News / USA

US Tribes Struggle With Growing Enrollment

Rising prosperity from casinos, other businesses lures Native Americans back into the fold

The Colville tribe in Washington State is considering a plan to relax the blood requirement in its tribal constitution so that more children of mixed marriages can become members.
The Colville tribe in Washington State is considering a plan to relax the blood requirement in its tribal constitution so that more children of mixed marriages can become members.

Multimedia

Audio
Tom Banse

The rate of natural increase of the U.S. population - births minus deaths - is about one percent per year. However, the growth rates of American Indian tribes over the past decade has been two or three times as high, depending on the tribe.

Enrolling in a tribe is not like immigrating to another country or joining a social club. Tribal citizenship is based on blood lines.

The U.S. government recognizes 566 American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and bands within its borders.



In some respects, they're nations within a nation. Native American tribes can make their own laws on their reservations. Tribal governments have the sole authority to determine who can be a member of the tribe.

Rising prosperity from casinos and other businesses is luring Native Americans back into the fold. However, fast growth has strained the fabric of some tribes, while others wish they had more members.

The swelling membership of the Tulalip Tribes, based near Everett, Washington, for example, is a point of pride for tribal member and state representative John McCoy, who believes improved health care and an above-average birth rate are at play.

"We're living longer. Our babies are surviving birth," says McCoy, adding that more jobs on reservations, led by tribal gaming, is another reason for the growth. "So we have our peoples coming back from other states. They're coming home because there is an economy."

At Tulalip, that adds up to a 22 percent growth rate over the past decade. Other tribes around the country have grown even faster.

And some of those have felt the need to tighten enrollment criteria to control burgeoning growth. California has even witnessed a spate of bitter purges by some tribal governments. The biggest motive appears to be financial.

For example, the Puyallup Tribe in western Washington state currently pays each enrolled man, woman and child $2000 per month in profit sharing. Tribal members voted to clamp down on new enrollments in 2005.

Like the Puyallups, the Grand Ronde Tribe in western Oregon operates a successful casino. Grand Ronde tribal members have revisited their enrollment standards three times since 1999.

The most recent election was a couple months ago. Tribal members voted to keep strict enrollment standards in place. Among other things, new members need to have a parent on the tribal membership roll at the time of birth. Before the vote, Dee Edwards posted a tearful YouTube video about how technicalities in the rules split her family and excluded her grandchildren.

Former tribal councilmember Andy Jenness taped that video and favors a looser standard that wouldn't split families.

"The amount of growth that is acceptable to me is that of natural birth and the tribe growing at the natural rate, whatever that is," Jenness says. "If that means I have less in my per capita check, so be it."

But other members wrote letters and posted online to warn against opening the "floodgates" of tribal membership. Over the years, people have complained about "tribal jumpers." These are Native Americans whose heritage includes connections to multiple tribes.

"Jumping" refers to relinquishing citizenship in one tribe to switch to a richer one. If too many people do that, it can dilute the profit-sharing checks or strain services in the tribe everyone wants to get into.

At the other end of the spectrum are tribes whose enrollments are stagnating, including for example the Colville Confederated Tribes in northeast Washington.

Tribal councilmember Ricky Gabriel has proposed a referendum to relax the blood requirement in the tribal constitution so more children of mixed marriages can enroll.

"I've had a lot of very positive [reactions]," he says. "The elders are extremely happy about this. They're pushing hard. They're seeing their grandchildren not be able to be enrolled."

Enrollment in the tribe currently requires a minimum of one-quarter Colville blood. But when you have intermarriage, that bloodline is diluted. It takes just a couple of generations of intermarriage to put the children at risk of being disqualified from membership.

Then the tribal population withers. The proposed referendum would change the rules to count any Indian blood toward the minimum.

Dozens of tribes around the country including the Tulalips and Puyallups have gotten rid of blood quantum requirements altogether. They now base membership on direct descent from tribal members on the historic rolls.

You May Like

Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More