Friday, September 28, 2012

Genocide By Paper

All up and down the State of California and in many other places across the United States disenrollments have been taking place for the last 7 to 10 years.  The increase in disenrollments seems to coincide with the rise of Indian Gaming.

Casinos have sort of created the Perfect Storm for disenrollments.  Every Indian Tribe is unique in how they organize and determine their membership.  But one thing each tribe seems to have in common are long standing feuds between family groups.  Prior to the casinos the bickering between families often took place in meetings and were resolved by elections.

Casinos however have given Indian Tribes tremendous resources to do many things.  They can hire law firms and business professionals to help grow their businesses.  They can hire lobbyists and send them to Washington D.C. to protect their interest.  They can work with State and Local governments on things such as road and infrastructure improvements.

The other by-product of all this is the consolidation of political power.  Leaders of tribes are well aware of their political opposition and disenrollments have become to tool of choice to quell any opposition.  There is also a financial component to disenrollments particularly for smaller tribes.  The less members a tribe has the more per capita distribution there is for the remaining members.  All of this leads to a Perfect Storm for disenrollments.

Original Pechanga's Blog has done a great job of documenting disernollments up and down the State of California.

The list is long and includes Pechanga, Redding Rancheria, San Pasqual, Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians, Robinson Rancheria, and The Pala Band of MIssion Indians, among others.

Not surprising, the position of the U.S. Government has been "hands off" Indian Tribes.  The policy of the U.S. Government toward the Indigenous Peoples of America has long been eradication and assimilation.

Toward the end of the 19th Century the public's enthusiasm for the extermination of Native Ameicans waned.  The Calvary was no longer being sent in to slaughter tribes.  Instead, tribes were forced onto reservations.  Government Officials then set about essentially setting up tribal membership by blood quantum.  While blood quantum was not explicitly defined in the Dawes Act government officials did use long standing blood quantum laws for the purpose of determining who should receive allotments.

We can see this in the 1913 Pala Allotment Roll where those who received allotments were either 4/4 or 1/2.  No one less than 1/2 received an allotment including the children of Margarita Brittain.

In many ways blood quantum was just another way the U.S. Government could ensure the final destruction of Indian Tribes particularly smaller tribes.  It was a form of Paper Genocide.  Larger tribes still have many full blood and half blood members.  There is no risk of them interbreeding resulting in genetic disorders.  Larger tribes tend to have a larger blood quantum requirement - either 1/2 or 1/4 blood.

Smaller tribes have a much rougher time of it.  Their survival depends on pro-creation.  When Pala set out to organize itself as a tribe and determine its membership they were well aware of this conundrum.  Very few fullbloods were left of parenting age.  There was also the issue of blood in general.  Pala's membership consists of a mix of Indian Blood which includes Kupa, Luiseno, Cahuilla, Yaqi, and Kumeyaay.

Because of this mix "Pala Blood" was determined to be those on the 1895 and 1913 Pala Allotment Rolls.  No distinction was made between the various different types of Indians that resided at Pala.

Americans often think fondly and romanticize about the Iroquois concept of making plans for the 7th Generation.  In some respect the People of Pala did make plans for the future generations and did what they could to ensure their survival as a tribe.  As such the blood quantum was set to 1/16 so they could protect their grandchildren and great grand children.

And while this solution seemed to work for a time it was in effect kicking the can down the road.  The fullbloods and nearly all the half bloods have passed.  Pala is composed primarily of 1/4, 1/8, and 1/16 degree of Indian Blood.  These generations are struggling to keep the tribe moving forward into the future.

At a time when Indian Tribes up and down the State of California should be strengthening their membership and ensuring their survival tribes have instead turned to disenrollments.  In the short run this may seen like a good idea for a variety of reasons ranging from a consolidation of political power and increased financial benefit.

But over the long term it's tribal suicide.  Indian Tribes are finishing the job the U.S. Government could not complete and that is the eradication of tribes in general.  This is why in my opinion the U.S. Government is taking such an unprecedented hands off approach to Indian Tribes.  They see the long game.  They know eventually smaller tribes will destroy themselves.

Many tribes have already gone bankrupt, had their casinos put into receivership, and now struggle for survival.  There is nothing more Las Vegas and Wall St would like to see than for casinos to be out of the hands of Indians and into the hands of Las Vegas developers and investment bankers.

It's Paper Genocide and in many ways it was all set up by the U.S. Government which established blood quantum knowing it would eventually lead to the demise of the smaller groups of Native Americans.  Sure, larger tribes will survive but the odds of smaller tribes making it another 100 years grows less and less each year.

I am often confronted by people who lament that many Indians these days do not know much about their language, their culture, or their religions.  When this happens I remind them that the U.S. Government prevented Indian Children from speaking their Native language, practicing their religion, or engaging in cultural activities.  It was forced assimilation and the whole purpose was to eradicate Native American Culture.

Now all the U.S. Government has to do is sit back and wait as Paper Genocide continues to ravage Indian Country finishing off the job the American People lost the stomach for 120 years ago.