Gabe Galanda: Federal government to blame for disenrollment

Attorney Gabe Galanda blames the federal government for disenrollment disputes in Indian Country:
Disenrollment is not indigenous to Native America. It is a creature of the United States.

The origins of disenrollment are traced to the United States’ paternalistic assimilation policies of the 1930s. In 1934 the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act (“IRA”), wherein the federal government took an extremely active role in framing tribal membership rules. The IRA contained a definition of who would be recognized as an indigenous person by the federal government: The individual must be a descendant of a member residing on any reservation as of June 1, 1934, or a person “of one-half or more Indian Blood.”

The United States’ intent was to limit membership “to persons who reasonably can be expected to participate in tribal relations and affairs.” The IRA also urged tribes to adopt a constitution and included a boilerplate that tribes were encouraged to adopt. And because tribal constitutions were subject to federal approval, the IRA definition of “Indian,” including its blood quantum requirement or some variation thereof, as well as concepts of “disenrollment,” found their way into most tribal constitutions, even those that did not adopt the boilerplate IRA constitution.

In fact, even those tribes that opted to forego adopting a constitution were often persuaded to adopt these concepts somewhere in their organic law as a “consequence of the [federal government]’s control over federal services and tribal monies.”

Get the Story:
Gabe Galanda: An Essay on the Federal Origins of Disenrollment (Galanda Broadman Blog 3/6)

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