May 25, 2012

The magical power of adoption

I've noted the reports claiming Johnny Depp was "adopted into the Comanche Nation." Based on these reports, I had questions, so I posted the following notes on Facebook:

Tell me more about this amazing adoption power that turns non-Indians into Indians.

Is it unique to LaDonna Harris? Do all Comanches have this power? Do all Indians have it?

If you're an average Navajo, Cherokee, or Lakota, can you make me a member of your tribe just by performing a ceremony? And the tribal government, as well as every tribal member, will recognize me as a member? After I become a Navajo, Cherokee, or Lakota, do I have to wait, or can I start collecting my government/casino checks immediately? (Just kidding, sort of.)

Please elucidate, someone. Inquiring minds want to know.

Thoughts on the subject

These comments led to a discussion with various Facebook friends:I know what you mean, I've known Natives (Saginaw was one of 'em) who have these so called "adoption" ceremonies with non-Native people! That's just stupid if you ask me! This does not make you Indian...sorry.It's one thing to claim Johnny Depp is an honorary Comanche. But don't tell me he's a full-fledged Comanche unless he has all the rights and privileges of tribal membership. As confirmed by the Comanche government in its official government documents.Just to rabble know Indians adopted children all the was only the white treaty makers who insisted on the "blood quantum" stuff.Yes, but those adoptions were recognized by the tribe as a whole. People who joined or were captured often had to go through a period of servitude to prove themselves. Eventually they underwent an initiation or adoption ceremony to become full-fledged tribal members.

A tribe's recognition of this process is what made non-Indians into Indians. Getting approved in a tribal ceremony was equivalent to a positive vote in a tribal government. In short, membership was up to the tribe, not to individuals.

Tribes continue to have the power to recognize adoptions, I think, but that power would be invested in the tribal government. I don't see LaDonna Harris having the power to add members on her own. To her family, yes, but not to the tribe's membership rolls.Yep. Agreed.

On the flip side, there are some tribal members who marry outside the tribe (tribal or not) and their spouse eventually knows more traditional knowledge than most tribal members...recognized by the community yes indeed, given the same political rights nope....over time the notion of 4/4 tribal members will be obsolete (fed gov't calls it statistical genocide)...acceptance is a part of this notion of enrollment...good stuff rob.
If I were a tribe, I'd consider enrolling those non-Native spouses and children as members. But again, that should be the decision of the tribe as a whole, working through its government. Individual Indians shouldn't get to enroll whoever they want.

P.S. There's absolutely no truth to the rumor that Elizabeth Warren and Ward Churchill are trying to meet with LaDonna Harris.

Final thoughts

Via Twitter I tried again to find someone with the magical power of adoption:

Do any of you have the power to turn me into an Indian just by saying so? Like LaDonna Harris did with Johnny Depp? If so, give me a holler.

I'm not a wannabe, but it might be fun to be an Indian for a while. Just for kicks, you know. I trust I can go back to being an Anglo if being an Indian becomes inconvenient.Sure. *waves magic wand* Now you're Indian! Punjabi, to be precise.Wrong Indian!Too late. I don't know how to undo it.I hope someone does have a magic wand to turn me into an (American) Indian. Someone other than LaDonna Harris, that is. I may have burned my bridges with my questioning of her.

For more on the subject, see Questioning Depp's Comanche Adoption and Depp's Intent Doesn't Excuse Stereotypes.

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