Growth of Northwest Tribes Outpaces General Population

Growth of Native American populations in Northwest tribes has outpaced general population growth and been a source of pride and strain among tribal members.

Membership in Northwest tribes has grown faster than the general population, reports Northwest News Network. This growth has strained some tribes and strengthened others.

The natural increase of the population is one percent a year. Tribes in the Northwest have grown by two or three times as much over the past decade.

The Tulalip Tribe has seen a 22 percent growth rate over the past decade. Tribal member and Washington state representative John McCoy is proud of the growth. He attributes the increase to better health care, high birth rates and economic development on the reservation.

“So we have our peoples coming back from other states,” he told Northwest News Network. “They’re coming home because there is an economy.”

On the other hand, some tribes that have seen financial success have cut down on new enrollments. The Grand Ronde Tribe in Oregon voted recently to continue with strict enrollment standards. This decision has negatively affected a number of would-be tribal members.

A YouTube video posted in October 2011 (see below) shows an upset Dee Edwards discussing how her grandchildren are no longer eligible to be tribal members since the stricter enrollment standards took effect.

“None of the children born in our family after 1999 can be enrolled,” she says. The enrollment standards have divided her family because grandchildren of her older siblings are enrolled members. “It’s hard to not be envious of them with their security with that magic number and I want that for my grandchildren. It’s their birthright.”

At the far other end of the spectrum are tribes that want to relax enrollment standards because enrollment is stagnant. Ricky Gabriel, a councilmember for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, supports the relaxed standards.

“I’ve had a lot of very positive (reactions),” he told Northwest News Network. “The elders are extremely happy about this. They’re pushing hard. They’re seeing their grandchildren not be able to be enrolled.”

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Dee Edwards discusses how stricter enrollment standards of the Grand Ronde Tribe have divided her family: