'American Indian' is a racial and not a political recognition

Published: July 28, 2012

Terry Cross (Point of View, July 20) includes a contradiction that undermines the argument in the second paragraph, which reads, pertinently, that “The Indian Child Welfare Act is based upon the unique political status of American Indians, not upon race. This distinction is necessary to emphasize because much of today's dialogue falls prey to the trappings of racial debate, when in fact the law is rooted in Indian tribes' sovereign status ...”

It's plain that the fact of a tribe's “sovereign status” can't be identified with the “political status of American Indians” per se, for it isn't the mere status of an Indian as an Indian that conveys title to a tribe's sovereign status. The “political status” belongs to the tribe; the Indian can at best be a member who may or may not have claim to exercise the sovereignty and may, in fact, not even be a member. Thus, recognition as “American Indian” is a racial and not a political recognition.

W.B. Allen, East Lansing, Mich.

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