First, the example:
In a head-scratching interview, a New Mexico nominee to represent the state’s 1st Congressional District suggested her Native American opponent isn’t Native American ― because she didn’t grow up on a reservation.
“Your opponent would be the first Native American woman in Congress,” a Fox News host noted.
The nominee replied, “That’s what they say . . . but she’s a military brat, just like I am, and so, you know, it evokes images that she was raised on a reservation.”
Deb Haaland responded that calling the assertion she’s not Native American because she grew up on military bases “racist, an assault on military families, and wrong. For generations, Native Americans have been subjected to genocide, forced assimilation, and government-backed family separation,” she said. “Even today, Native American Tribes suffer through attacks on tribal sovereignty. Despite all of that, Native Americans are still here, we are proud, and we matter. I am proud to be a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna.”
In a weird coincidence, this troublesome example occurred the very same day that I experienced a spookily similar circumstance.
A little background: Some weeks before the above appeared I had joined an online group devoted to “Oklahoma Choctaws”—Face Book group.
If you’ve attended thus far, you know that I come from Oklahoma—that I spent a good deal of my early life in that state and that I am an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. My late maternal grandmother was an original enrollee on the 1887-1907 Dawes Commission Rolls of American Indians of the Five Civilized Tribes living in Indian Territory at the time. More than 250,000 people applied for admission and the Dawes Commission enrolled just over 100,000. My mother’s mother, Ruth Adella Foster, was #15,137 on the Dawes Rolls as of March 26, 1904.
The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma determines membership by lineal descent. The tribe does not have a minimum blood quantum requirement; however, this does not mean anyone with any amount of Indian blood can enroll. Members must be direct descendants of original enrollees.
The Oklahoma Choctaw Group I had joined stated very clearly on its Face Book page that it was a group “for Choctaws and friends of Choctaws to talk about Choctaw things.” At the time there were nearly 4,700 members of the group. And there were six administrators.
Things went along smoothly for a number of weeks. Then a single member seemingly objected to something I had posted on the site and stepped beyond the norms of civility that such groups strive for and began to harass and insult me. It reached the point where I exercised the Face Book option of “blocking” that individual so that he could no longer see my posts and, more importantly to me, I would no longer have to see his.
Within a day or so, I was removed from the group. I contacted two of the administrators to inquire about my removal. One replied that she had not removed me and had no idea but would check on the matter. The other administrator responded similarly.
Turns out, the individual who was harassing me claimed to be himself an administrator, and had removed me by fiat. Another administrator told me that a “new” rule had suddenly appeared on the site that stated there could be no “blocking of administrators”—a curious coincidence, I thought.
A day or so later, I was informed that I had been removed because I wasn’t raised in southeastern Oklahoma, on the eleven and one-half counties designated as the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Understand, I was raised in central Oklahoma—shuffled between a home in Oklahoma City and my grandmother’s home on her allotted land near Newcastle, an hour or so south of Oklahoma City.
I was told that Choctaws from the rural communities of Panki Bok and Broken Arrow were very different from those in Oklahoma City and, I assume, different from those residing in rural farming areas like Newcastle in the 1940s and ‘50s.
Good Choctaw people surrendered their homelands in Mississippi and were subject to forced relocation to Indian Territory in the 1830s and ‘40s, where they were and still are, in essence, restricted by artificial boundaries to what is now southeastern Oklahoma.
The nominee that questioned Deb Haaland’s claim to be Native because she wasn’t raised on a reservation is as patently ridiculous as those leveled at me because the government, in a document I have that is signed by Choctaw Chief Green McCurtain, allotted my family their lands on the Choctaw and Chickasaw lands in central Oklahoma.
I doubt the single rule-making decider I had blocked would have been satisfied had my grandmother been able, somehow, to intuit that just a couple of generations later her family members would be refused participation on social media, and so to avoid that absurd refusal had simply abandoned her two-hundred and ten allotted acres with its oil and gas reserves and returned to southeastern Oklahoma.