Thursday, February 09, 2023

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D. Summary

The degree to which Indigenous people avail themselves of the American citizenship that has been conferred upon them is directly related to the degree to which the Indigenous population has assimilated into American society and the degree to which Indigenous sovereignty has been jeopardized. If Indian people believe that participating in the American political system will have more of an impact on their well-being than participating in tribal politics or seeking to revitalize reservation life, then that alone is the best evidence that the colonizing nation has succeeded in devaluing the role of one's Indigenous nation in daily life. Ideally, rather than finding ways in which to extend American society even more so into Indigenous life, Indian people should be working toward the day when their own tribal governments are strong enough and legitimate enough to serve as the exclusive mechanism for representing tribal concerns in relations with the federal, state, and local governments.

Willing and aggressive participation in the American political system suggests that Indigenous people have forgotten that we are citizens of our own nations. At least for now, the United States recognizes this fact even if we fully do not. Rather than being merely classified as a racial minority, America continues to recognize us as citizens of our own sovereign nations in a nation-to-nation relationship with it. When we stop acting like citizens of our own nations and only act like citizens of the United States, our sovereignty will have expired. This objective, of course, was the reason why the Citizenship Act of 1924 was enacted in the first place. But unfortunately, too many Indigenous people today have been “educated” to ignore the reality that our recognition as sovereign nations has always been tenuous. This could be a costly mistake. As Wilkins and Witmer have concluded:

tribal members' full throttle participation in the American political process might foretell starker days in the future when the collective rights of sovereign tribes might be curtailed or even terminated because of these very acts of political participation.