Target: Michael S. Black, Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs
Goal: Stop defining tribal membership in Native American communities and grant them their right to sovereignty.
Many American Indians across the United States are facing disenrollment from their tribes, due to arbitrary definitions of tribal membership enforced by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. After suffering centuries of incomprehensible historical trauma and institutional discrimination, Native American communities are once again at risk of losing their identity and culture. This time the governmental authority over Indian Nations, the BIA, is decisively kicking members out of their tribes.
The BIA, established in 1824, has since been dominating reservations and tribal life. Although this wasn’t an entity created by Natives, it still has the most authority over decisions made in these ‘sovereign’ nations. These disenrollment initiations are settled based on legalities, both of which concepts are fairly new to resolving disputes in Native communities. In fact, disenrollment was not practiced in Indian Country until the U.S. government established an invasive piece of legislation that allowed the government to reorganize tribes and write unfamiliar constitutions including ‘disenrollment.’
Tribal membership has since become progressively legalistic and is officially controlled by the BIA. Disenrollment is therefore a foreign policy enacted not by the people that it affects nor by the tribal government, but by the non-Native U.S. government. Reasons cited for disenrollment include blood quantum audits–or investigation of qualification for ancestry as Native American, tribal roll audits, and long-deceased ancestors’ contracts. Those who are disenrolled suffer the loss of cultural affiliation, community ties, and benefits specific to tribal members, legal Native American status, and their reservation land and homes.
By signing the following petition you will help urge the Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Michael S. Black, to abolish these damaging and exclusionary disenrollment policies and allow Indian Nations to practice their right to sovereignty.
Dear Mr. Black,
The discriminatory practice of disenrollment that is being enacted in tribal communities across the nation must be stopped. The Bureau of Indian Affairs should not define tribal membership, as it should instead be left up to each individual tribe.
Not only is this practice nontraditional in Native communities but it is an invasive, distressing, and unnecessary scheme to dislodge even more Native Americans from their culture and communities.
I am urging you to save many Native Americans from this painful and degrading process of shattering such a resilient identity. Please take action to eliminate these alien definitions and qualifications for tribal membership that strip so many of their culture, heritage, reparations, and right to tribal sovereignty.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Don Ryan