Watching the Webcast for the hearing that occurred on Nov. 4 entitled “Fixing the Federal Acknowledgment Process,” hosted by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I was struck by the same story that my own people face.
One of the most striking testimonies, and one so familiar, was that of Anne D. Tucker, chairperson, Muscogee Nation of Florida. I felt her words and they stirred my heart deeply. Her words rang out the voice of so very many non-recognized Native American Indian descendants from all across this country. The ton of paper work, the Jim Crow mind set, the burning of records; these are descriptions of our struggle to be heard and remembered.
The way in which Tucker described her peoples growing sense that the system and the process would never work; she was not only saying it for Muscogee Nation of Florida, she was saying it for the Saponi people and all the rest of the non-recognized Native American descendants from the eastern shores to the Pacific, from Alaska to the Midwest and all points in between.
Non-recognized Native American descended people are among the most at risk for completely losing their identity. We so often hear about the plight of the reservation people, but how often do we hear about the plight of non-recognized Indian people? When you see these mixed-bloods do not heap more derision upon a people that have suffered. Do not think of them as “wannabes,”“thin-bloods,” “little-bloods,” or “hobbyists.” Do not think of them as “twinkies,” ”new agers,” or as “culture vultures.” They have been through enough and they still struggle with their identity and reviving their cultures.
Instead, strive to offer support to them for they are your brothers and sisters sharing a common history of colonial devastation and assimilation. They may not all look like you and, in fact, many may look African or European, but they are Native American descended people who are constantly denied their history, identity and religious freedom. They do not have reservations or access to the types of funding that federally recognized tribes enjoy. They are the poorest and most oppressed in Indian country. In fact, this segment of the Native American population is the most beset upon ethnic group in the United States today. What other ethnic group can claim that their 1st Amendment Freedom of Religion is contingent upon being federally recognized?
There are certainly problems and devastating conditions that exist on reservations today as has always been the case, however if you look at non-recognized Indian people that do not live on a reservation they too deal with poverty, lack of education, lack of health care, alcoholism and drug addiction.
They have the added burdens of identity crises and access to services all the while being derided by outsiders as well as federally recognized Indian people that fear their numbers. Say a prayer for these people and lend them your support for but the grace of God you could have been born among them.
– Scott Preston Collins
Saponi Nation of Ohio