David Wilkins: Even the dead can't escape tribal disenrollment

Participants in a #stopstribalgenocide protest at the Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Riverside, California. Photo from Original Pechanga / Twitter

Even the dead aren't spared as the disenrollment epidemic spreads in Indian Country, observes professor David Wilkins:
For Native peoples then, and now, those on the other side continue as vital members of our societies. Centered between us and the Great Mysterious, they are able to bridge the worlds. They are conduits, providing critical guidance necessary for our continuance as peoples.

This is why more than a century and a half after these words were spoken, actions taken by tribal leaders to purge their tribal rolls, not just of their living relatives, but even of the bones of their relatives on the other side inspires such instinctive disgust. The very fabric of the cosmos as we have always understood it is being assaulted in this macabre fashion through recent attempts, some successful, by several Native governments to engage in the loathsome practice of disenrollment of deceased tribal members. By doing so, current officials may then more easily wield the legal authority to disenroll descendants who are currently enrolled tribal citizens.

The actions are inhumane. In one California case, a revered grandmother’s body was exhumed so that a DNA test could be performed. Even when the test confirmed her as a genetically bone fide member, the tribal government still disenrolled this long-deceased woman and all her descendants from the tribe’s rolls.

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David Wilkins: We Must Stop Gruesome Postmortem Dismemberment (Indian Country 3/20)

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