July 04, 2011

Tribes need citizenship tests

A better take on blood quantum than Wambli Sina Win's in "Minimal Bloods" = Greedy White People?

Offering a new kind of formula for tribal membership

By JD ColbertAt some point, I found my mind wandering to the similarity of the Muscogee Challenge Bowl to that of the U.S. Citizenship test. Like the Challenge Bowl, the U.S. citizenship test demands knowledge of the U.S. history, culture, government and constitution. In order to attain U.S. citizenship, an immigrant applicant must display proficiency in a formal way across a wide range of appropriate subject matter.

In an Einsteinium epiphany, I not only discerned a connection between the Muscogee Challenge Bowl and the U.S. Citizenship test but also was able to articulate a tribal theorem relative to Einstein’s famous equation, to wit:

Blood Quantum + Cultural Fluency = Tribal Citizenship

What if the tribes decided that more than blood quantum (and/or “blood ancestry” for those tribes enrolling by lineal descent) was necessary and desirable to attain tribal enrollment and tribal citizenship? What if the tribes, generally free to set their own enrollment criteria, required proficiency across a body of knowledge relevant to their culture as demonstrated before a group of tribal Elders as a condition (in addition to blood quantum) to tribal citizenship?

Yes, it may take years to acquire this body of knowledge (and in my opinion, it would) let alone for that person’s life to reflect what I consider to be the signature Native values of eyasketv (to be humble), emetv (to be giving) and mekusvpetv (to be prayerful).

Would this not generally be a good thing for our tribes and for our people? Wouldn’t this also have the felicitous effect of “thinning the herd” of the crowd of people who want tribal membership solely for “the benefits”? And shouldn’t those who aspire to tribal leadership possess a basic level of knowledge of their people and tribal values?
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Two Faces of Enrollment and Sunset for Tribes in 21st Century?


Anonymous said...

Self-proclaimed natural born Americans need citizenry tests because they don't even know their own history, muchless whine and hate on illegals. And if they cannot understand basic civics and American history thats factual versus the current mythical and religious history being taught in schools, then deny them voting rights? Just an idea!

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a terrible idea. Blood quantum and descendency both have their faults. B.Q. is a death sentence for future generations and simple descendency results in a situation like the Cherokee where there are citizens flung all over the world who have legal rights in a government that they may never take any real interest in. The U.S. citizenship test isn't a test of culture so much as it is a test of one's knowledge of the history of the nation and the structure of its governing institutions. To require a citizen to adhere to specific ideals and to maintain a certain level of blood quantum seems a little fascist. Native people have had ideologies shoved down our throats for the past several centuries and it seems like this is another in a succession of attempts to mold native peoples' beliefs and lives. If a person, native or non-native, wants to integrate into a native community and attempt to revive the older customs and beliefs of that community it should be done of their own volition and with said community's approval. A distinction between community and government must be made, which is understandably difficult to do for native communities who have been forced to mold themselves into governmental entitites that mirror the U.S. Under Colbert's proposed method of citizenship no commitment to a physical place is necessary, only a knowledge of "culture" and descendency from someone who lived in that place long ago. While this is better than the simple blood quantum or descendency models currently in place in many nations it doesn't require what is realy important for citizenship. I believe that native nations need to begin to behave more like actual nations and need to make moves towards securing territorial sovereignty. To be a citizen of a nation implies an obligation to the people and institutions of a specific location. In my opinion citizenship should be dependent upon residency and nothing more. New citizens could be required to live in the nation for a set length of time, say five years, before citizenship would be extended and then possibly require a test of their knowledge of the political institutions and history of the nation but not the "culture". Governments should not force their populations to believe or behave in ways that they deem appropriate, to do so infringes upon citizens' freedom. I realize the importance of trying to preserve our old ways but using the governmental institutions we have now to do so is the wrong way to bring about social change.