Emilio Reyes: Tribal Disenrollment Is Not The Answer

The stripping of Native American citizenship is reaching epidemic proportions; tribal disenrollment is a cultural genocide to our children and disrespect to our ancestors.

Throughout Indian Country thousands of Native Americans are losing their tribal rights and having their citizenship terminated in their tribes. While some tribal councils assert disenrollment are meant to protect the “integrity of the tribe,” critics argue it’s economically and politically motivated.

Just imagine having your citizenship taken away from you. That’s what happens when a member of a tribe is disenrolled, or kicked out of their tribe by their tribal government. It’s like being an ‘Indian’ without a tribe.

The U.S. Government, as a Federal Indian Trust Responsibility, is obligated to protect individuals whose rights have been infringed upon. Unfortunately, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (“BIA”) has determined that their Federal trust responsibility extends only to the tribal governments and government officials itself. For this reason, the BIA does not acknowledge disenrolled Native Americans.

Moreover, the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 enforces the sovereignty of tribal nations, excluding the individual protections for thousands of Native Americans.

So what happens when Native Americans are disenrolled from their tribes? They lose their federal benefits and programs in the areas of education, health, voting and public work assistance. They lose their identity, culture, history and more.

Native American genocide is not a past tense, it’s still happening physically and culturally.