Native Identity

Who is a Native American? Thinking outside the box, the United States, when I say Native American I include the indigenous peoples of Latin American. But the question still remains the same, who is a Native American? I have seen two distinct articles from two very different magazines touch on this topic recently. The September issue of Native Peoples has an article Indentity Crisis by Patty Talahongva (Hopi). Patty writes:

American Indians are the only ethnic group in the U.S. who must prove their heritage in official government documents if they wish to partake of the benefits offered in treaties made with the government.

Each of the over 550 federally recognized tribal nations are “free to set its own enrollment requirements.” Some tribes require a certain percentage of your heritage be of that tribe. Other tribes may require you to prove that your ancestors are on one of the different census such as the 1906 Dawes Roll or the 1924 Baker Roll.

The September issue of Wired Magazine also has an article that deals with the enrollment process of native tribes. To quote Blood Feud by Brendan I. Koerner:

In 1980, there were 50,000 members of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma: today, there are more than a quarter million.

The large influx of members in the different indigenous tribes is due in part to the federal laws that allow gaming on ‘Indian lands.’ Patty writes:

Indian gaming has changed the face of some tribes who are taking a second look at their enrollment process, especially if they hand out gaming revenue per-capita payments to members. … They are concerned about too many people trying to get enrolled just for the casino benefits.

Who is a Native American? This has been a hard question for many to answer and now it is being blurred by the neon lights of Indian casinos.

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