Woe is me. It has been hard adjusting to the fact that we are no longer Indians as of a few weeks ago. A United States District Court in Alabama recently ruled that the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians; lawsuit forcing federal recognition was filed after the statute of limitations was up. It was just another technicality decision in a litany of technicality decisions spanning many decades.
First, our petition for federal acknowledgment, whose requirements miraculously changed just as our tribe was up for consideration, was denied. Then the appeals, where all relevant materials - language recordings, yearbooks and papers showing attendance at All-Indian boarding schools - was supposedly received too late and therefore were not eligible for evaluation. Which is understandable because we all know the BIA and Office of Federal Acknowledgment always conduct business in a timely manner.
During this time, more Congressional bills than can be listed here came and went, all dying in the waning moments as lobbyists and casino-rich tribes rushed to the table in order to protect their gaming monopolies. Even an 11-to-2 vote in favor of federal recognition by the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs couldn't save the day.
It is hard not being Indian anymore. But, we have chosen to embrace it! We understand there are quite a few perks to being non-Indian and we want our fair share. We had hoped that since the decision that we are no longer Indians, our per capita family incomes would increase to the level of the surrounding non-Indian population. Unfortunately, that hasn't occurred.
Next, we were under the impression employment opportunities in our community would swing wide open and our unemployment rate would miraculously increase. No, spoiled once again.
Two weeks ago our diabetes rate was bound to go down, but it was the same story. It just hasn't happened. And what are our family members going to do about the upcoming annual reunions at Haskell Indian Nations University, Bacone College and Choctaw Central High School? There will be lots of Indians there! We can't still attend those reunions, can we?
Some people think that now we're in a predicament, but I beg to differ. I have concocted a plan for my folks. First I am going to get in touch with Michael Jackson and find out what skin lightener he used and then give bottles of it to my people. That should take care of the brown skin.
Next, we are going to divide up our reservation like the Allotment Act of the early 1900s or maybe just turn it into a nature preserve. Ecological tourism is racking up money these days and heck, we have a bunch of people who look like Indians so the tours will seem even more authentic.
Unfortunately, the court custody cases we won through the Indian Child Welfare Act will have to be repealed. So do we send the kids back to their non-Indian foster parents now or do we get to keep our own children?
Our tribal court will now be just a ''court,'' we guess. So since it will no longer be valid, maybe we could get on one of those cable shows as a mock court. We already paid all the money for space, so why let it go to waste?
Our Indian art can become ''folk crafts'' and our tribal school can now be a mainstream school with no ''mainstream'' children. As you can see we have a lot of work to do.
We do have one major problem however. We have this despicable Indian language to get rid of. It is really going to hinder our progress as non-Indians. We thought we could teach Spanish instead (since our people can't pass for black or white), but everyone spoke Choctaw in class and it was very distracting. They kept thinking I was saying ''halito'' when I was saying ''Dorito'' and ''cheese and nachos'' when I was saying ''Chishnato?''
Well, better get going, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has asked all people of less than one-quarter Indian blood to leave the building and I see about 80 percent of their staff heading out the door. We might get trampled in a stampede. Chipisalachiki. Oops! I mean, ''adios.''
Cedric Sunray is an enrolled citizen of the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians and administrator of the tribe's language and culture department.