SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Ketchikan Indian Community Enrollment
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.

Charles Edwardson
KIC Councilmember
Lifelong member of KIC
Ketchikan, AK

Received January 23, 2008 - Published January 23, 2008


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