Tlatollotl — Who Decides Who Counts as Native American?


Tlatollotl — Who Decides Who Counts as Native American? – In January 2013, Kelly announced that, after searching through files at the Bureau of Indian Affairs office in nearby Everett, he had reason to doubt the legitimacy of more than 300 enrolled Nooksacks related to the St. Germains, all of whom claimed to descend from a woman named Annie George, born in 1875. In February, he canceled the constitutionally required council meeting, saying it would be “improper” to convene when Rudy St. Germain and another council member, Rudy’s cousin Michelle Roberts, were not eligible to be part of the tribe they’d been elected to lead. A week later, he called an executive session of the council but demanded that St. Germain and Roberts remain outside while the rest of the council voted on whether to “initiate involuntary disenrollment” for them and 304 other Nooksacks, including 37 elders. The resolution passed unanimously. “It hurt me,” Terry St. Germain said later. Even harder was watching the effect on his brother, Rudy. “It took the wind right out of him.” Two days after the meeting, the tribal council began sending out letters notifying affected members that unless they could provide proof of their legitimacy, they would be disenrolled in 30 days. Word and shock spread quickly through the small, tight-knit reservation. The disenrollees, now calling themselves “the Nooksack 306,” hired a lawyer and vowed to contest their expulsion. “I told ’em, ‘I know where I belong no matter what you say,’ ” an 80-year-old woman who, in her youth, had been punished for “speaking Indian” at school, said. “ ‘You can’t make me believe that I’m not.’ ”

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