February 10, 2008

Reenroll the disenrollees

Disenrollment and community buildingBanishment or disenrollment is a tool of government. Tribal communities are about cultural and political continuity. Gaming is a means to gain access to resources that will help renew and build tribal communities. If the pursuit of wealth becomes a greater concern than community continuity and renewal, then we have moved onto the path of assimilation. Even in cases where there are legal grounds for excluding tribal members, recovery of lost members may be a better long-term strategy. For example, in the well-publicized Pechanga disenrollments, some families signed documents denying tribal membership in favor of individual land allotments. In the 1890s, times were bad and the federal government was encouraging detribalization. If the goal of gaming and tribal government is renewing tribal communities, then tribal communities should put aside the actions of members who acted under economic or bureaucratic duress in the past. Efforts should be made to recover and reenroll former tribal members who are willing to support tribal renewal. In the process of U.S. citizenship for immigrants, the prospective citizen gives and oath of allegiance to the U.S. Constitution. Returning tribal members should be people who are willing to pursue tribal goals and culture, and swear to uphold tribal law and order. Banishment may still have a role to play in tribal communities, but community continuity should be given primary attention, including the recovery of lost and committed tribal members.

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