The arbitrary Indian: the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 by Gail K. Sheffield

By Gail K. Sheffield

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The arbitrary Indian: the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990

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So if a person has a Seneca father and an Onondaga mother, it is not possible to get an enrollment number, even though that person is 100 percent Indian. I do not question the rights of the tribes to set whatever criteria they want for enrollment eligibility; but in my view, Page 27 that is the extent of their rights, to say who is an enrolled Seneca or Mohawk or Navajo or Cheyenne or any other tribe. Since there are mixed bloods with enrollment numbers and some of those with very small percentages of genetic Indian ancestry, I don't feel they have the right to say to those of us without enrollment numbers that we are not of Indian heritage, only that we are not enrolled.

Just as Americans are citizens of multiple polities, that is, of their cities, states, and of the United States, so are tribal members citizens of their tribe as a political sovereign entity, of their states, and of the United States. There are also other tribes that have no sovereign status and some tribes that are only recognized by their state governments (further discussed in chapter 3). The political nature of tribal status is one step removed from considerations of "ethnicity"; reapply the political definitions to a sphere such as art and they are two steps removed, an arbitrary process that creates arbitrary effects.

To say that I am not [Indian] and to prosecute me for telling people of my Indian heritage is to deny me some of my civil liberties, to disenfranchise me and others like me and constitutes racial discrimination. What I ask is for justice for those of us who are in fact of Indian heritage by blood ancestry, whether or not we are enrolled members of Indian tribes. S. , who is of three-sixteenth Indian ancestry and was raised on the reservation by her mother, a well-known Indian artist, and her full-blood grandmother, spoke as follows: I knew of no other lifestyle than that which was provided to me with my tribal surroundings.

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