March 29, 2009

Alexie on enrollment, genocide

Sherman Alexie rails at CornellFew people or issues are spared Alexie’s wit and sharp tongue--including fellow Indians. “The people who’ve done the most damage to me are other Indians. We Indians can be as imperialistic, self-serving, and self-righteous as the next group. … Right now, I’m soooo mad at my own tribe.”

Alexie, who is Spokane/Couer d’Alene alluded to enrollment practices and being unable to enroll his own children in either his wife’s tribe or his own. He said his two boys are a combination of about five or six different tribes, with some German, and other European blood thrown in for good measure.

When asked if he finds tribal enrollment practices to be archaic and whether they should be changed to suit contemporary needs, he replied, “We all know that tribes’ enrollment practices are problematic. The lust for casino money has become a huge factor in enrollment policies. Tribal enrollment and membership are now really business decisions, and with any business decision, the process must be transparent and held up to close scrutiny.”

Overall, Alexie suggests Indian country look inward and take personal responsibility for its problems. “But neither should we let the white folks off the hook; we also have to hold the outside world accountable.”

He demanded an acknowledgment of the genocide that wiped out entire tribes of people. “Where is our roomful of moccasins?” asked Alexie, referring to the Holocaust Museum’s powerful room full of shoes that illustrates the thousands of lives lost in Nazi extermination camps. “We need our own Holocaust Museum. Nobody calls it genocide, what happened to the Indians; we just let it all go.”

Later, he was asked if given the opportunity to do his own exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian, what it would feature. Without hesitation, he said, “The genocide. The story has not been told.”
Comment:  We call it genocide here at Newspaper Rock, Sherman. ;-)

The NMAI was supposedly light on the negative aspects of Native history when it opened. I don't know if that's changed.

For more on the subject, see All About Sherman Alexie.

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