Ketchikan Indian Community
By Charles Edwardson
January 23, 2008
There needs to be tribal member involvement in discussions such
as ennoblement. Ketchikan Indian Community (KIC) has been designated
an IRA tribe and by definition is a non-traditional tribe. But
when founded KIC adopted a constitution that was ratified by
the Secretary of the Interior. In that constitution, lineal descendants
at the time of the adoption and one year after that were and
are the only people with the (right) to be a KIC member.
You do not (I repeat do not) need to be a member of KIC to receive
health care at our clinic; you do need to be of American Indian,
Alaska native decent. There is a wide misconception that it is
a right to be a KIC member if you are a native of any kind. This
is simply not true. There are strict criteria and residence on
this island is one of them. Any tribe in the nation demands some
affiliation with the tribe to be considered a member, to be a
member of a tribe involves a lot more than simply receiving services
by virtue of your race.
KIC relaxed their enrollment criteria in the past (as a self
governing tribe we can do this, but we are not required to) when
we were membership based formula funded. It was a bad decision
then and even more so now as the federal government funding formulas
are not so much membership based, and are going to get worse.
We will in the near future be on a performance based method of
funding and with the same amount of federal funding and less
in many cases, and with many more members (due to a much too
lenient acceptance process to be a member) than the funding was
designated for. How can we possibly perform well?
KIC, when it was founded, was intended to help preserve the native
population on this island and to help us establish self determination.
How we became the most relaxed tribe in the nation in accepting
new members was a series of bad decisions and very short term
planning. This is hard for many to hear, especially people that
are not able to receive the benefits of a native organization,
but I will say it anyway. It is not a God given or government
sanctioned right to be a member of KIC, it is a privilege.
I would challenge any American Indian or Alaska Native to go
try to join another tribe, say the Navajo Nation, Sioux nation,
or even Saxman or Metlakatla. I imagine there would be much more
criteria than simply filling out a piece of paper and then you're
a member as we currently do at KIC. There most defiantly would
be blood quantum levels much higher than (0) as proposition 1
would have afforded. There most defiantly would be a requirement
for you to live with or near the tribe, and lineal descendancy
would be a must also, unless adopted. And the question we fail
to ask at KIC - which would be the most important in my opinion
- why do you want to be a member of KIC? I suspect that since
we are a non-traditional tribe with Tlingit being the most dominant,
followed by Tsimshian, and Haida, the answer would be - if you
are not one of these nations - is that you would like to receive
the health care and other programs that are offered to our tribal
members. Which brings me back to the fact that you do not need
to be a member of KIC to receive health care here, only proof
of Indian blood of any kind!!
The next question we fail to
ask at KIC is why, since you cannot be in two federally recognized
tribes at the same time, would you want to give up your own affiliations
and ties to your own tribe or nation to become a KIC member?
"'Is it simply the desire and pride to be recognized as
a member of a tribe"" or for the benefits that come
with being a member of this tribe? If it is the former then the
political and social landscape has changed for the better in
a very short period of time. If it is the latter then some research
on the part of the person who wants to join KIC strictly for
the benefits should be done.
You may not have to give up
your identity to receive many of the services offered to all
Indians, or Natives in the United States.
Lifelong member of KIC
Received January 23, 2008 -
Published January 23, 2008
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