What's in a name? A lot, Indians say
4 groups battle to be deemed authentic descendants of Georgia Cherokees
For 14 years, various factions have wrangled to claim the legislatively blessed name.
Alliances form and then fall out. Sometimes they re-form. People question one another's Native American pedigrees, which draws howls of indignation and counterattacks. They have sued each other, threatened protests, slammed each other in print and insulted each other on the Internet.
Tribes that qualify for federal recognition have generally met a stringent set of criteria based on having a continuous history and culture. "Continuous" generally means since first contact with Euro-Americans, which is usually hundreds of years ago.
Needless to say, no Indian group formed in the last 100 years, or formed to build a casino, qualifies as a tribe. A tribe such as the Mashantucket Pequots must show a continuous history and culture since the 1600s--unless it qualifies through a special act of Congress.
For tribes recognized by a state government but not the federal government, and other alleged tribes, the burden of proof is tougher. If they can't prove something akin to a continuous history and culture, we have every reason to doubt their authenticity.
State-recognized tribes such as the Lumbee and Chickahominy are close to meeting the federal criteria for recognition, so I have no problem calling them tribes. The battling Cherokee groups in this article haven't proved anything yet, so I wouldn't call them anything except "tribes" (in quotation marks).
All clear? If anyone needs a primer in Indian History 101, just let me know.
Writerfella here --
Pish and tush. That any such "standard" as quoted is used by Native governments IS BECAUSE IT WAS IMPRESSED ON THEM AT GUNPOINT UNDER LAWS AND/OR POLICIES OF THE US FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Tribes no longer could roam or even live where once they did BECAUSE IT WAS IMPRESSED ON THEM AT GUNPOINT UNDER LAWS AND/OR POLICIES OF THE US FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Tribes no longer could gather game nor practice many of their time-honored cultural ceremonials BECAUSE IT WAS IMPRESSED ON THEM AT GUNPOINT UNDER LAWS AND/OR POLICIES OF THE US FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Their children were taken from them and crowded into faraway 'Indian schools' where they learned under enforced conditions the language and religions and culture of EuroMan at the cost of losing their own heritages BECAUSE IT WAS IMPRESSED ON THEM AT GUNPOINT UNDER LAWS AND/OR POLICIES OF THE US FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. writerfella is willing to wager that any ostensible "primer in Indian History 101" less would be interested in what happened to the people and more interested in cataloguing WHAT WAS IMPRESSED ON THEM AT GUNPOINT UNDER LAWS AND/OR POLICIES OF THE US FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.
writerfella iterates the conversation he had with a cousin from California while writerfella kept night watch over the body of his brother David in the Redstone Baptist Mission nearly two years ago. The cousin had come for the funeral and was regaling writerfella that he should be grateful that their ancestors and relatives all had become Christians. writerfella's response was that, yes, he was grateful, for if they had not, they would have been shot down by the US Army at Ft. Sill where the Kiowans had been incarcerated, and neither writerfella nor his cousin then would be alive to be holding that very conversation...
I suppose some tribes opposed the concept of federal recognition when the US government first advanced it late in the 1800s. But since then they've embraced it. Your answer doesn't address why tribes support the system when they're free to reject it now.
Why do today's tribes acknowledge and respect the concept of recognition? Why do unrecognized tribes so avidly seek it? Read the following and learn:
Some Indian tribes still fighting for government recognition
The Wintu are a tribe in every sense of the word: They eat meals together, pray together, gather for ceremonies and business.
Their ancestors lived along the McCloud River in Northern California, and the river is still where the Wintu gather. They bring their children, swim in the still water, pray and visit their sacred sites. It is their purpose, they believe, to protect the McCloud.
But despite their history and traditions, the federal government says the Wintu tribe does not exist.
They are not a federally recognized tribe, and thus aren't entitled to land, grants, subsidized housing, sovereignty, or the benefit they want most--validation.
"We're a traditional, historic tribe. We still live and follow our traditions and culture that has been handed down generation by generation," said Caleen Sisk-Franco, the tribe's spiritual leader. "We're put here to protect the sacred places, for there to be snow on the mountain, fish in the river."
But they have no protection for their sacred land, no way of ensuring their survival.
"They still can't see us," she said.
So the US government won't recognize a tribe's sovereignty until it recognizes the tribe. Talk about an obvious incentive for seeking recognition.
By sovereignty, I mean the self-government that tribes have exercised since before the founding of America, of course. It's the same sovereignty that you erroneously claimed the US invented in the 20th century.
The US has tried to deny or suppress the tribes' age-old sovereignty until recently. Now it's willing to recognize this sovereignty if a tribe can document its historical and cultural continuity.
Again, you'd learn all this in an Indian History 101 class. I suggest you take such a class so I don't have to keep explaining it.
Writerfella here --
Rob, what part of "IMPRESSED ON THEM AT GUNPOINT" do you not understand?
Writerfella here --
POSTSCRIPTUM: In any case, post-9/11, if Natives even attempt the kinds of protests that have occurred in modern times, the guns will come out once again. One only has to wait to find that such a state only has been in abeyance.
Riddle me this, Caped Crusader: WHY IS IT THAT NATIVE AMERICANS ARE THE ONLY MINORITY GROUP IN THIS ENTIRE NATION THAT HAS ITS OWN GOVERNING FEDERAL DEPARTMENT AND A WHOLE CATALOG OF LAWS AND REGULATIONS DEVOTED SOLELY AND COMPLETELY TO THEIR LIVES AND MANAGEMENT OF THEIR LIVES?
And your statement that 'tribes support the system when they're free to reject it now' ignores entirely that laws (gunpoint still implicit) are in place that embody many penalties for any such rejection. The long history of this nation in regard to Natives is that dependencies first are created and then barely served or not served at all. Any tribe who has accepted such has found there was no either/or forthcoming or even stated, but that factor was implicit in the inevitable accompanying laws. Parallel: decide to own a car and you bring upon yourself hundreds of laws and regulations that did not apply to you theretofore, including taxes, assessments, licensing, emission controls, speed limits, maintenance and operational matters, personal behaviors, and even criminal statutes. That Natives must have Federal recognition is fully comparable to the almost ineluctable 'must have' concept of an automobile in today's society, but once having crossed such a threshold, the consequences totally are unavoidable. writerfella at least has foxed that box BECAUSE IN ALL OF HIS LIFE, WRITERFELLA NEVER HAS OWNED AN AUTOMOBILE. Someone somewhere has taken note of that and is grinding his teeth into fragments...
What part of "Why do today's tribes acknowledge and respect the concept of recognition?" and "But since then they've embraced it" didn't you understand?
The US government is forcing tribes to accept the recognition process at gunpoint? Is it also sending US marshals to each of the 560-plus tribes to oversee their decisions and curb their speech?
If you're right, what's to stop tribal leaders from saying, "We disagree with federal recognition but we accept it as a mandate"? Nothing, of course, which is why your claim is ludicrous.
I quoted a tribal leader who expressed a typical desire for recognition. You haven't quoted anything except your fervent imagination. As usual, the facts disprove your speculation.
One thing I vaguely recall reading, from a long time back, is that Indian blood, and I think Cherokee was the usual, was claimed as a protection against the racist anti-black laws of the Deep South, a way of being obviously non-white without being classed as black.
I don't have a horse in this race, but that may be an aspect of this case. It makes things messy. It sounds as though they're fellow-victims, whatever tribal status may be decided.
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