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Issues that impact the Indian community are discussed here in detail. Guest essays that present the perspectives of other Indian people are also included here. All articles that appear on this page will be archived for ease of future access. Click on the link to view past articles and essays.

Opinions of Guests who write essays or articles are not necessarily the official opinion of TAIDA or of any of TAIDA's Advisory Council Members. Opinions and Guest essays & articles are important because they give all people the opportunity to learn how others view these important issues.

We learn by hearing the voices of others. Silence is an act of complicity. If we are silent or if we allow silence to overrule speaking and action, then we will become ineffective as members of our Indian communities.

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Learning About Indian Policy & Treaties
Why would anybody want or need to learn about treaties? What's done is done, right? What can anybody do about what happened so long ago, anyway, right? Why do federally recognized Indians need to study what has already taken place? Why do state recognized Indians need to know about federal Indian treaties? And why would any Indian who might not be enrolled need to know about federal treaties?
Indians are where they are today as a result of many factors. Those factors contian, but are not limited to: social/economic/political/spiritual/legal/illegal/ get the idea.
All Indians who are sincere about helping our communities survive, grow, recover, and prosper, need to know some of the reasons WHY we are in this shape today. And we also can learn HOW we can make CHANGES that can affect all Indians today.
All Indians need to help and support the federally recognized tribes because they are the last legal leg we have to stand on. All Indians need to support the state recognized tribes because they just might be the key to recovering even more of our cultures. And all Indians need to support the unenrolled Indians who are also part of Indian communities because those are our relatives who need to be included as much as possible in all things within our Indian communities. We need to all come together to make it work.
Start out slow and take some general readings about treaties. Scan the material and don't try to learn it. Just read it. In time, go back and take a few small notes. Don't try to do too much at once, but educate yourself and learn more so that you will be an informed member of the Indian community.
Here is an excellent site to begin and to delve deeper into Indian treaties. When you read about treaties, you will also learn about the social and political background of why we have so many problems today as Indian people.
Here is the link:
More articles and information follow below,Please scroll down the page  for more . Also scroll down to see info on a new and informative book on Indians who are not enrolled. Here is some brief info that is included in the citation below. The author is an enrolled member of the Muscogee Nation:
Invisible Indians: Mixed-Blood Native Americans Who Are Not Enrolled in Federally Recognized Tribes", by David Arv Bragi, was released by Grail Media in September 2005 and is distributed by Lulu, Inc. It can be purchased online or specially ordered from most major booksellers, such as, Barnes & Noble, Borders and Waldenbooks. Its ISBN number is 1411642597 Note: This book contains information that is not necessarily endorsed by TAIDA or any of its members. This book is presented here strictly for informational purposes. The book contains personal stories that are interesting to know about, but that might not reflect the opinions or histories of other unenrolled Indians who are struggling with recovering their cultural rights.
Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest in receiving the material for research and educational purposes. This is in accordance with Title 17 U. S. C. section 107.

By:  Tony Mack McClure, Ph.D
Has the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma Become It's Own Worst Enemy?
Regarding recent internet posts and newspaper articles in Indian Country Today concerning the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and their so-called "un-federally recognized" problem makers, it seems curiously misleading that the spokesperson for CNO conveniently failed to point out that their latest "adversary" Robin Mayes and the members of his group calling themselves the "Cherokee Nation" are all actually federally registered members some cases highly respected elders...of either their own Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma or the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees.
Such omissions typify the CNO leadership's long record of attempting to hail themselves and, of course, the Eastern Cherokee Band (but only after they finally "graduated" from only North Carolina state recognition to federal recognition) as the only cherokee people on earth. Is it possible that they actually don't even realize they insult the intelligence of not only people everywhere who share their blood, but everyone in general. Or is it the more likely prospect that these people who constantly tout culture, nobility and great Indian-ness actually do not know the meanings of the words as their forebears did?
Out of one side of their mouth they openly admit - - even publish the fact - -  that they conspired with the U.S. government to limit their precious Dawes enrollments ( which resulted in the only avenue to tribal membership or individual land allotments) ONLY TO CHEROKEES WHO WERE RESIDENTS OF WHAT IS NOW THE OLD CHEROKEE SECTIONS OF EASTERN OKLAHOMA.
Not only that, but to be approved for that roll, applicants also had to have been a resident, or a lineal descendant of a person who was, for some period of time PRIOR to Dawes. Today, they readily admit that there are even full bloods (and lesser amounts) who do not qualify for enrollment in their so-called "federally recognized" nation, yet from the other side of their mouth, they refer to them as "wannabees" if they dare to exercise their Creator given birthrights or pride of heritage by associating with or joining one of the various "unrecognized" or even state recognized Cherokee tribes.
What is this "federal recognition" all about anyway? Let's briefly review the facts for the uneducated from both within and without.
Beginning in the late 1700s the U.S. Government adopted a policy aimed at assimilating all indian people into the mainly European populations that had become mainstream. The indigenous people of the Eastern seaboard were first to experience this insidious and often murderous plan. Among them were the noble and resilient Cherokees, mountaineers of the south. In 1838 and 39, many of the Cherokee people in the southeast were removed from their homelands at gunpoint and placed on the infamous and well known Trail of Tears to the "darkened" lands - Indian territories in the west.
This was, in effect, an ethnic cleansing designed to congregate these "savages" in one place away from the great white majority, many of whom believed then and still do today, that they are the masters of the rest of us, as ordained by the Creator himself. Where they derived this insanely humorous idea is still a great mystery; nevertheless, the plan worked - at least partially.
In the early 1900's, under a cloak of "saving us from our own ignorant and savage ways" the Great white fathers in Washington decided against our cultural beliefs (but with the full participation and endorsement of some of our own unscrupulous and greedy leaders) that the Cherokee land in what was to become Oklahoma (against all treaty agreements) should be allotted to individuals. The current Dawes rolls which serve as the only basis today for tribal membership in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma were a result of that great decision. No other historical rolls of our people are considered alone for federal tribal recognition in the CNO. A little known rule, however, required that to be placed on the roll, there was a residency requirement as described above. And the "recognized" western Cherokee leadership at that time ludicrously agreed to it. Does this fact have an obnoxious smell to it?
Of course it does, and it serves to point out that by then, any semblance of real "culture" had already begun to seriously erode, especially among leadership. Greed had taken its place. What nation of people anywhere who truly possesses a cherished and respected culture would even consider denying the very blood birthrights and heritage of some of their own people?
Ours did. And the absurdity continues today. Through continual brainwashing and the obvious acknowledgments of being wards of the very government responsible for the ultimate demise of all the great Indian nations, "Federal recognition" and the coveted individual tribal ID and CDIB cards have become to many of the people who possess them the only acceptable means of identifying who is Indian and who is not.
Now what does this actually say? Where the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is concerned (for that matter to all tribes) it quite simply validates that for the people who refused to assimilate, the US.Government first herded our people like cattle to a place originally planned for segregation. Then they made it quite plain that our people HAD to stay there or they would be severally punished. . . even to the extent of losing their individual identities. And  public records verify that the Cherokee leadership of the day went along with it. Public records also substantiate that they still do the same today as witnessed by their continued disrespectful and jealous attitudes toward Cherokee people other than their own, and their active endorsement of federal recognition tribal membership and CDIB carding requirements  as the only means of identifying Cherokees regardless of their blood.
The CNO, along with the Eastern Band of Cherokees, relentlessly ridicule "non federally recognized" people of their own blood (who by the way, are considered class IV Native Americans by the Bureau of Indian affairs), calling them "wannabees' and other such derogatories and constantly espousing that they are NOT Cherokee people. That is utter hogwash and the rolls and records other than Dawes fully substantiate it. One does not have to be a law school graduate to look at the U.S. Government Siler rolls of 1851, as just one example, which is a listing of over 1750 Cherokee people still living in Tenn, Ala, Ga, NC, etc. a full 12 years after the last year of the Trail of Tears (1839)!
 Did these people simply disappear into thin air?
Are the hundreds of thousands if not millions of descendants of these people today any different whatever from the members of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, UKB or the Eastern Band of Cherokees except for which roll their ancestors were recorded on?
Of course not and in fact many of them have as much blood quantum, often more, than the vast majority of the CNO and Eastern band members (today that doesn't require much as the CNO registers "Indians" with tiny blood fractions in the thousandths)! And what of those whose ancestors name's NEVER made a roll. They are damned because they didn't kiss the backsides of Andrew Jackson's cronies like so many others did? It would seem that in the eyes of any logical person they would be about as close to heros as one could get within the viewpoints of their peers, but not so to CNO leadership - They are "wannabees! Bull! Of the people who did go to Oklahoma, many left during the gold rush days of the 1850s never to return and more made their exodus during the upheaval of the Civil War. Some of the immigrants and removal victims returned to their homelands in the east soon after arriving in the west. Another often overlooked fact is that the Removal Act which resulted in the forced removal of the five civilized tribes required that ONLY PEOPLE OF 1/4 DEGREE INDIAN BLOOD OR MORE be removed from the east. There were thousands of these who were not removed even though many who lived in Georgia lost their land in the infamous land lotteries, and it must be assumed that it is not worth to mention that many, many Cherokee people hid out and assimilated  (and not just the small group of Eastern Band progenitors as they would like everyone to believe). In his very popular book "Cherokee Roots" Second Edition, Volume One, author Bob Blankenship who also happens to be a council member for the Eastern Band of Cherokees states "Intermarriages were frequent and as a consequence, Cherokee blood flows in the veins of millions of Americans living today." So this question of who is really Indian and who is not begs an answer - were all of these people picked up by space ships? Do the descendants of all of these people deserve the constant insults heaped on them by the leadership of the Federal Cherokee tribes?
The legislatures of the states of Alabama and Georgia, as just two examples, had the good sense years ago to realize that some of their long time citizens who, because of their ancestry, fall into the well set and immoral "Dawes trap" deserve recognition of the blood they take pride in and provided a means for them to do so by providing state legislated recognition.
Some would have you believe that they had no authority to do that, which is verifiably erroneous, but more importantly one must ask why would anyone be so adamantly opposed to it? Nevertheless, Mrs. Mankiller and other leaders in the east came up in arms ridiculing this when it happened and they have done so ever since. Perhaps someone in the CNO can explain what is wrong with this and if they offer one of their usual BS replies that has to do with "damaging their culture," be very careful to not overlook the fact that that all of them ultimately interpret to "greed."
You may rest assured they'll have trouble finding any logical reasons other than perhaps ignorance of their own history or skeletons in their own closet, because quite frankly, they don't exist. Preservation of culture to the disavowed is, in fact, most often their highest priority, a phenomenon that seems to have largely escaped their western relatives.
While on this subject, perhaps they can also explain why during the recent 2000 census they put out news releases encouraging the very people they so disdain to put "Cherokee" on their questionnaires "even if they are not tribal members." It doesn't take an Einstein to figure out why any more than it does to determine that agreeing to recognition through only the Dawes rolls was only for political favor and avidity.
The fact is that most members of state recognized tribes in particular and even those with no recognition don't give a tinker's damn about the federal benefits that the federal tribes are so obviously afraid of having to share. And they certainly have no respect for recognition from the very people who were ultimately the cause of the demise of their ancestors in the first place. Their choice bumper sticker, were they to choose one, would likely say "Take Your Federal Recognition and the Cards that Substantiate the Cultural Ruin of Our Culture and Shove Them!" This is not meant to imply that they condemn or disrespect individual federal tribal members who have become victims of this crapola and actually believe the perpetual propaganda that "all our people were removed on the Trail of Tears." The streaming tears on the faces of the many 12 year old girls with Cherokee ancestry that many Cherokee have seen  because they were refused the privilege of dancing at festivals and those of countless blood grandmothers who have given their lives to their families, people and passing on their honorable culture - - all because they have no "federal card" are a great tribute to CNO leaders in this writer's opinion. Great going folks, you should be real proud of such worthy accomplishments!
This writer is not familiar with the "Southern Cherokees" or their recently reported actions found unfavorable to the CNO. Presumably, the future will likely decide if the Robin Mayes group currently under the scrutinous eyes of the CNO has a legal leg to stand on, but one has to ask ... If their claims of fraud and wrong doing against the CNO have no credibility, why is the CNO so apparently concerned or afraid of them?
Ditto for the state recognized and non recognized groups. It has been said by far more knowledgeable scribes than this one that he who yells racism the loudest is most often the greatest racist of all and he who screams fire might well be the one who lit it. It would be interesting to know just how many readers have taken the time to research the Mayes group's claims? They just might be very surprised at the chronic and documented back stabbing and politics CNO leaders have participated in. . . against their own people as well as the non-recognized. And if they have any compassion at all, they will be unable to avoid seeing absolute proof of their past and present leadership's long and pompous record of attempting to discredit and disavow non -recognized Cherokee people whom they readily admit widely exist! All real Cherokees know that some "wannabees" exist and I won't even attempt to discern why. Non recognized or state recognized Cherokees dislike having to deal with them as much as anyone.
But to stereotype all people who are not federally recognized tribal members as a part of them is unforgivable and most likely unacceptable and unfair in the eyes of any reasonable person.
What is perhaps the biggest irony of all of this is that, save being regularly aggravated by the ignorance they seem so intent on advertising in print (surely no one in their right mind would expect the entire world to applaud or support them for admittingly disavowing some of their own blood in the name of greed) no one but the specific federally recognized tribal members who are guilty of  promulgating this nonsense really seems to give a damn about what they actually think along these lines. And they certainly manage a good laugh at the holier than thou, self -proclaimed, preposterous superiority often expressed by some who actually have the audacity to believe it exists.
One can only hope that CNO will eventually wake up from their long, well orchestrated sleep! As tribal sovereignties and any worthwhile public support for it continue to wane on a daily basis, they just might find themselves in the precarious position of having to ask for these people's support, just to exist, and perhaps much sooner than they may think. If, on the other hand, they continue on their current adversarial path and eventually find themselves surrounded by an unfriendly foe (the government they have so long aligned themselves with) they might darn well hear for real from their unclaimed kinsman for real, the proverbial old cowboy - Indian joke, "What do you mean "we," white man?"
Tony Mack McClure, Ph.D.
Author: Cherokee Proud: A Guide for Tracing and Honoring Your Cherokee Ancestors.

Termination Policy Gave Powers to the States- How Much Power Do The States Have Now Over Indian Affairs?

 These are some examples of how Indian People have been made into legal, non-Indians. Similar strategies were employed by government officials to do away with Indian people in the South and Eastern states. This has led to many Indian people growing up knowing they are Indian, living as Indian, their family history is Indian, yet they are not legally Indian.

And what about those people who are being thrown off the rolls today? Are they Indian one day, then not Indian the next day? Indian people are the only ethnic group that is discriminated against in this manner. All other people, except for American Indians, have the legal right to self-determination and self-identification.

In 1943 the United States Senate conducted a survey of Indian conditions. The living conditions on the reservations were found to be horrific, with the residents living in severe poverty. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the federal bureaucracy were found to be at fault for the troubling problems due to extreme mismanagement. Thus began the era of the governments’ efforts to eradicate the Indian tribes of North America. The U.S. government called this their “Termination Policy.”

The government believed that there were tribes that were ready to be part of main stream American society and no longer needed the protection of the federal government. Two tribes, the Klamaths who owned valuable timber property in Oregon and the Agua Caliente, who owned the land around Palm Springs were some of the first tribes to be affected by the policy. These lands, rich in resources, were taken over by the Federal Government.

In 1953 Congress adopted an official policy of “termination” declaring that the goal was “as rapidly as possible to make Indians within the territorial limits of the United States subject to the same laws and entitled to the same privileges and responsibilities as are applicable to other citizens of the United States.”(House Concurrent Resolution 108)

From 1953-1964 109 tribes were terminated and federal responsibility and jurisdiction was turned over to state governments. Approximately 2,500,000 acres of trust land was removed from protected status and 12,000 Native Americans lost tribal affiliation. The lands were sold to non-Indians the tribes lost official recognition by the U.S. government.

Public Law 280 which was passed in 1953 turned power over to state governments to enforce most of the regular criminal laws on reservations as they were doing in other parts of the state. State governments and tribes disapproved of the law. Tribes disliked states having jurisdiction without tribal consent and state governments resented taking on jurisdiction for these additional areas without additional funding. With such mutual dissent additional amendments to Public Law 280 have been passed to require tribal consent in law enforcement and in some cases the states have been able to return jurisdiction back to the federal government.

Here is more important information on this subject. Go to the links to learn more about this:

House Concurrent Resolution 108, 1953
…Whereas the Indians within the territorial limits of the United States should assume their full responsibilities as American citizens: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate Concurring), That it is declared to be the sense of Congress that, at the earliest possible time, all of the Indian tribes and the individual members thereof located within the States of California, Florida, New York, and Texas, and all of the following named tribes and individual members thereof, should be freed from Federal supervision and control and from all disabilities and limitations specially applicable to Indians:  The Flathead Tribe of Montana, the Klamath Tribe of Oregon, the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin, the Potowatami Tribes of Kansas and Nebraska, and the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe of North Dakota.
For more than one hundred groups involved, over 10,000 Indians, termination meant the end of the federal government’s trust relationship with Indian people and their tribes--all federal protection and aid ended.  It also meant state jurisdiction was imposed on all activities, including criminal and civil authority.  Termination became yet another land grab, as well.  Over 1.3 million acres of reservation lands were sold, with the proceeds going to the tribes.  Tribes, of course, could not be deprived of their inherent sovereignty, but termination virtually ended its practice. 
Does the United States still make treaties with Indian tribes?

Congress ended treaty-making with Indian tribes in 1871. Since then, relations with Indian groups are by Congressional acts, Executive Orders, and Executive Agreements. Between 1788, when the first treaty was made with the Delawares, to 1871, when Congress ended the treaty-making period, the U.S. Senate ratified 370 Indian treaties. At least 45 others were negotiated with tribes but were never ratified by the Senate.

The treaties that were made often contain obsolete commitments, which have either been fulfilled or superseded by Congressional legislation. The provision of education, health, welfare, and other services by the government to tribes often has extended beyond treaty requirements. A number of large Indian groups have no treaties, yet share in the many services for Indians provided by the Federal Government.

 Tribe: There is no definitive legal description of what constitutes a tribe that applies to all areas of this field of law. One of the most widely-used descriptions comes from the 1901 Supreme Court case, Montoya v. United States: a body of Indians of the same or a similar race, united in a community under one leadership or government, and inhabiting a particular though sometimes ill-defined territory." As far as the federal government is concerned, it only has a government-to-government relationship with those tribes that it has recognized. As a result, the typical definition of "tribe" is functional rather than descriptive: a tribe is an entity that appears on the list of federally-recognized tribes published annually by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Department of the Interior (DOI). The federal government has recognized 560 tribes by treaty, statute, executive order, the presence of a long-term historical relationship, or other means.

Since 1978, BIA has used powers delegated by Congress to extend recognition to tribes. The Bureau's regulations require that a tribe seeking recognition has maintained a distinct identity, has exercised political authority over its members through history to the present, has drawn that membership from a historical tribe (but not primarily from the membership of another recognized tribe), and currently has governing procedures and methods of determining membership. In addition, Congress must not have expressly terminated or forbidden a federal relationship with the tribe.

Tribes not on the list of federally-recognized tribes do exist independent of federal acknowledgement, however, as demonstrated by the fact that tribes gain recognition from time to time. This attests to the origins of tribes separate from the United States even where they have no governmental presence in federal law. However, the distinction is often academic. Many tribes without the protection of federal recognition have collapsed and disappeared because there was no way to assert themselves under state and federal regulation.
Termination (1943-1968): After just 15 years, Congress again began to embrace the dissolution of tribal ties and tribes as U.S. policy. Many continued to believe that it was tribal existence that kept Indians from integrating into mainstream society. Congressional reports issued between 1943 and 1950 were extremely critical of reorganization and of BIA. Funding for BIA was greatly cut during this period. In 1952, the House passed a resolution calling for the formulation of proposals "designed to promote the earliest practicable termination of all federal supervision and control over Indians." A year later, House Concurrent Resolution 108 passed, calling in ringing terms for the end of the special status of Indians, and the termination of federal supervision and control over all tribes in several states and several additional tribes. This resolution was not binding, but it did guide the course of termination policy. Congress terminated the federal relationship with more than 100 tribes in the next few years. Typically, the tribes lost their land, became subject to state authority, and found it impossible to exercise their governmental authority. In tandem with termination of tribes, BIA embarked on a very large relocation program that granted money to Indians to move to selected cities to find work. After cutting BIA's budget for 10 years, Congress had to triple it to keep up with the costs of termination and relocation.

Public Law 83-280: Congress also enacted Public Law 83-280 (PL280) in 1953, delegating limited jurisdiction over Indian country to several states. PL 280 states are divided between six so-called mandatory states named in the Act, and nine optional states that assumed jurisdiction later by simply changing their own laws. No provision of PL280 required tribal assent to this process, although most of the optional states did seek it. The Mandatory states - Alaska (added in 1958), California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon and Wisconsin - received the full extend of the jurisdiction delegated by the Act. The optional states - Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Utah and Washington - assumed all or part of the jurisdiction offered. Consequently, one must look to the state law of the optional states to know what jurisdiction the state assumed.

In PL280, Congress extended state criminal jurisdiction into Indian country, and repealed the federal criminal laws relevant to Indian country for selected states and Indian country. PL 280 probably did not repeal tribal criminal jurisdiction, but the criminal laws of affected tribes could not conflict with state law.

The Supreme Court rules that PL 280's grant of civil jurisdiction did not go as far based on differences between the statutory language in the criminal and civil grants of authority, and the presumption that the Court will not imply limitations on tribal authority. In Bryan, the Court found that the civil grant did not authorize state civil regulation in Indian country. A later case, Cabazon, clarified the distinctions between the civil and criminal sides, establishing the inapplicability of civil/regulatory state laws and the applicability of criminal/prohibitory state laws. This PL280 would not extend into Indian country state laws regulating pollution discharges, but would extend state laws prohibiting murder.

In addition to those judicial limitations, the statue accepts certain types of jurisdiction from both the civil and criminal grants of jurisdiction. States may not alienate tax or otherwise encumber assets held in trust or otherwise restricted by the United States for the benefit of tribes or Indians. In addition, states may not regulate such assets in any way that conflicts with a treaty, statue or agreement. Most importantly, this prevents states from regulating hunting and fishing rights confirmed by treaty or statute. Furthermore, PL 280 bars the state courts from adjudicating ownership, possession, or other interests in trust property.
A brief overview of context is necessary to understand the messages shared by Kathryn Harrison and Benson Heath. It is a stated principle of American Indian law that, under the Indian Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution,1 Congress has plenary power over Indian tribes.2 In the 1950s, as part of a legislative policy appropriately called "termination," the American government enacted a comprehensive program designed to assimilate tribes and eradicate the reservations. The era was ushered in by House Resolution 108 in 1953,3 which set forth a policy of "emancipation." Under the resolution, Congress would extinguish tribal status, revoke federal treaty rights, and halt federal provisions traded for land.

H.R. 108 was followed in rapid succession by bills targeting individual tribes for termination. One hundred and nine tribes in all were terminated, 61 tribes in western Oregon alone,4 where over 2,000 individuals were officially declared devoid of identity. The federal government sold tribal land to the highest bidder, canceled health, housing, and educational programs, and in some cases "removed" individuals to urban areas far from their homes. Tribal laws and governments were abolished.


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Note: This book contains information that is not necessarily endorsed by TAIDA or any of its members. This book is presented here strictly for informational purposes. The book contains personal stories that are interesting to know about, but that might not reflect the opinions or histories of other unenrolled Indians who are struggling with recovering their cultural rights, or of other Indians who ARE able to participate in their Indian cultures even though they are not enrolled in any recognized tribe.
This is information that was sent out regarding the book:
Hundreds of thousands of Native Americans who are unable to enroll in a federally recognized tribe still identify with their indigenous heritage, according to a new book.

"Their voices need to be heard," said David Arv Bragi, author of "Invisible Indians: Mixed-Blood Native Americans Who Are Not Enrolled in Federally Recognized Tribes".

A freelance journalist and enrolled member of the Muscogee Nation, Bragi spent over three years interviewing dozens of unenrolled individuals from over twenty-five North American tribes.

"Hopefully, they will demonstrate that one does not need to carry official papers in one's pocket in order to be a 'real Indian,' " he said.

Like most of the over four million people who listed an American Indian or Alaska Native ancestry during the 1990 US Census, the Mato-Toyela family does not belong to any of the over five hundred tribes that are recognized by the federal government as sovereign nations. Yet they continue to practice Native customs passed down since the beginning of history.

"We lead traditional Indian lifestyles to the best of our ability although we do not 'belong' to a tribe," said Jessie Mato-Toyela, who is descended from the Tarascan tribe of Mexico and lives in Oklahoma with her husband and children. "Some of the traditions of our people, I believe, are ingrained in us, it is instinctual. We eat the food of our ancestors because we know it is good for us."

"If you've heard the phrase 'you can take the Indian out of the woods, but not the woods out of the Indian' it would be close," said her husband, Charlie Mato-Toyela, a maker of traditional flutes who is of mixed Ojibwa, Lakota, Kuna, Choctaw and Cherokee descent. "Much of our life happens in the way our ancestors of thousands of years as well as just one hundred years ago lived their lives, just different environments, different obstacles."

In order to prevent non-Indians from fraudulently obtaining Indian lands, culture, casino profits or government benefits, many tribes have adopted strict membership requirements. Individuals lacking ancestral birth records, who have a low degree of tribal blood, or whose tribes have no political relationship with the federal government, are often denied official recognition of their ancestry.

Instead, they exist in a kind of legal and ethnic limbo, living as multiracial individuals and families in a country that does not fully acknowledge their multiracial heritage. Many of the unenrolled resent their second-class status in Indian Country.

"People at powwows sometimes ask for your [enrollment] card and it is a condition of getting into it," said Charlie Mato-Toyela. "It is a predjudism [sic] that was inflicted on some of us by 'numbering us' like we're in some death camp."

"Legally we have lost our right to be acknowledged as existing," said Barbara Warren, a Cherokee who promotes Indian Education programs in California's public schools. "We receive ridicule from our own 'blood' relations, who call us derogatory names such as wannabes, fake Indians, and traitors."

Yet, living outside of the system, unenrolled Native Americans walk their own unique roads to preserve, reclaim and celebrate their heritage. Some lead extraordinary lives as artisans, pow wow dancers, educators, activists or community elders.

"Please don't tell me I'm playing at being an Indian," said Warren, who also composes and performs northern drum songs with the Feather River Singers and maintains the Web site of an unrecognized but culturally active tribe called the Cherokees of California. "I do it because it is who I am."

"I am mixed blood - more 'white' than 'red.'," said Warren. "My European ancestors came to Turtle Island generations ago - most in the early 1600s. Any emotional ties with my English/Scottish/German ancestors have long ago faded. My sense of who I am is directly connected to this land."

Others choose to honor their heritage privately, observing family traditions, reclaiming lost knowledge, or just remembering in solitude those who came before them.

"Since his birth he has been brought up knowing he is an Indian," said Jessie Mato-Toyela of their young son, River. "He has been to many powwows, loves the drum and dance and song. He speaks a little bit of Lakota - which comes from his father's side - and has learned respect for our beliefs and traditions."

"Invisible Indians: Mixed-Blood Native Americans Who Are Not Enrolled in Federally Recognized Tribes", by David Arv Bragi, was released by Grail Media in September 2005 and is distributed by Lulu, Inc. It can be purchased online or specially ordered from most major booksellers, such as, Barnes & Noble, Borders and Waldenbooks. Its ISBN number is 1411642597

We're Still Here!
Tennessee Indians-Still Walking The Trail of Tears
500 years of Cultural Genocide