershey:

"Can you share some of the experiences in your community of what you're dealing with regarding identity, membership, citizenship? Why do we have this distinction between "˜membership' and "˜citizenship'? What does "˜membership' mean to you? What does "˜citizenship' mean to you? These are some of the questions you're going to be dealing with when you...I could call on my students. Can I call on a member of the Pascua Yaqui Nation's council to...sorry, Robert, because you brought it up at lunchtime. There's an issue within your constitution that is kind of contrary to the membership rules that you've set out. Is this something that you feel like that you're going to have to attend to? Is the Pascua Yaqui Council going to have to attend to dealing with some of the divergent issues or the irreconcilable positions within a constitution?"

Robert Valencia:

"There's two things that affect our tribe and our current constitution. One is our tribe was very instrumental in the Law and Order Act, getting that together, but our constitution still is what it is and we...that gives us a one-year limitation on the sentencing and I think it was $5,000 on fines and such, and the other is the Membership Act. Our tribe has been...was recognized in 1978, recognized again in 1994, and with this membership bill it's something that in order to do what we want to because it's in the constitution, it was in the Act, we would have to change that. So those are the two pressing issues that we have, among others."

Robert Hershey:

"Thank you very much. But the reason I asked you to speak to this was because there was a contradiction in the constitution as to what the nation wanted to do with regard to its membership. It went to Congress. Now some of you may have, not the IRA [Indian Reorganization Act] tribes here, but you may have also some other federal act that has designated you into the federal recognition and the acknowledgement process, too. So those types of things are unique where you can get congressional acts to go ahead instead of going through the whole formal process amending the constitution and the Pascua Yaqui Nation has been successful in that regard."

Robert Valencia:

"That's right. Initially the Act establishing the tribe did say that we had to have a constitution and initially it was supposed to be in 1980. We didn't have one until about 1988 and we haven't changed it or modified it since that time."

Robert Hershey:

"Thank you very much. Kevin, we've been looking for you."

Kevin Dupuis:

"I have a question for White Earth and as being a former tribal executive committee member I can understand what you're saying and as a reservation business committee member now, the question I have, if the constitution is done with White Earth, is there a point where the tribal executive committee of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe has to approve or disapprove that constitution? And the concern I have is this -- that if an individual reservation in the consolidation of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe writes their own constitution, do they become separated from the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe because the question I would have to that, if they have their own constitution they could not represent the membership of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe [as] their tribal executive committee member. Because our constitution that exists now, whether it be right, wrong, indifferent, it's the only document we have, and the concern with is if it can't be followed now, how is this going to go with the constitution coming from White Earth?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Right. We're definitely in new legal territory when it comes to the White Earth constitution and the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe constitution and these are questions that we'll have to be exploring, especially this summer in consultation both with MCT staff attorneys as well as TEC members, White Earth attorneys and White Earth tribal council and exploring how can the MCT accommodate in some way. Can White Earth have its own constitution and can other MCT nations have their own constitution and still participate in the MCT in some way. Is that possible? These are sort of questions that we need to be working on answers to."

Kevin Dupuis:

"I understand it and I agree with you, just simple principle of federalism. It was discussed years ago in 2004 and I think all the way to 2006 that the tribe already has its own constitution, can we delegate that authority to the individual reservations to write their own constitution and be under the umbrella of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe? My concern is this, if you follow a constitution that you write under White Earth and White Earth adopts that, even through the principal referendum I need to ask myself as a tribal member, because I'm not enrolled in Fond du Lac. We're all enrolled in the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. Our enrollment papers go to the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, not the individual reservations."

Jill Doerfler:

"Correct."

Kevin Dupuis:

"So an action like this, I'm asking at that point, you finish your constitution, it goes through a referendum vote with your people on White Earth. Is there a separation from White Earth from the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, because I can't see White Earth representing members of the tribe anymore if they have their own constitution."

Jill Doerfler:

"It will depend on what actions MCT wants to take. If MCT does nothing, that may be your question. If MCT does nothing, does White Earth essentially then separate? I would say the answer to that is most likely yes, but I'm not an attorney and I'm not here to give legal comment on that. These are issues that we're working on exploring."

Kevin Dupuis:

"Okay. Thank you."

Robert Hershey:

"If I may add something too. It implicates some other issues as well. One of the issues is, what is the Minnesota Chippewa constitution, the nations that are involved in it, is it a Secretarial approval constitution, to do amendments?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Yeah."

Robert Hershey:

"So even though there's a referendum, it doesn't automatically result in a new constitution if the new constitution and the...then you have to call for a Secretarial election, and so then there's a whole process that has to be put to the voters. Then that's also going to go ahead and implicate. Whether or not this becomes an example to the other nations or not as to whether they want to go ahead and adopt a new form of constitution, it could be very exemplary in that regard. And there are situations where in constitutions...the Tohono O'odham Nation for one, Hopi Tribe for another, that they have separate and distinct powers that like the districts here on the O'odham Reservation have their own sense. The Hopi constitution allows for the villages to establish their own constitutions as well. So this could be a number of ways to go ahead and satisfy some of the concerns that you were raising there and at the same time allow for that kind of semi-independence or quasi-independence and it could be a united affiliation of nations with separate and distinct constitutions. It could be an example to go ahead and formulate one type of a constitution if that's the way the people go. But it still is going to require after a referendum, it still is going to require a petition to the Secretary of the Interior to go ahead and have a Secretarial election."

Jill Doerfler:

"I should maybe clarify that our referendum, the plan is to proceed with that referendum via a Secretarial election."

Robert Hershey:

"Yes, please."

Pamela Mott:

"My name is Pamela Mott and I'm from the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. At lunchtime we sat with Navajo and the other Yavapai tribe and to our question who we are and how do we know, it all came down to a Creation story, "˜cause we all know people sitting here where we come from, how we were taught. The time I grew up, I grew up with a bunch of elders so everybody that I came with, we know who we are and where we're from, but when federal government came and gave us those IRA constitutions that we have today, we have to start changing and identifying ourselves. And I think one of the things at our table that we kind of agree with and I brought up was that when you brought up maximizing your numbers and talking about political, it had a concern to me as a Native American woman "˜cause we're raised like family and we take care of one another. I was wondering, it's so hard for me to understand why other tribes would make one tribal member less important than another one when you said you put restrictions on somebody living off the rez versus someone living on, because a lot of times we don't have the wherewithal to have jobs for educated tribal members and they have to go somewhere else to work or they have to go out of state to work. I have to use my family as an example. I have a nephew that's a doctor in mechanical engineering. There's no job for him on my little reservation, so he has to go. What makes him less of an important tribal member than somebody back home that doesn't have an education but is there working? And I think when you guys teach, as professors when you teach this to people or other Native students that are in your classes, every tribe is different, we're all different, so some of those things I think need to be brought out because I'm a leader for my tribe and when I have to go to [Washington] D.C. and fight for Native American rights or fight for...big one is gaming and you said gaming didn't come up. It is coming up because that's what we're fighting against now but a lot of the things stem...why would you want to make one person less than another when the way we were brought up we had to take care of everybody within the community? And there were adoptions. I know Navajo had talked about some adoptions they had and it depended on your history. If you took slaves in...we weren't mean people. We took care of those people, unlike when they brought the slaves. I understood back east the slaves were more happy to live with the Indians than they were with the non-Indians because they were treated better, they were incorporated as families and that's how we're brought up. So that was one of the things I think our table agreed with, it was kind of hard for me to understand why if there were tribes out there, why would you make somebody different than another based on whether you live within the reservation, whether you don't live in the reservation, because we get a lot of feedback from the people that don't live within my community because they're educated and they tell us, "˜This is what we're doing out here. How can you incorporate with the businesses on the reservation to help us be successful?' And those are some of the things I think that was brought up at our table and I wanted to share that. So I think when you guys are teaching you need to know that. A lot of it comes from our heart and family. We're not like the regular outside non-Indians because a lot of them, they just move. It's easy for them to get up and move one state to another and not have contact with their family members. It's not like that for us. We're always contacting somebody. My sister...I may not...she lives on the same reservation and she lives a hop, skip and a jump from me, but I call her every day or I go see her every other day or something and my children live...I have a son in Oklahoma and he calls me every single day just to let me know how he's doing, how we're talking. So a lot of times you guys don't incorporate that in your teaching, and I think...coming from us now maybe you guys need to start doing that or understanding the tribes."

Carole Goldberg:

"Thank you very much. Actually, I live in Los Angeles. My husband's tribe is in North Dakota, so I'm actually very familiar with the situation of living far away from one's home community. There are places where issues arise involving resource extraction. So there are places where there is a lot of potential money to be made by things like strip mining or various other forms of resource extraction. It has in some places created some tensions, not that people don't care about folks who live far away, not that people don't want to take care of them or stay in touch with them, but just plain old worries that the temptation to do things in the territory might be too great if you don't live there and so that's the source of the tensions that I was referring to over what do you do about folks who live in a place and want to make sure that it's not ruined by various forms of environmental strains and people who live far away and may not experience that. And that...but the variation is tremendous and there are places where that is not an issue and where there are not concerns about treating folks differently. What I was trying to do was give you some sense of the tremendous variety of issues that exist out there and only you can know whether those matter to your own community."

Robert Hershey:

"I'm going to add one thing here, too, just before and this was brought up at our lunch table with my students and they're very passionate about this as well. And if I may just digress just briefly into a little history lesson. Back in Jamestown Colonies with...we hear about Pocahontas, but we don't hear much about her father, which is Powhatan, who was the leader of a number of tidewater tribes in that region. During the treaty ceremonies that would go back and forth whether or not the attempted colonists would be allowed to stay there, there was a ceremony where the English wanted to put a crown on his head and they wanted him just to bend down a little bit so they could put the crown on his head. So the English were taking that as that he was declaring fealty to the crown of England. Now he wasn't thinking that. He was thinking that he was extending his empire. And what I heard from the woman that just spoke, and I thank you for those comments very, very much, is that those educated, those people that are off the reservation, they're contributing and they're bringing things back to your community. So it's very, very interesting how you can extend your empire out there and it doesn't just have to be that people living within a particular area, that's determinative, but it's about those relationships and those contributions that can be far and wide. So that was just something, so I appreciate those comments of what you said. Thank you. Sorry for the history lesson, it's just law professors."

Steve Cornell:

"Steve Cornell from the University of Arizona. For Carole Goldberg, Carole I was just wondering if you had any experience with tribes that are dealing with citizens who live outside U.S. borders with nations that were split by the border. Obviously it's a huge issue right here in southern Arizona with the Tohono O'odham people. There are Yaqui people south in Mexico, but it's also an issue for Mohawks, for some of the Blackfeet Confederacy and others, and have you seen any constitutions that directly try to address the citizenship of people who through no fault of their own are living on the other side of the U.S. border?"

Carole Goldberg:

"I actually have, because one of the communities that I've worked with is the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians in northeastern Maine and a number of the people from the Houlton community, the Maliseet people are actually living in Canada and it is interesting to note that over time the international border has had the impact on communities or it can have the impact of creating a sense of division that would not have existed had that international border not been introduced. And this is a topic that required a lot of internal dialogue within this community. Are they really a part of us? Even though the kinship relations were pretty obvious, the language, the cultural tradition were common but there was this bit of unease about whether...first of all whether there was something that would be viewed wrong by outsiders of including these "˜foreigners,' I use that in quotes, as part of our tribe and there was also again this sense that there had been some separation over the years. And there was at the end of the day I think more receptivity to saying, "˜These are part of our families, these are part of our culture and community and we shouldn't arbitrarily say that they're outside because they're in another country'. But it was a very hard discussion."

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For most of the modern tribal self-determination era, American Indian nations have emphasized inclusion. Starting in the early 1970s, higher tribal membership numbers equated to higher federal self-determination dollars. As tribes otherwise redoubled their efforts to reverse the destruction caused by preceding federal Indian removal, assimilation, and relocation policies, tribes found strength in numbers through expanded membership. Once-terminated tribes that were restored over the last few decades were particularly aggressive about bulking up their membership rosters in order to rebuild everything that the United States destroyed in the 1950s. Because of the once normative nature of American indigenous kinship-based systems of inclusion, the Indian Nation rebuilding efforts were second nature...

Resource Type
Citation

Galanda, Gabriel S. "The Unintended Consequences of Disenrollment." Indian Country Today Media Network. February 2, 2015. Opinion. (https://ictnews.org/archive/the-unintended-consequences-of-disenrollment, accessed February 22, 2023)

Disenrollment Is a Tool of the Colonizers

Producer
Indian Country Today
Year

Our elders and spiritual leaders do not teach the practice of disenrollment. In fact, disenrollment is a wholly non-Indian construct. Indeed, when I recently asked Eric Bernando, a Grand Ronde descendant of his tribe’s Treaty Chief and fluent Chinook Wawa speaker, if there was a Chinook Wawa word or notion that means “disenrollment,” he unequivocally answered, “no.”...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Galanda, Gabriel S. "Disenrollment Is a Tool of the Colonizers." Indian Country Today. January 16, 2015. Opinion. (https://ictnews.org/archive/disenrollment-is-a-tool-of-the-colonizers, accessed April 4, 2023)

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Authenticity is a puzzling feature of contemporary Indian life. Growing up on an Indian reservation, I rarely encountered challenges to one’s identity as an Indian person. People within the reservation community knew most of the families. If they didn’t know the family connections of a specific person they could learn with a few inquiries to elders or their own family members.

One grows up on a reservation community where there is an old and somewhat fixed family and kinship structure. There is very little doubt about who belongs and who does not, at least from a lineal descendent point of view. Tribal membership, because of blood quantum and other rules, may be more complicated and legalistic. A person whose family has lived within a tribal reservation community for as long as people can remember and who are legally tribal members usually do not encounter challenges to tribal identity from tribal community members...

Resource Type
Citation

Champagne, Duane. "Authenticity: Ethnic Indians, non-Indians and Reservation Indians." Indian Country Today Media Network. January 6, 2014. Opinion. (https://ictnews.org/archive/authenticity-ethnic-indians-non-indians-and-reservation-indians, accessed March 7, 2023)

Indigenous Nations Have the Right to Choose: Renewal or Contract

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When making significant change Indigenous nations make choices about whether to build on traditions or to adopt new forms of government, economy, culture or community. Many changes are external and often forced upon contemporary Indigenous Peoples. Adapting to competitive markets, or new bureaucratic programs, or changes in policy and administration of nation states are matters that are outside an Indigenous nation’s control. Changes that are not generated within Indian nations often do not have community or tribal government consent, and therefore are taken in compliance only...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Champagne, Duane. "Indigenous Nations Have the Right to Choose: Renewal or Contract." Indian Country Today. November 3, 2013. Opinion. (https://ictnews.org/archive/indigenous-nations-have-the-right-to-choose-renewal-or-contract, accessed July 25, 2023)

Kin-Based Governments Can Be Successful and Profitable

Producer
Indian Country Today
Year

A key to understanding American Indian nations, and Indigenous Peoples in general, is local community organization. Local groups, as basic building blocks of indigenous nations, play a powerful role in tribal or national consensus building and decision-making. The ways that local indigenous groups are constructed varies considerably among the nations, and through history...

Resource Type
Citation

Champagne, Duane. "Kin-Based Governments Can Be Successful and Profitable." Indian Country Today. October 11, 2013. Article. (https://ictnews.org/archive/kin-based-governments-can-be-successful-and-profitable, accessed August 1, 2023)