Citizen Indigenous || Radcliffe Institute


– Hello everyone. Welcome to the
Radcliffe Institute. It’s great to see so many
people out for this event. My name is Sean O’Donnell. I’m the associate director
for academic ventures. And for those of you who
don’t know, academic ventures it’s a group at Radcliffe
that brings together people from across the university to
discuss all kinds of issues of importance to bringing
people together to discuss ideas from different perspectives,
different disciplinary perspectives. And it’s my pleasure, on
this particular project, to be working with Megan Hill
from the honoring nations project, and also to
be working with Shelley Lowe, of the Harvard University
native-american project. And we know we have some really
wonderful and important topics to address today. This year at the
institute we’ve been looking at citizenship for
this year and for next year. And there are so
many ways in which we know that this topic,
today, deeply affects notions of citizenship on native land. I also invite you to come to
Layli Long Soldier’s poetry reading this Thursday. It’s also at 4:15, and
also will be in this room. And also, to our
gender conference, which is entitled, “Who belongs? Global citizenship
the 21st century.” Our keynote speaker for that
is Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Jhumpa Lahiry. And we’d love to have
you, again, explore the idea of citizenship
from many perspectives. And we know that today’s
event is promising to do some really wonderful
work in understanding the ways in which the Native
American people and tribes and nations are trying to make
sense of many of the things that they have inherited
in their world. So without further
ado, I’m going to bring up Shelley Lowe,
who’s going to, I think, introduce the panelists
and get us started. Thanks. – [NON-NENGLISH SPEECH] Good afternoon. My name is Shelly Lowe. I am a citizen of
the Navajo Nation. I am originally from
Ganado, Arizona. I am also currently
the executive director of the Harvard University
native-american program. I want to acknowledge quickly,
the Massachusetts people whose land we’re on, but also
the Wampanoag and the Muk peoples, whose histories
are so intimately tied to this institution. Before we get started
with introductions, I’m going to ask my
colleague, Jason Packineau, to come up to say a quick
blessing for our event today. And we do ask that nobody record
or take pictures at this time. Thank you Jason. Our panel tonight,
or this evening, is part of a conversation based
on a recently published book. And unfortunately, I
didn’t bring my book. But I do know one of our
speakers has his book with him. The book is The Great
Vanishing Act, Blood Quantum and the Future Native Nations. And one of the editors
is with us today. Mr. Norbert Hill, and
I’m sure he will talk about it a little bit more. I encourage everyone to
take a look at the book, it talks about citizenship from
various tribal points of view. From youth point of view,
to a tribal point of view, to historical points of view. And it’s very good
and will kind of guide some of our
conversation today. So on our panel today,
Professor N. Bruce Duthu, a member of the
United home a nation, is the Samson outcome
professor, and former chair of the Native American
studies at Dartmouth College. He’s an internationally
recognized scholar of Native American
law and policy. Professor Duthu is the author
of Shadow Nations Tribal Sovereignty and the
Limits of Legal Pluralism. Published by Oxford
University Press. And American
Indians and the Law, published by Viking
penguin press. And he was a contributing
author of Felix Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law. The leading treatise in the
field of federal Indian law. His co-edited special volume
of South Atlantic quarterly, sovereignty,
indigeneity and the law, won the 2011 council of editors
of learned journals award for best special issue. He has lectured on
indigenous rights in various parts of
the world, including Russia, China, Bolivia,
Italy, France, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Anywhere else? We didn’t miss something? And he’s been teaching
a class, or he’s taught a class at the Institute
for American Indian arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Also on the panel
is Olivia Hoeft, a citizen of the Oneida
Nation of Wisconsin, where she was born and raised. She is a contributing author
to the book, the anthology, The Great Vanishing Act,
Blood Quantum and the Future of Native Nations. And she is former Miss
Oneida, in 2014, 2015. She earned her Bachelor of
Arts from Stanford University in 2015. And currently works at Google
as an associate product marketing manager
in San Francisco, where she is also a lead of the
Google American Indian network. Also on our panel,
Tesia Zientek. She is a citizen of
the Potawatomi nation. With financial help from a
prestigious gates Millennium scholarship, she
graduated magna cum laude from the University
of Notre Dame in 2009, with a Bachelor
of Arts in English. After graduation,
Tesia spent two years teaching and running an after
school program in Puerto Rico, before pursuing her
passion for education through graduate study. In 2013, she graduated
with her master of arts in education policy
from Stanford University. To celebrate her
educational achievements, Tesia has received the
Howard Yhakis Memorial Award and the next
Gen 30 under 30 award. In October, 2015, she became the
citizen Pottawatomie nation’s first director for its
new education department, which aims to help tribal
members identify and reach their educational goals. Since 2012, Tesia has also
served as Potawatomi leadership program advisor, helping to
restructure and implement curriculum for the Harvard
honoring nations award winning internship program. And lastly on our panel,
Mr. Norbert S. hill Jr., a member of the
Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. Norbert Hill recently
retired as the director of education and training for
the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. His previous appointment
was as vice president of the College of Menominee
Nation for their Green Bay campus. Mr. Hill served as the Executive
Director of the American Indian Graduate Center in New Mexico,
a nonprofit organization providing funding for American
Indians and Alaska Natives to pursue graduate and
professional degrees. Previous positions
include executive director of the American Indian science
and Engineering Society, assistant dean of students at
the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, and the director of
the American Indian educational Opportunity Program at the
University of Colorado, Boulder. He founded winds of change in
the American Indian graduate magazine publications
of AISES [INAUDIBLE] and the American
Indian Graduate Center. He holds two honorary doctorate
from Clarkson university and Cumberland college. Passport appointments include
the Environmental Defense Fund, chair and board member of
the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. He is an elected member of
the United Nations trust and enrollment committee,
and currently serves on the boards of St. Norbert
college, the Wisconsin historical society, and the
Green Bay botanical gardens. In 1989, Mr. hill was awarded
the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Action council
for minorities in engineering. I would like to ask the
panelists to please come up and join us on stage. And to begin our
panel tonight, we’re going to have Professor
Bruce Duthu start us off. – Thank you, and
thank you Shelly. Thank you to our native tribal
hosts on whose lands we meet. And thank you to the Institute
for hosting this event. It’s a great pleasure
to be back in Cambridge. I feel badly that we’re
keeping you indoors on such a gorgeous day after
the winter we’ve been through. So thank you for indulging us. I’m not going to say
too much at this point, because our panelists
are ready to go. I’ll have a few things to
say by way of summation, and then some questions
for our panelists before we turn it over to you,
the audience, to ask questions. So the way that we’re
going to proceed, each panelist will
have about 15 minutes. At least that’s what I
was told that you have. About 15 minutes to
share their own comments on the topic for today. And followed by a few questions
that I’ve circulated to them to think about. I probably won’t ask
all the questions, I went into that
professorial mode where you just kind of
ask questions ad nauseum. So I’ll try to ask maybe
just two or three questions. And then, just to get them
primed for your questions, and then we’ll turn
it over to you. When it is your turn
to ask questions, there will be a mic
set up right here in the center of the hallway. And we ask that you identify
yourself, where you’re from, and ask as brief a
question as you can. OK? Thank you very much. So I don’t know what
order that we have. If you want to go in
a particular order. You want to start us off Olivia? Thank you. – [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] Hello, everyone. My name is Olivia Hoeft. My Oneida name is Iago hocky,
which means her road is good. I’m from the Oneida
Nation of Wisconsin, and I am turtle clan. First of all, I just want to
say how humbled I am to be here and among the amazing company
of my fellow panelists. And how grateful I am to the
Radcliffe Institute for having us, and for carving out space
to have such a vital discussion. This is one of the most
important questions of our time for native people. And whatever we decide will lay
the foundation for generations to carry on the conversation
we are starting today. It is a difficult
question to ask and there sadly is
no one right answer that has been hiding in
plain sight all along when it comes to blood quantum. What great news that would be,
we could all head home early. But to me, it is an
inspiring time as well. For so much of our
history we have worked within the definitions
of other outside forces. Of what it means to
be Native American. And I believe this
is an opportunity to decide for ourselves. My mother, Patty Hoeft, served
on our elected tribal council for three terms, a
total of nine years. Following in the
footsteps of her mother, my grandmother
Sandra [? Nedham, ?] who was one of the two
women to start a bingo game on our tribes
reservation in the 1970s. One of the first in
the country, which went on to become our tribe’s
Casino as we know it today. My family’s legacy of
contributing to Oneida survival has profoundly impacted my
Native American identity and sense of
citizenship to my tribe. The question of what
it means to be Oneida, and of what I can do
for Oneida’s survival, is something I’ve thought about
almost every day of my life, and has influenced any decision
I’ve made in my life so far. Especially when it comes
to where I’ve lived. Tribes are place based cultures. We are, because of where we are. Growing up, the world seemed
a little more black and white. That there only was Oneida and
the rest of the world was not. Not unlike the binary quality
of blood quantum itself, which views identity as either
or, rather than a spectrum. I was born and raised on
the Oneida reservation. My mother is Oneida,
and my father is white. They met and fell in
love while working at the local newspaper
in Green Bay, and had me and my
older sister Lauren. And although my
mom had always had dreams of leaving
Oneida eventually to pursue different
goals she had, she always knew that it
was vital to our identities to be raised in
Oneida, around Oneidas. So she stayed. We found out recently that
my sister and I are actually the seventh generation matronly,
and the 10th generation patronly in our family
to be born and raised in Oneida Wisconsin. That is no small feat. Despite many warring factors
and outside influences, since the Oneidas of Wisconsin
first left their homelands in New York, and moved
to Wisconsin in 1822, all of my ancestors not
only survived, but also have made the same choice to stay
generation after generation. And my mother made
that choice as well. I also plan to make that choice. When I meet new people and
they learn about my connection to Oneida, how it
worries me to live away, and how often I
try to visit home, or how annoyingly
difficult it is to find a nonstop flight
to the middle of Wisconsin in the winter. Usually the first thing
they ask is, do you think you’ll ever move
back home permanently? Which to me, is an
ironic question. Because I only ever left
because I always knew I would come back
home eventually. And moreover, I only was
able to leave because I knew I could come back home. Growing up as a
young native person, you are confronted with
the idea of long term goals a little earlier
than your peers. I knew as a child that
Oneida and many other tribes were in survival mode. I knew that blood quantum would
mean something to me when I chose a partner in the future. And I always knew that
one day I would come home. That I would return to Oneida,
and that that part of my future I had already decided. Until then though, I have big
dreams of what I wanted to do, the things I wanted to
learn, and the skills I hoped to bring back
to my tribe one day. This is actually where
Norb Hill enters my story. Norb was the director of the
United education department, and was close to my family. We briefly spoke
earlier that I think he’s known my family for
four generations now. His kids had gone to a boarding
school in Rhode Island, called st. George’s. Hi Megan. And he put the crazy idea into
my mom’s head, who then put it into mine, that I should apply. I was scared, but intrigued. My mother told me
repeatedly, just go. You’ll always have a
home to come back to. We will hold your
place here in Oneida. Boarding schools have a
controversial and traumatic history in the native
community– although, less well known in
mainstream society– in which many native youths were
taken by force or circumstance to attend boarding
schools in the US where their hair was cut,
their language was forbidden, and education was largely used
as a tool of assimilation. This was a radical fork
in the road for my life and for my family. Both in how out of left field
the decision to leave home at 14 years old and
go to boarding school would be even if I
weren’t Native American. I really, only up
until this point, I had thought that
boarding schools exist in the realm of Harry Potter. But I’m sure that had some
impact on my decision to go. But also how ironic it was to be
a young native person choosing to leave home to attend
a boarding school, and how different
my choice looked compared to other native
people throughout history. My grandfather went
to an Indian boarding school in Tomo, Wisconsin, when
he was just eight years old. To me, I was always
affected both by how recent the trauma of boarding
schools are in our history. Just two generations ago. But also, that in
just two generations, we were already reclaiming
these institutions as our own. And if going to boarding
school wasn’t ironic enough, I decided a year later it
would be an amazing experience to attend an abroad
program at 16 when I was a junior
in high school. Where 517 years
after Columbus first left Spain to visit the New
World, I returned the visit. Again, I was afraid to
go so far from home. But again, my mother
told me, just go. Just try it. We’ll keep the fires
burning for you in Oneida until you come home. I went on to attend
Stanford University, and I’ve stayed in
California ever since. I now work at
Google, and am a lead of our Google American
[INAUDIBLE] network there. Which is an internal
resource group that aims to make an impact
in both the native community at and outside of Google. Looking back on my life
and the radical decision to go to a boarding school
that changed the course of it, I know that leaving home was
not possible for me in spite of my connection to place. But because of it. For future native
youth I hope we are able to tell them the same. To go out, to just try, and
that will keep the fires burning until they return home. As I look ahead
to my future, I’m aware that my life looks like
a blood quantum case study. My mother is just
shy of being, and I hate the term full blooded,
but a full blooded Oneida. So I am 7/16th Oneida. 1/16 shy of being
truly half blooded. Which means that my children,
if they don’t have an Oneida father, will be 1/32nd short
of a quarter, of having enough blood quantum
to be enrolled. For people with blood
quantum like mine, this missing 1/32nd drop of
blood, brings the question, how is it possible
if I am Oneida, and that if being Oneida
has defined my life so much, how can my children not be? I am dismayed at
how it only takes marrying outside of
Oneida essentially twice, to bring down the legacy
of the generations of Oneidas before me. 7 and 10 on each side. And how easily blood quantum
undermines their choices and sacrifices. It pains me in this view
that my father has somehow weakened my identity through
blood, when in truth, he has only strengthened my
identity, Oneida identity, in practice. Growing up he took me to
Oneida language classes, accompanied me to
events in the community, mapped our family
tree, and always reminded me of our history. Making it a relevant part of our
family discussions growing up. He also helped other
Oneidas tell their stories, and document Oneidas
history for the future. A few years ago he wrote a book
about the origin of our tribes Casino, and my
grandmother’s part in it. Conducting countless interviews
with Oneidas in the community. It is called The Bingo
Queens of Oneida, How Two Moms Started
Tribal Gaming in Wisconsin. Oneidas, by
tradition, have always had a pro-adoption policy. And really no concept of blood
or DNA as factors to membership of the tribe. As Houghton schoeni people,
people of the Longhouse, we had a value of
continually extending the rafters of the Longhouse
to make room for newcomers. Or those that had married into
or been adopted into the tribe. Everywhere I’ve
been in life allies have been integral to
flourishing communities that have withstood
historical trauma. I believe it is
vital that there are support systems and fresh points
of view to move communities forward. And most importantly,
there is always more work to be done for those
that are willing to do it. I think that blood quantum
or lineal descent has a role, but it’s not the only factor
in defining tribal identity and citizenship for the future. I don’t think the same answer
will be used for every tribe, as every tribe needs to decide,
ultimately, what its goals are. And its membership qualification
should reflect that. The original goal of
native blood quantum was explicitly to see the
disenrollment and demise of the legal status
of Native Americans. Which has likely
already succeeded from my personal bloodline. Which will end with me by
the quarter blood quantum standards we have in place now. I would like to see my
tribe’s qualification methods change in my lifetime. And I believe we need
to create a process that can grow and change for
different generations, as the needs of our
communities change over time. However, as of now, I
only have more questions than answers unfortunately. As tribes themselves have
their own identity issues, are we a race? Are we a culture? A religion, a community, a
business, a nation, a family? Are we all at once? I would like to see membership
exist in different ways for tribes based on
their different functions in these areas. So there would be a
spectrum of citizenships. Could we have at least
two different types of membership statuses? One that is cultural and
another that is legal in nature? What would it take to have
both an inclusion of required cultural knowledge, similar
to a citizenship test, as well as other native blood included
and tribal qualifications? As for some natives, they
may come from eight or six different tribes, be
full blooded Indians, but not have enough for
any particular tribe to be enrolled. However, for pandemonium
blood quantum, tribes need to be careful that
tribal specificity was not eroded by a pan-indian identity. So we could create
a system that both unites us, but also preserves
our unique tribal differences. Even if membership policies
aren’t changed in Oneida, I will raise my future
children as Oneidas, regardless of their
blood quantum. I believe that being Native
American and being Oneida is less about what we are
and more about what we do. Hona schoeni teachings
value decision making processes that consider
the impact of the next seven generations. And is something we
discuss often in Oneida. I am here today speaking
at Harvard because of the decisions that my
ancestors seven generations ago made to ensure our survival. It makes sense that
my children actually won’t be enrolled
members, as I truly am the end of the
seventh generation. By the definitions that
we have been imposed on. That have been imposed on us. I am the end of blood
quantum for my bloodline. But in looking ahead, I
believe my future children will be the beginning of
the next seven generations. Which may not have
blood quantum, but hopefully they’ll have
something much better. The ability to define,
decide, and grow Oneida into the future, based on
our own ideas of identity, for the survival of the
next seven generations. And I believe that is
something very much worth looking forward to. You’re welcome. – [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] My name is, English
name is Tesia Zientek. My Potawotamie name
given to me by my mother is Ji jacquie, which
means like a crane. Originally from
Shawnee, Oklahoma, and I’m a proud citizen of the
citizen Pottawatomie nation. As others have
said before me, I’m grateful today to be
standing before you on Pawtucket, Massachusetts,
Wampanoag land for the first time in my life. And I also am grateful
for the elders in the room who allow me
to speak on this topic. So before I share my thoughts
on tribal citizenship, I wanted to give you a
little bit of context of where I come from
both historically and geographically. The Pottawattamie
tribe as a whole originated in the Great
Lakes area of Canada and northern United States. But we were forcibly relocated
by several federal backed removals. You can see here,
the arrows in red are migrations that we
did of our own accord, and then the green are
were forcible removals. During the most devastating
of these removals, which we call the trail of death,
41 mostly women and children died along the way from our
woodlands homelands in Indiana to Northeast Kansas. After several broken
treaties and promises, the federal government
approached the Pottawatomie in 1861 with the
proposed treaty. The essence of that
document stated that instead of living
communally in Kansas, they would be private landowners
and United States citizens. My ancestors weren’t forced
into signing the treaty or leaving the reservation,
but a difficult decision faced them at that time
and under those conditions. Having already tried to
resist removal and live through the aftermath
of the failed attempt, and watch their children and
mothers and relatives pass away, they opted to try a new
legal and political strategy in hopes of gaining security for
themselves and their families. 2/3 of those on the reservation
opted to sign the treaty. And they became ultimately known
as the citizen Pottawatomie And the rest who stayed
on the communal lands are now known as the
prairie band Pottawatomie. Many promises, again,
were made about what it meant to be a
citizen and a landowner. They were told that they would,
that the citizen Pottawatomie would have a census. That they would be
able to survey the land and then the tribal
members would be able to choose which
plot of land they wanted. Tribal members are
supposed to receive money to buy seed and
farming equipment to have two full seasons
of crop production as a means of income. And then after those two
years, the government would determine who was worthy
and eligible to be US citizens. And those ready for
citizenship would be taxed. Spoiler alert, that is not
how it played out at all. My ancestors were taxed
almost immediately, but had no source of income
and therefore couldn’t pay. So they were citizens in
name, but not in practice. The federal government
took the land of those people who
failed to pay their taxes. And then six years later, the
citizen Pottawatomie nation negotiated another treaty,
the Treaty of 1867. Which allowed tribal members
to return their allotments back to the federal
government, which were then sold to the Atchison Topeka
and Santa Fe railroad company. And those proceeds
were used to purchase the citizen Pottawatomie
nation’s land and Indian territory. Which is now known as Oklahoma. So that migration from
Kansas to present day Oklahoma began in the 1870s. Of course, the promises
were yet again broken, and just two decades later in
1890, the federal government derailed those
efforts to relocate through the Dawes Act of 1887. Which that act dictated that
the citizen Pottawatomie accept individual allotments of land. And the lands that
remain un allotted, were classified as surplus. This is land, as you remember,
that my ancestors purchased. So the unallotted
land, that surplus, was opened up for non
Indian settlements. And more than half of the
original 900 square mile citizen Pottawatomie
reservation, approximately 300,000
acres essentially disappeared overnight. Today, the citizen
Pottawatomie nation is one of nine bands
of Pottawatomie, with two first
nations in Canada, and seven throughout
the United States. The citizen Pottawatomie
nation is still headquartered in Shawnee
Oklahoma, in central Oklahoma. But our over 33,000
tribal citizens live in each of the 50 states,
as well as internationally. As a result of commitment
to self-governance, stable leadership, and an
innovative constitutional reform, the citizen
Pottawatomie nation has not only
survived, but thrived. So now that you
have some context, I want to jump to
a two decade period from the last century that had
a huge impact on the tribe we are today. Let me pause here for a
moment and acknowledge as Olivia did, that every
tribe is a sovereign nation. With the ability
to determine how their membership
laws are set up. So the citizenship story
I’m telling today is how the citizen Pottawatomie
nation decided what worked best for them, and cannot simply be
transferred to the unique needs of another tribal nation. Because context does matter. On the screen, you’re
seeing Article two from a 1961 amendment to
our tribal constitution. In particular, I want to draw
your attention to the portion circled in red, which is Section
one letter D of this article. In which our tribal
council proposed that we move our
tribal enrollment criteria to limit membership
to anyone with a minimum blood degree of 1/8th. Exactly 100 years
after our ancestors opted for a drastic
citizenship change, the tribe voted 101 for and
8 against this amendment. And it was approved by the
US secretary of the interior on April 24th, 1961. I think it bears repeating. 109 people and a non
Pottawatomie bureaucrat decided the fate of
our tribal nation. So in case you’re wondering
what an eighth looks like, it’s the small yellow wedge here. Much like thoroughbred
horses, tribal citizens had to prove their
pedigree in a way that they had never
had to do before. This wasn’t part of our
traditional history. The decision at that
time was due to a desire to limit the number
of recipients of tribal per capita payments. Fewer citizen Pottawatomie
tribal members meant more money per person. Unfortunately, the
science of blood quantum can be inexact at best,
and problematic at worst. I’ve heard stories of
Indian agents recording different blood quantum
amounts for siblings, simply due to their appearance. When one sibling spent more
time outside that summer, he or she would be noted as more
Pottawatomie than their brother or sister. When I think about how much
my make up foundation color changes between
summer and winter, this makes me cringe
at how inaccurate the starting data could be. And if a citizen believed
that this record was wrong, the burden of proof was on them. Which could be an
impossible task, especially if several
years, or even decades, had passed since
the original error was made. But the amendment passed. And it stood for the
next two decades. In the late 1980s, our
current tribal chairman, John Rocky Barrett, and
other tribal leaders began to challenge
this way of thinking. They argued that it was
in-authentic to our traditional values to reduce our
tribal citizenship connection to faulty records. Moreover, since
blood quantum wasn’t a traditionally
Pottawatomie policy, then where did it come from? It began in practice following
the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, which aimed to
curb the destructive allotment process. One of the byproducts
of that law was establishing
citizenship standards. I, along with many
others, would argue that this was another
tool of assimilation. As fewer people could lay
claim to being Pottawatomie, it wouldn’t be too long until
the citizen Pottawatomie nation ceased to exist at all. Which aligned quite neatly
with determination policies of that era. If that was the goal it
was certainly working. By 1988, the citizen
Pottawatomie nation had diminished to around
5,000 tribal members. Due to blood quantum
restrictions, the tribe was also
growing steadily older. The average age of the
tribal members at that time was 45 or 45 years old. 44 or 45 years old. And very few
member’s descendants met the blood degree
requirements to enroll. The rule was literally
disrupting family dynamics. As you’ll see in the
letter in the slide, a tribal member writes that
due to the year of her birth, she was the only
person in her family not to be considered
Pottawatomie according to their roles. She pleaded with the Bureau
of Indian Affairs officer to reconsider, but her requests,
like that of so many others, was denied. However, there is still hope. As chairman Barrett
preaches to this day, if you’re not in the business
of constitutional reform, you’re not in the business
of tribal sovereignty. So he and others proposed
another constitutional amendment to change the
enrollment criteria yet again. And it passed. In 1989, the tribe voted 1,919
into 343 to open the rolls. You might notice that there
was a much larger turnout for this election
than the one in 1961. Families have quite
literally been ripped apart as a result of
the 1961 decision. And people were
eager to reverse it. Under the new
amendment, anyone who was descended from someone on
the January 1937 tribal rolls could submit an
enrollment application. And this is the same system
that we have in place today. And our membership
continues to grow. Now, instead of small
per capita payments given to each tribal member,
we invest tribal revenue back into services so
that each tribal member can receive scholarships, health
care, and hardship assistance, among countless other services. But history is made
up of living people. And in my opinion, none
of this means anything unless you can truly understand
the impact of these citizenship policies on a family
and personal level. So I’d like to share
my own story with you. I have to confess,
because blood quantum is a policy I vehemently
oppose myself, it is something that
I rarely discuss. When people find out
that I’m native American, the first question
that they typically ask is, how much are you? As a side note, this
is not a question that I hear asked towards other
heritages or nationalities. On st. Patrick’s Day, on
Saturday, for example, thousands of people
throughout the US celebrated their
heritage wearing among other things, shirts
that read, kiss me I’m Irish. And I didn’t hear anyone
asking them how much they were. No, when people ask
me how much are you, I just don’t answer
the question. This is partially
because I view it as a learning opportunity
for the person asking, but also because I do not have
my blood quantum memorized. It is simply not important to
me to validate my tribe life Indian this way. However, while preparing
for this presentation, I pulled out my certificate of
Indian blood, CDIB card, that was issued by the Bureau
of Indian Affairs, again a unique aspect to
Native American identity. I didn’t meet any card carrying
Irish people this weekend. I checked the number on the card
and I did some family research. I called our tribal
rolls department, I pulled up some old
family tree records, and I spoke to my grandma. And the story. I learned blew my mind. So I invite you to join
me down the rabbit hole that I discovered
this past few weeks. So up here on the screen is
my recorded blood quantum. For context, that’s
what that equates to. 9 over 512 does not
roll off the tongue. And I guarantee if I
told anyone asking me how much I was, I would
be laughed out of town or immediately dismissed. But that’s where the
story gets interesting. I called our tribal
rolls department with the intent of
finding out at what point my family would have been
ineligible to enroll based on the 1/8th rule of 1961. I learned that according
to our tribal records, I would need to go back six
generations to Josephine Wells to find anyone in our family
who was at least an eighth. And this puzzled
me a little bit, because my great
grandfather, Atwin Blaze Pecor served as tribal
chairman for several years. And my mother had been eligible
to receive per capita payments before I was born, during the
period in which the 1/8th rule was in place. So how could the
tribes own chairman not meet the requirements? And how could my mother
receive those benefits, if she didn’t meet
that criteria? So after some digging
I found a history of our constitutional
amendments, and I learned the one
eighth rule of 1961 allowed anybody enrolled
before the amendment passed to be grandfathered in. And that’s how my family
stayed on the rolls for several generations. My mother, born in
1959, was enrolled by her parents in
1960, just in time to miss the 1961 addition of
the blood quantum criterion. And then I called
my mother last week to tell her how lucky
her timing had been. She suggested that I
call my grandmother to hear her side of the story. So I did. And here’s what she told me. So even before
1961, our tribe had a semblance of blood quantum
requirements in place. While descendents could
enroll, certain services, including scholarships,
were reserved for those with a higher blood quantum. As tribal chairman,
my great grandfather made an enemy of the person
who oversaw tribal records. We don’t know why,
but it happened. In addition, according to
the kind of juicy gossip that I’m sure
every family holds, my grandma beat the tribal
enrollment officer’s daughter to be elected president of
the Catholic women’s club. And she won the
heart of my grandpa. And in revenge, and to
prevent my great grandfather’s children– my grandparents–
from receiving those services, the tribal enrollment
officer modified the records. She decreased Atwin Blaze
Pecor’s blood quantum to 164. And in case you’re wondering,
I did fact check the story, and the records bear now. This is not a family myth. You can see the erasure
marks on some of the records. Currently on the
Sepian tribal rolls, my great grandfather’s blood
quantum is listed as 164. Because of that change. Now bonus points if you’re
paying attention and notice that the official
trial record from 1967, even with its hand
written modifications, has a different number
for Atwin Blaze Pecor, AB Pecor, my great grandpa. You’ll also see that names of
Josephine Wells and Margaret Ogee all circled in red, but
there are handwritten changes. And there is an
asterisk that notes that there are some questions
of the accuracy of the blood degree and that it could change
if the Logan records are found. And if that confuses
you, and it confused me, take a look at this
alternate record. Which lists my grandfather’s
blood degree as 964. both of these came from
our tribal rolls department this past week. Our official records. These are the type
of imperfect records that so many tribes rely
on today for citizenship. Thoroughly confused
at this point, I asked my grandmother
if she knows, based on our family history,
what our blood quantum was before the vengeful eraser of
the tribal enrollment officer struck. She said that there was
certainty within the family that my great, great,
great grandparents had each been half Pottawatomie. Which would have
made each of them, each of their children half
and my grandfather quarter. With the strike of a pencil he
went from a quarter to 1/64th. And my great grandfather
didn’t take this development lying down, by the way. A family farm hand who had
been present at my great, great grandmother’s birth,
testified of her blood degree. And in his ’90s, mailed a
notarized letter to this effect to the Bureau of Indian
Affairs in Washington DC. I’m not sure how many
cynics of bureaucracy are in the room today, but
surely at least a few of you aren’t surprised
what happened next. This notarized letter,
the only copy, got lost. So after Mr. Bertrand,
the farmhand, passed away, there was no recourse to
pursue changing the record. And to further
complicate the story, I had always been told that
my great grandmother was also Pottawatomie. When I asked the tribal rolls
specialist on the phone what her blood quantum was, she
replied with some confusion that there was a question
mark next to her name in the official records. According to my
grandma, this was because she knew she
was Pottawatomie, but was unable to prove
it because her mother had been disowned by her parents. So why am I telling you
all of this family drama? What does any of it have
to do with today’s topic of tribal citizenship? You see, had our tribe
maintained the one eighth blood degree minimum requirement
in acts of 1961. Even despite all the
inaccurate records our blood degree
is based off of, my mother would have slipped
by just in time to enroll. But I wouldn’t have. Although I was born in 1986,
I couldn’t enroll after 1989 when the rolls opened up. My mother enrolled me in 1995. Despite knowing since I could
talk that I was Pottawatomie, I was this close to losing
that piece of identity in the legal sense. Our legacy as a Pottawatomie
family would’ve ended with me. I wanted to include the
side by side photo of what is now my grandma’s house. This house sits on my
family’s tribal allotment land, which we still own
the majority of and live on. The house was built before
Oklahoma became a state. And as you can see, the
house looks almost identical. Last year we gathered my
grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins for a photo shoot. It’s hard to see, even
though my great grandparents made an appearance
in some portraits. In this photo, nine
of my family members either worked for the tribe
currently or retired from it. Three of us, myself
included, currently hold leadership positions as
department directors. We attend cultural
events regularly. In short, we take our
identities very seriously and have dedicated our lives
to maintaining the strength of our tribal nation. What I’m trying to say is this. The crazy messed up records
don’t change any of that. Even if they were correct,
none of that would change. We are Pottawatomie
because our ancestors survived the trail of
death, and are resilient, despite many efforts
to wipe them out. We are Pottawatomie because
stories, traditions, houses, and even lands have been
passed through the generations. We are Pottawatomie because
of who we are as a family, and how each of us were raised. No yellow sliver will
ever change that. When I say [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],,
or I am Pottawatomie, like I did at the start
of this presentation, there is no qualifier. I do not say I am part
Pottawatomie, because I’m not. My tribe as a sovereign
nation has enrolled me as a citizen based on a
constitutional decision. My family has accepted me as
Pottawatomie citizen based on our heritage and history. And it’s as simple as that. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] – I was enrolled last week
as a full blood pirate. So I have my card and
so if anybody wants to check my lineage, you can. It’s not Halloween, and I’m
trying to figure out what’s up. So in terms of we talked
about blood quantum, as you look at the picture. You don’t need to
be a math major to figure out where this goes. And just a little
bit about the book is that, when I saw the
cartoon by Marty Tubles, who was a cartoonist. I said, there’s a book
behind that cartoon. And then I went and
found a publisher who said they would publish
the book if we wrote it. And so before one word
was written we had a book. And we did it in an anthology. We had 24 writers
from across the world. If you think about doing
an anthology, don’t. Nobody ever meets a deadline. But nonetheless, we have a book. And this is called The
Great Vanishing Act Blood Quantum and the Future
of Native Nations. So this affects really
hundreds of tribes. And it’s important
for tribes to have a conversation about who
they are, who decides, how did we do this. And the Pottawatomie
certainly have done that. And our tribe is sort of
engaged at this point, they’re avoiding the topic. So I knew Olivia’s family for
four generations, you know. And she’s got the longevity
genes in her family. So I expect she’ll be
around for a while. But she kind of knew where she
was going when she was small. She wanted to leave, and
then she would come back. So I expect you to be tribal
chair one of these days, and make all your mistakes at
Google and then come back home. But she was also Miss Oneida, I
still think she’s Miss Oneida. It was 2015, huh? 14. See, time flies. Yeah. I want to say Megan was Miss
baby Oneida when she was three. Some of you know her. Yeah. Yeah. She reminded me of
a Van Morrison song. Brown sugar so we
used to call her that. She was walking around. But when she was
about nine years old, I worked at the University
of Colorado in Boulder. And I dragged her along
to meetings and so. We’d be at some remote
place on campus. Then I’d say, I’ll race
you back to the office. But I took a different
path than she did, and she was always beating
me back to the office. And I tried to lose her several
times, and I couldn’t do it. And she says, you know,
when I come to school here, well I have to go on the tour. I says, you’ll
probably give the tour when you’re before your role. So she know a lot
about that campus. So I’m really proud of her work. She has a better Rolodex
than I have at this point. And which is wonderful. When I first got
into higher education I had a group interview with
a number of white faculty members. And the first question,
one of the first questions they asked me saying,
why are you an Indian? And I sort of was shocked. Because nobody’s ever
asked me that question. And I quickly
responded and said, well it came with the body, why? And I was going to
say, why are you white? But nobody ever asks anybody
that question or about that. But you know on reflection,
it’s really a great question. But it’s not a
interview question. It’s one that you should
ask yourself internally. Who am I? And your identity is
a lifelong process. it’s a process, not an
event of who you are. But one that you share with your
family and your close friends, your relatives. In talking about identity
and who belongs and why. So you can’t run from who you
are or where you came from. No matter what you
do or how far you go. And so Olivia, you know
you always have a home. You may have a
house in California, but you have a
home in Wisconsin. And that you know where that is. And some of our people
don’t know that. My grandmother was
born in 1876, the year of when the Sioux and the
Cheyenne defeated Custer. And she’s a Mohawk. But she was an orphan,
and she was adopted by a doctor in Philadelphia. So she graduated from
medical school in 1899. And she said, and
it’s another story, but she said, going to school
and getting an education are two different things. And they don’t always
happen at the same time. So if you’re Indian
student here at Harvard, you know, you’ve got two majors. Whether it’s history
or policy or law. But the other major you
have is being a native. And that you have to work
on that whatever that means. It means you had go home, you
have to engage in community. You just can’t- one of the
poorest markers for any identity markers, of
course, is blood quantum. I mean, it just
doesn’t make any sense. So my grandmother worked, well
she was doing volunteer work. I’ll just do a quick
family history. She was doing volunteer
work at Carlisle. Met my grandfather,
they fell in love, and they did something stupid
like get married, but they did. And so in 1986 she moved
to the Oneida reservation. So she had her, she had
six kids in eight years, the youngest one was
five-month-old twins. And my grandfather
dies of appendicitis before she could
get him to surgery. So she raised six children in
World War I. The depression, the Korean War and World
War II, as a single family country Indian doctor. And so I grew up
thinking everybody had a grandmother
who was a doctor. It’s not true. It’s not true. But anyway, you
come to this road you can’t pick your
relatives, some of them you’d like to get rid of maybe. But you always can’t
pick your relatives. But she had a kitchen clinic
open 24/7 for nearly 50 years. And she gave, I used to
work the college Menominee and some girls were
ready to have a baby. He says, I got forceps and
I’m not afraid to use them. And you would never have
that baby here in college because I wouldn’t know
what to do with them. But nonetheless, she gave
birth to hundreds of Oneidas. And maybe, some of your
relatives, I don’t know. There were a lot of home births
she did a lot of home visits when people did that
in 20s and 30s and 40s. And so in 1947, on Thanksgiving
Day, the tribe had a ceremony and they adopted her. They adopted into
the Oneida tribe. But they never enrolled her. But she was part
of the community. And she was grateful that they
were, that she was included. But never included legally, or
politically or any other way that you measure. And so I ended up being Mohawk
Oneida, and my mother was Cree. But again, measuring in that
way just doesn’t make any sense. The Haudenosaunee , the Iroquois
Confederacy had a tradition of adoption. And to keep our populations
up and our people up, we adopted people
from other tribes. Hurons or Matenicoks or anybody. And they became
part of our nation. So well, if we capture
somebody like a Huron, we’d bring them in and
they could take my, if I was killed in battle,
they would take my place. So I became a father and uncle
in that role in that community. So you’re on one year probation. And if you didn’t
pass probation, the women got to torture you. And if they did if you
died within 24 hours, it’s a bad job. So it’s quite an incentive
to get with the program. And so we kept our
people together. So there’s adoptions
into tribes. Legally, ceremonially, and
some of the adoption papers were buried and people can’t
figure out where they belong or who they belong to. So it’s problematic. So saying you’re an
Indian and being an Indian are two different things. You got so many
Cherokee princesses running around here we don’t
know how to count them. So the book was intended to
educate and engage people. Because there was nothing out
there in terms of writing. I mean we got authors around
the world in Japan and in Maori, and people said that they
knew either the government was awfully lucky or they
intended to do away with us. And I think this is Senator
Higgins from Delaware in 1895, said this. It seems to me one of
the ways of getting rid of the Indian question
is intermarriage and the gradual fading
out of Indian blood. The whole quality and character
of the aborigine disappears. They lose all of the
traditions of the race. There’s no longer any
occasion to maintain any tribal relations. And there is then
every reason why they shall go out and take
their place as white people do everywhere. So that’s 1895. Well in 1924, when my
father was 12 years old he became a citizen. Now we were here 10,000
years before that. So I guess they figured
you were going to stay. And so in 1934, 10 years later,
the Indian Reorganization Act was passed. And somebody Indians called
this the Indian New Deal, and some other Indians call
it the Indian raw deal. And it was both. But we got a chance to
restore tribal governments. But government lawyers
wrote the constitutions in which they introduced
the issue of blood quantum. We were able to
buy some land back. So you got to
remember, 1934, we’re in the middle of the Depression. So we didn’t have much. And so they were
offering goodies. And they said, oh, by the
way, we’ve got to have rolls and you’ve got to do
measure of blood quantum. And also, one of the
other things the footnotes was saying Robert’s
Rules of Order. And sometimes it just turns
to Robert’s rules of disorder. Because our traditional, way of
making decisions was consensus. It wasn’t majority. You don’t need 50% plus
one, because the other 49% tries to undermine
that whole operation. And so consensus
does take longer, but I think we need to find
a traditional way that we can get closer to consensus. And that way,
decision will stick. Now where was I? Where was I going with that? So the tribal leaders agreed
to it, like in many places our guys did. But they married then
the girl next door. And so they were full bloods. And so they said, maybe this
is going to be a problem. But it’s not going
to be our problem. And here we are 2 and
1/2 generations later, that we’re talking
about, we know right now that in Oneida,
46 percent of our people are quarter bloods, another
14% are less than half. Indians marry out,
including Oneidas, more than any other ethnic group. And it’s not hard to see,
if you look at demographics, that we don’t come from
families of 10 and 12 anymore. We have families of one and two. So our mortality rate is higher. It’s going to be higher. So our population is
going to curve like this. And the birth rates
are going to be lower. And so we’re going to come
theoretically at the point where we’re going to have zero. So we’re all under, I don’t
know if you guys know, Ishi in two worlds. It’s the last Indian of the
founders of California tribe. He lived in the
basement of a museum. You know it’s just
a horrible story. But I would hate to
think that we are all going to become Ishi’s
at some point in time. So, we have an opportunity. We have an opportunity
to reinvent ourselves. One of the things
that is happening in Oneida at this point. We thought, well God,
we see the trend. And we’re in a box and
we can’t get out of. Because anytime
you ask anybody who they are, I’m glad
you don’t tell them, I’m half this or quarter
that or either or whatever. Is that we identify ourselves
by our own blood quantum. So we’ve been
institutionalized to think of ourselves in fractions. And so it’s a difficult
box to get out of. And we do we can’t afford not
to have that conversation. No tribe can’t
afford not to have. And the enemy, the biggest
enemy we have right now, is not a government it’s time. Time is their biggest enemy. And so we’ve got big
decisions to make. And we’d like to
get to consensus. What’s happening at this
point for our folks. We did a lot of articles
in the newspaper, and we had brown bags
and we had summits and we’ve been doing a lot
to educate people with it. The thing is, all that
came out this is the book. But it’s really a
complicated issue. So if we were, we’ve got
17,000 members right now. So if we went to one eighth,
we’d have over 25,000. And then 20 years later we
have the same conversation. Because we’re going
to go to the 16th. So it doesn’t work. And so every time,
exponentially, our population increases. But we can’t afford
the benefits. So we have three
elephants in the room. One is benefits. The other ones are
descendants, usually only get one elephant in
the room, we got three. And the other ones
are ancestors. And somebody else,
like [INAUDIBLE] suggested to me that we have
a whole herd of elephants. And so we have it. It’s really kind
of a Rubik’s cube. If you take it and twist it,
and you know the configurations you can you get into, well. But every one of these
squares has an issue. And once you solve one issue,
you create another one. And so it’s not a simple answer. So people get the book,
and they say well, we’ll just read
the last chapter. There’s a silver
bullet there, we’re going to ride into the
sunset with a solution. I said, not so. Not so. So it comes to
be, are we members of a club that provides
benefits to its members, or are we citizens of a nation. And if we’re
citizens of a nation, we have a responsibility. And what is that responsibility? To ourselves and
and to each other. So we got to talk
about responsibility. And we’ve got to talk
about, does it mean well, if I know if I can count
to 10 in my language, or do I have to
know the history? Am I connected to the community? There’s kinships. I’m sure in your family
you find 300 members. Yeah but I mean, we’re all
interconnected in some way. So we have to figure out how-
So our grandmothers in a sense, are saying, of course
you know grandmothers. You know they love
their children. They love their grandchildren,
their great grandchildren. So they want them to
be part of the nation. Because they have the
fruits of being a member, and they’ve got per capita,
and they get health, and they get other
kind of goodies I guess you would
call them, that are benefits of the nation. And they want them enrolled. But that’s in their heart. In their head, they
know blood quantum doesn’t work all the time. And so we’re sort of
stuck in a paralysis right now, of trying
to make a decision. And I’m trying to
figure out how do you put those two folks
together next to each other, not opposing each other. But to have a conversation
saying how can we have it? Can we have it both ways? And maybe not. If you talk to Warren Lions
he’d go right straight back to the traditional way. Matrilineal, and if
you’re not born here, you’re not part of your mother’s
line, you’re not a member. The Pottawatomie’s
really came up with a unique kind
of solution for them. And as a sovereign nation, they
have every right to do that. So they get to decide. And so every tribe
gets to decide. And so that’s really going to
be the act of self-government. Of who we are, and
where we come from. So we have to live in the past,
the present, and the future at the same time. We need to look forward and
look back at the same time. Move forward look
back and that’s where we get a perspective. Abraham Lincoln said, a house
divided against itself cannot stand. So not doing anything is
going to be a problem. Faulkner said, the past is
never dead, it’s not even past. So I think we need to
think about these issues. Now, I wrote a
speech before I came, I made all kinds of notes,
and I have three speeches. And I haven’t done any of them. So let me let me see if
I can catch up and see if there’s anything else they
need to- is my 15 minutes up? It is, huh? About two minutes left? Good. I was afraid I didn’t
have enough material. Well we have to
find our is finding our collective better self. And indigenous people around
the world are at risk. I mean it’s just not us. There’s 52 tribes,
I think, in Peru. And they’re you can go back 200
years to what happened here, is happening to them. For resources,
there is genocide. And so the problem
is what matters here? And sovereignty matters. If we’re tribal nations,
sovereignty matters. Institutions matter. You know, we have
elected leaders, we have tribal councils,
we have schools, we have health centers,
we have rec centers, we have our institutions. And they matter. They matter a lot. Culture matters. So are our language,
our creation stories, our language are all the
things that entail of who we are as a cultural people. Count. They matter. And leadership matters. And so everyone counts. And everybody is a leader. It’s just not something
some people back home say, well Hill’s got a
solution up his sleeve, he just ain’t told us yet. Well, I wish I did. And so I think I’m just going to
stop here and collect my stuff and sit down. But I appreciate your attention
and thank you for showing up. I really, you know,
there is a buzz in Indian country
about blood quantum. You know and so it may be
the best, the most important decisions that Indians
will make this century. Because really, our
survival depends on it. So, thank you. – Thank you to all
three of our panelists. And I think Norbert
you’re, that question, I think you’re absolutely right. I think that is a tremendously
important question for our time. I’m going to highlight
just a few things and then ask one question
of the 15 that I have here. So we can maximize our time
for you to ask questions. But a couple of points that were
made by the various presenters that I wanted to highlight. And others that were
just sort of obliquely referred to that I want
to actually highlight in particular. And that is the premium
attached to belonging. I’m not going to use the
loaded words, or is it a member or you are a citizen. But the concept of belonging. There is a premium
attached to the answer to that question in the
last several decades. That is bears on
this conversation, because it’s not just
native people that are interested in the
answer to that question. There’s a whole lot of eyes
looking from the outside and the inside. Courts are looking,
politicians are looking, your neighbors are looking. Everyone wants to see how does
that question get answered, because there’s a lot
riding on that question. Whether or not a community
gets to do certain things. Whether or not a child gets
covered by the Indian Child Welfare Act. Whether benefits and
other kinds of things that are going to flow
to certain members or to an entire community. And then there’s
abstract concepts that are in play there. The folks will talk about what
are the systems, the processes happening within the
communities that are evolving to help redress that question? And if things don’t
strike outsiders as fair, as if it’s their
business, but in a way it is their business. Because all of this is happening
within the context, of course, of the nation state. And so this whole phenomena
that all three of our panelists spoke about, the
tribes sovereignty operating within the larger
matrix of a nation state. These questions are not being
asked and answered in a vacuum. They’re not being asked and
answered in the abstract. There are a lot of eyes
that are paying attention. The courts are intensely
interested of this, because they regularly
get appeals from folks who have been disenrolled. Who have been declared not
members, or not citizens. And so they’re looking anywhere
they can for an audience. To say whether it’s
Congress, like the freedmen of the Cherokee Nation found
an audience with Congress that held lots of appropriations
over the heads of the Cherokee Nation until there
was a change there. And the courts, if you
haven’t read their opinions, are very sympathetic. Not because I think
they like Indians, because I think that they
understand that there’s a premium on the
part of the nation to keep those numbers down. In other words, everything
that our panelists talked about here,
represents a trajectory about the inevitable decline and
elimination of native peoples. And sustaining sovereignty
and sustaining memberships, sustaining citizenship is
sort of a reversal of that. It’s a contestation
of that trajectory. And so there are forces
that push back on that. So I just wanted
to make that note in terms of the context in
which these decisions, as difficult as they are, are
even rendered more difficult because of the political
and legal, and even moral context in which those
questions are being asked. So a question. One question to each of you. We’ve used words, the
vocabulary that goes along with these very
fraught issues float amongst a number of terms. Citizens, members,
even indigenous. What does that mean? And it’s very difficult to
wrap your heads around that. And some of you
may know, the folks who gave us the UN Declaration
on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, ultimately
elected not to have the definition of indigenous
in that formative document. Because of these
challenges that we face. So let me ask the panelists
what do those terms mean to you? In the broader context
and matrix of belonging, what do those terms mean
to you, if anything? – Well you know, first of
all, we’re governments. Were nations. And so we get to decide. And one of the problems that we
just got the BIA off our backs. So we get to make
decisions and we don’t have to wait for
their approval any longer. But that took a long time to
make our constitutional change, because we became
wards of the government thanks to the irate government. So if we’re a sovereign
nations, we should be sovereign. We should be able to have
our own self-government. If we say we’re a tribe,
then we have members. But you know the language
that I like to use, is that I’m a citizen
of the United Nations. So instead of using the word
tribe, and we’re so used to it, we get really sloppy
in our language. We have to see ourselves as
a nation national citizens of the particular group
that we belong to. And we have to respect that. – I would agree. Because we have so
many tribal members, and because the ascendancy
is a sort of loaded term amongst different Native
American tribes, whether or not that is something
that they agree with. You know, sometimes
people’s view this vision of sense
of Pottawatomie nation to adopt US citizenship in
1861 an act of assimilation. But I like the term
citizen, because in 1861 what my nation did was decide
how they wanted to be seen. They decided that
they wanted to be citizens, that was their way,
it was an act of sovereignty. They had tried hiding,
they had tried, you know, resisting removal. They had tried being
removed and you know living on the new
land, none of that worked. So they made the
decision to become citizens of the United States. But at the same time
they remained as citizens of the Pottawatomie nation. So for me, that perfectly
encapsulates what a tribe is as a citizen of a nation. – Yeah I would say, looking
at members versus citizen, like the active kind of asking
something of our members, of our citizens. That one, we’re
running out of time. We don’t have the resources. Our languages are dying. We have finite
resources and efforts that we don’t really
have the luxury to not learn the language. To not carry on the culture. If we don’t pass on the
torch in our generation, there won’t be a torch to
have for the next generation. I think that comes across in
I think everyone’s embracal of the word citizen. But I think parts of that. There’s also a
sacrifice to that. I think we use Member
almost because tribes are like a family. So it’s a family member. We don’t necessarily
require anything of your aunt or your uncle. We don’t say you have decided to
contract and learn the language and come to all my
birthday recitals. Or you know, all of
my different events. I would love it if you did,
and I kind of expect you to, but we don’t make
that a hard requiral. But I think that was
a luxury of the past. I think we’re
moving into a place where we can’t just hope that
everyone will be, you know, great upstanding members. We need to institutionalize
citizenship and ask for something, as
well, if we are going to survive into
the next generation and pass that torch
on to the next seven generations of native youth. And I think when it
comes to indigenous, I didn’t know that
they didn’t choose to make it official definition. I feel like indigenous is a
word like love or something that’s very abstract. But it shows more
about what we have, and what we think about that,
than the unique ramifications of what we try to define it. I think you can’t define love. You can’t define
a word like that. I think it’s helpful in
the indigenous community to have multiple
different definitions. So that we can talk about
the different statuses of citizenship. So there’s elements of
citizenship that’s very legal. There’s elements that are
very emotional and spiritual and personal of what it
feels like to be native. And then I think
this indigenous term is a really safe word and a
safe place for indigenous people from all, globally,
to live in and to use as a benchmark for us
all to kind of grapple with our understandings
of what it means to be indigenous to us. – So I just wanted
to add that, if we have some foreign
nationals bid at us, we don’t say we have
some Russian members or Canadian members. We say they’re citizens
of their nation. And so that’s what it is. So I like to use
the word citizen both as a noun and a verb. You know, to be active. – OK I think we have about 15
minutes for your questions, and the microphone is here. So if you could please
introduce yourself, tell us a little bit where
you’re from, and then direct, if you want to
direct it to the whole panel, or to one person in particular. – Sure thank you for being here. This has been awesome. My name is Merritt
Bear and my family is Ogallala Lakota
from Pine Ridge. I want to ask the elephant
in the room question, which is playing Indian. The Cherokee grandmothers, we
can set aside Elizabeth Warren for the time being. But just the general
kind of ancestry.com. My DNA results say
that I am 4% Indian. And the kind of desire to
partake in the sexiness and wear Pocahontas
costumes, while not actually grappling with or not
being claimed by any tribe. – Thank you. I recently went to the National
Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. They have a new exhibit
that’s amazingly modern. And it’s called
Americans, I believe. But one of the
questions it asked was, why are Native Americans
everywhere and yet nowhere? Why, you know, is there a
Native American on the Land O’ lakes butter? Why are these
symbols everywhere? Why are these
stories everywhere? And yet why are issues not? Why are we as real people
not, in our discussions of our current struggles. Why are those not
in the forefront? And I think whenever I ground
myself in questions like this, I like to go more general. Why is this, what was the
structure that was in place that made the instances that
we see in our everyday lives. How did those happen? So that’s kind of
where I ground myself when it comes to those
like individual moments. – You know, some people
come to us and say, they want to take DNA to figure
out what tribe they belong to. Well that’s not possible. You can tell who your parents
are and that sort of thing, but you can’t tell what tribe. There’s just no test to do that. I had a, we were
doing scholarships and we had a Cherokee
mother call me and she said, did I tell you about that? Did I say that? And she was arguing. You know, mothers
just made me crazy, because the get real, really
have the student talk to you, but the mom called. She says, I want
you to know, my son is 13th 256 degree Cherokee. And she’s just chewing me out. And I said, ma’am, if
he cuts himself shaving, how much blood is left? And I held the
phone way out here. And she was still,
you could hear her screaming in the next room. But yet, at the same
time, the young man was a citizen of
the Cherokee Nation. So it wasn’t my role to decide
whether he was eligible enough, but we have people in
a variety of places. I think we have some
Oneida’s someplace that can’t find
Wisconsin on the map. But they want to enjoy
the benefits of it. So we’ve got to figure
how we connect community as a verb to those folks. – I think going
back to citizenship, too, like if you
want to be Oneida, and you want to come to
Oneida, live in Oneida, learn the language. Take on the practices,
do all of the work, yeah, call yourself Oneida if you’re
going to do all those things. – So this has been
a challenge for us. When we open up
the rolls, you have a lot of members
who may or may not have a connection with
the tribe in any way. Or, may not have a
way to be connected. I always try to kind
of remind myself that the reason that
a lot of Pottawatomie or other tribal
citizens are removed from their culture
or their heritage is not the fault of the
person living today. It’s a fault of policies,
of boarding schools, of removals, things like that. Adoption, absolutely. Now today, they can do things
to connect with their tribe. But they weren’t born, you
know, guilty of that sin. So we do have a lot
of tribal members. And one thing that
we’ve done, in our 2007 constitutional reform, you
might be sensing a pattern here, our tribe likes to
reform its constitution. In 2007, we reformed
our constitution to have tribal
legislative districts. So each district has
a representative, a legislator who represents
the constituents of that area. So it doesn’t matter if
you live in California, you have a representative
on the Pottawatomie nation who represents you. Who speaks on behalf
of their constituents at the quarterly
meetings, and holds cultural events and educational
events in that area. They get some money
from our tribe, from our tribal
headquarters, to do that. So that’s one way we’ve
tried to address that. That doesn’t mean that there
aren’t Pottawatomie who are kind of in it for the benefits. But we’ve tried to
put into place ways for them to become connected
as tribal citizens. – Thank you. – Hi. Jay Gleason. I’m not a Native American. But since the
subject has come up, Elizabeth Warren is up
for re-election this year. So this question is
going to keep coming up. As you said, saying
you’re an Indian is not the same thing
as being an Indian. So we know what’s been
said, but we’re still not clear on how you can be that, or
how you feel about someone that says that they can be that. Because you’ve been struggling
with this definition yourself. And if you can’t pin
it down, then it’s going to continue to entertain
these doubts about people that say these things. And you haven’t also
said how you “be”, quote, unquote, an Indian. That also seems to be
a little bit amorphous. And finally, I would
say that you’re not only struggling with
questions in citizenship, but the larger society is. We have a lot of what is
called illegal aliens from one perspective, or undocumented
immigrants from another. And I don’t know whether you’re
going to have the same problems or not. But citizenship nestled
within citizenship is also an open question
for the whole society, and maybe it is for you
or more narrow focus too. I don’t know, but I would
be interested in both of those kinds of subjects. – Well in 1492, if we had
better immigration laws, we wouldn’t have this problem. So everybody, they got here,
they forget how they got here. Working in college
universities, and I’m sure this happens to Shelly
and others that, well, how many natives are enrolled? And it’s self-identification. They say they’re
Indians, and they might have a wonderful Cherokee
princess story in their family. Or some other kind. And maybe there
is some heritage. But unless they can identify the
specific tribe they belong to. Now of course, the
admissions form can’t put down 500
different tribes. I don’t you, know, I’ve
been doing this all my life and I don’t know
all the tribes, but. Excuse me, all the nations. And to determine. But there’s got to be a way
to connect to the community. How do you connect
to the communities? I mean we, some of you may
remember Warren Churchill. And if he can’t name or
relative dead or alive, his citizenship is
certainly suspect. So you got Heather Locklear
running around out there. She’s a Lumbee, you know, but
she looks like Snow White. And so we have every
gradation, so we all look like we stepped
off the nickel. We’ve got to come to
grips with what is really being part of our community. It’s Not passing the,
what’s the litmus test? I don’t think there is one,
because you can pass the test and put out your
hand for the check. So we’ve got to figure
out how to engage our people in an authentic way. – Yes – Hi there. My name is Lover Trussin. I’m tribal counseling
for the Nipmuc nation. And for our band, for our
nation, we used descend-ency. With that is community. So I was wondering
if descend-ency was an option for
any of your nations, and how do you define community? That’s one of the
definitions for membership. So I was wondering if
that’s the definition, how would you define that? – So, the citizen Pottawatomie
nation does use descend-ency as its enrollment criterion. So as long as our roll of
record is the 1937 roll, and as long as you can prove
an unbroken descend-ency from that roll, then
you are considered a member of the citizen,
or a citizen of the citizen Pottawatomie nation. The definition of
community is a lot harder. Because I do think as
other panelists have said, that requires an action. That requires active
participation. And at least for the
citizen Pottawatomie nation, that’s something that people
come to at different points in their lives. There are people who are in
their 50s who are now starting to connect to their community. And so we try to have
resources available for them, and try to refrain
from judging them. But that’s the
point of their lives where they’re wanting to
connect to their community. Whereas, we have some
who are born into it. But I think community, for
me, is defined by action. – So I, for college students, I
look for return on investment. So if you accept that benefit,
the check for financial aid or scholarship, you have
a responsibility back to that party in some fashion. So community means engagement. I mean, we have people living
in California that haven’t been home in three generations. And I don’t see them
part of the community. They may be technically
and legally enrolled, but at the same time-
My first job as a native is to protect the homeland. How do I make the
community better? Now if there’s benefits that
accrue to that, that’s fine. But the benefits
don’t come first. It’s how do I make
the nation better? And that’s my
responsibility as a citizen. And I suppose identity
really is on a continuum. We’ve got from can they count to
ten, or one little, two little, three Little Indians. Or you got somebody,
a sundance chief that practices who we are. I mean, so everybody’s on
the continuum someplace. But it’s a lifelong
process, the identity. And so you’ve got to,
as a tribe, as a nation, you have to figure out how you
get your citizens to engage. So it’s not about bingo. – If I can step out of
my role of moderator just for a second to
join in that question, cause it’s a very good question. Shelly Mitchell, when
she introduced me, I’m from the United home
nation in Louisiana. We’re not federally recognized,
but there’s a whole other layer of discussion there.There’s
over 100 tribes that share that status, including
many here in New England. Who through luck of, or accident
of history, and so forth. But we still have
those same challenges in terms of what
is the community, and how do we assess belonging? So here I am, a New Englander,
having moved up back up here in ’86. But as Norbert said, my
understanding of community. There’s not a day that I
don’t wake up and I think– besides what I’m going to have
for breakfast that morning– is how is my community doing? What is my community doing? And what can I do to
help my community? So I’m still, there is this
sort of elastic understanding of what my community means. I think for those of us who
practice our indigeneity in exile. In other words, we’re
not in our homelands, but the homelands
are still here. And that’s very real for us. I guess that would be
the conversation I would want to have with someone. Is, is that homeland residing
within you in a very real way? And is there a community
that you can go back to, and knows who you
are understands you? And that sense of
community, I think, is something around
which we have to grasp with because
of our mobile society. I think we have time for
maybe one more question. – I have probably too much to
say, but I’m not a non native, I’ve been a native rights
supporter for over 35 years. And I’m part of the
local native community. Every couple of years I
have to remind everybody that I’m not native. And I’ve been accused of
trying to pass for non-native. I may be be only person
that’s ever happened to. But I think that there’s
a parallel- well what is with natives, I think,
is about self-determination. And that’s why I call
myself a supporter. That’s my role. But I myself, am
a Jewish atheist. And 100%, so I know
I’m not part native. But I’ve had people look at
me and say, you look native. And finally, it occurred
to me a few years ago, that I’m part Morsh
and I’m part Kazak. And you can see
it looking at me. And in fact, by the conventional
definitions, I’m not white. And I went through
a identity crisis, and realized I had grown
up being considered white, I consider myself white,
I have white privilege. I’m white. It seems pretty obvious
when I think it through. Anyway, I am interested
in the whole thing of dividing and
conquering, starting with things like
assuming that tribes are of course patrilineal. And setting up tribal councils
that are of men and so forth. – For, go on, go on. – I was just going to
jump in really quickly. So I work in education
within my tribe. And so do a lot of
sessions on identity with college students or
high school and middle school students. And one exercise
that we often do with Native American students,
not just Pottawatomie, but others in Oklahoma. We have a lot of
different tribes. We ask students to describe what
a Native American person looks like. And what they wear, and
how they wear their hair. And then inevitably,
as they describe that, when we go around
the room and look at all the natives in the
room, nobody looks like that. And there isn’t one
definition for how a Native American person looks. And because, as we talked about
today, it is a citizenship, there’s no one way that
an American citizen looks. There’s no one way that a
Pottawatomie citizen looks. So there’s a really
wide variation there. There’s no one way
of looking native. It’s something that I
think a lot of natives even struggle with. – I was just going to say,
thank you for being an ally. Sometimes we don’t do that. We expect a lot from our allies,
but we never say thank you. But also, I’ve talked to several
Indian students for years, and if an ally hit
them upside the head, they wouldn’t recognize it. So we have to teach our people
how to recognize allies. They’re not always
from your same family, same clan, same tribe. And sometimes those
guys are dream killers. And sometimes some
people will help. And so we have to
recognize this. So we’ve got to figure
what the partnerships are. But what I’m worried about is
that we may terminate ourselves with our own hand. So we may conquer
and divide ourselves. We don’t need any help from
Donald Trump or anybody else. But also, there’s a
question about giving back. And Olivia lives in California. But I think she thinks
of ways to figure out how to get back to the homeboys. I did that. If some people live
in Denver but they belong to Ogallala or Cherokee,
they can tutor Indian kids in Denver. And that’s giving
back to the community. But you just can’t
lose the thread that gives you to belong. So you can belong to an
urban committee or groups like yourselves, and
that’s always appreciated. So there’s a way to get
your arms around it, but you have to be clever you
have to be willing to do it. – Norb, you as a role
model for Oneidas, you are the epitome
of someone who left, got amazing experience,
got amazing skills, came back to the tribe. You’ve just retired and
now are back in Oneida. I think that’s the dream. That’s what we hope
of our native youth. That they go off and they
do great amazing things, learn amazing things, and
then take those learnings back to our tribes and our homelands. – So I didn’t know how much
Indian I was until I moved off the reservation. Because I’d have
to defend it, you know at home, just to get
to be one of the guys. So you have to defend it when
you’re there and say, you know. – Kind of the point on
being Indian in exile. I think when you
are in the place, the place kind of
gives you the reason. You are, when I’m
Oneida in Oneida, it’s a lot easier to question. When I’m outside of Oneida,
that looks a lot different. And I think it forces
you into citizenship because you have to be active. And you can’t rely on the place
to give you your identity. – And we’ll turn
it over to Megan. – Hi everybody, I’m Megan Hill. Although you may
have heard a nickname if you were paying
attention, due to my father’s love of Van Morrison. I really just want to thank
you all for being here and coming together
and joining us to have a really profound
and important conversation about what it means to be a
citizen of a native nation. And what it means to be an
indigenous person in this world today. So my hope is that we left you
with many, many more questions than answers. And that you really think
more deeply about this. And help us all move
forward collectively. So I would like to thank the
Radcliffe Institute, Shawn and Becky, I would like to thank
Hunap and the Harvard Project. And most importantly,
I would love to thank our panel here today. Bruce Duthu, Olivia Hoeft,
Tesia Zientek and Norbert Hill, who’s also my father. So join us for a reception and
thank you all for being here.

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