Steve Russell: Indian fighters take aim at tribal disenrollments

Freedmen descendants protest outside a Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Muskogee, Oklahoma. File photo from Marilyn Vann, the president of the Descendants Of Freedmen Of The Five Civilized Tribes

Judge and professor Steve Russell, a member of the Cherokee Nation, explores how the disenrollment epidemic feeds into efforts to destroy Indian rights:
The 14th Amendment has become the legal cudgel to destroy all of federal Indian law. Any law or policy that is an advantage to Indians is said to be a disadvantage to white people. The political status of Indian nations is said to be a convenient fiction to cover up racism.

When the Cherokee tribal government manipulated turnout in a tribal election to disenroll the Cherokee freedmen, the racism was obvious to all except those blindly accepting that the Dawes rolls were correct reports of which freedmen carried Cherokee blood.

Men who own women have taken sexual advantage in all of human history. On what basis do we claim Cherokee men were different? The transparent racism supports the narrative of Indian law as race law, something that should have been buried by the Civil Rights Movement if not by the Civil War.

Then there are the disenrollments over greed, where there have been many instances of dead people being disenrolled so as to justify doing the same to their living relatives. By behaving as if the only point of tribal citizenship is access to per caps, tribal governments support the narrative of tribal citizenship as an excuse to advantage Indians at the expense of white people.

The disenrollments over score settling support the narrative that after over 100 years of tutelage by the U.S., Indians are still unable to govern themselves in a manner that protects everybody. Isn’t it time to quit propping up the power of unprincipled scoundrels based on their Indian ancestry, based on racism?

Get the Story:
Steve Russell: Where Is Our MLK for Disenrollment? (Indian Country Today 8/23)

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