The material presented in this section is designed for consciousness raising and empowerment of Tennessee Indians. It is
meant to help a disenfranchised population become more assertive and to help the People establish healthy boundaries and present
themselves to others with a strong self-image. This self-image is not based on aggression, it is based on self-knowledge and
good communication of what it means to be an Indian person who has a right to his/her own culture. This material in this section
also explores some of the covert and overt ways in which many people unwittingly participate in their own disenfranchisement..
Some of the more hidden forms of Cultural Genocide manifest themselves in how Indians and some non-Indians use common words
and phrases that help promote the disenfranchisement of some Tennessee Indians and other Indians. These words wind up
being "Word Games" that promote the continuance of this Genocide.
An example is the word "Unenrolled Indian" which is used to refer to some Tennessee Indians who do not belong
to any state or federal tribe. "Un" takes on the meaning that the Indians being discussed are not Indian because they are
"UN" enrolled. This "Unenrolled" word then takes on its own subconscious power of suggesting that its opposite word, "enrolled"
is the only legitimate way to be Indian."Unenrolled Indian" implies that there must be enrollment or else the person is an
Another word to watch out for is "descendants". Please look up this common word in the dictionary
to see more its meanings. The word, "Descedants" implies not having a legal or social claim to what the people's
ancestors claimed. A Descendant is seen as simply a person who is a remnant of the original. We hear this phrase many
times referring to Tennessee Indians as though they are no longer Indians, but are instead merely "descendants of Indians".
Indians and non-Indians who participate in these Word Games that are actually only Genocide in disguise, are helping to contribute
to the problem instead of contributing to the solution to the problem. Again, this hidden form of disenfranchisement is not
always realized at the conscious level within the mind.
Whenever you hear yourself or others refer to certain Tennessee
Indians as "unenrolled" or as "descendants", it is good to point out that Tennessee Indians are still alive and still in Tennessee.
They have not left their lands and they are holding on to what is their birthright.You might also remind them and yourself
that enrollment was and still is only a means to gain sevices from the BIA, and that enrollment is not necessary for a person
to be Indian.
Enrollment is an issue that faces many tribes, and it is an important issue that is dividing many Indian people today.
All tribes have the sovereign right to determine who their members are, but they do not have the right to determine the ethnicity
of Indians who are disenfranchised from being enrolled in the tribe and who are not members of the tribe as a result
of legal issues. Some of these legal issues reach back hundreds of years in the past, while some issues are of a more recent
Enrollment in tribes where it was necessary to take a "roll" of names and claims for money or lands is now an outdated
process that has become discriminatory. Many Indians in the past refused to put their names on a tribal roll or any kind of
payment roll because that would mean that they were agreeing to having Indian lands divided up and the tribes disbanded. This
is what happened as a result of the Dawes Act.
However, there are many legitimate complaints from Indians who talk about non-Indian pretenders who are "stealing the culture",
and that is a serious issue that needs to be addressed along with the issue that not all Indians are enrolled.
What does enrollment really mean? Enrollment means that a person is a member of a specific tribe and is eligible for services
that are earmarked for that tribe. If that tribe is a federally recognized tribe, then an enrollment card is something like
a "benefits card" which is presented to prove that a person is entitled to the benefits that are given to members of that
Non-enrolled people can be, and still are, Indians if that is their family history and if they are culturally
Indian. All non-enrollment means is that the person is not a member of a specific tribe. Not being a member of a specific
tribe does not do away with a person's own blood ties to his/her People.
Some Indians say that only enrolled Indians are really Indians, because that is a sovereignty issue. They say that only
tribes have a right to determine their members. And that is of course true. As noted above in this article, tribes
do have a right to determine their members, but tribes do not have the right to tell anybody who is not a member that
they are not entitled to their ancestry, or their blood ties that come from that tribe.
When it comes to sovereignty, tribes also have the right to determine who is NOT a tribal member and they do exercise that
right. Many tribes are now culling the rolls, and removing people from the rolls.If a person is enrolled one day and is legally
Indian, yet they are thrown off the rolls the next day, are they not still Indian? Not in the eyes of some Indians who maintain
that tribal sovereignty is supreme over individual sovereignty.
Entire tribes have been terminated in the past, which made those tribal members no longer legally Indian. Is it within
the rights of any government to tell anybody that they are not the ethnicity that they know themselves to be?
The pretenders are there and they are a special issue that deserves attention, but pretenders are not as serious a threat
as disowning Indian people simply because they do not have enrollment cards. It is in the best interests of the entire Indian
community to include all of its People whether they are enrolled or not enrolled. It is not in the best interests of the Indian
community to focus on pretenders to keep the main issue from being addressed. The main issue is that all people of any ethnicity
have their sovereign rights under International Law to self-identify and live as a distinct people.
See information on UNPO in the Links Page, and click on the UNPO link to learn more about the rights of Indigenous
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.