This “About” page has undergone two prior facelifts. I generally hate writing sections like these, but can’t seem to find a reason to NOT write them. Here’s the third attempt:
Notes on Indian Law was borne out of frustration with my lack of understanding of Native American law despite the fact that, at the time of this blog’s inception, I was both a law student and (still) Native American. Subsequent studying and research has ameliorated most of my legal ignorance on this subject, though Indian law is quirky and still amazes me sometimes. By and large, this blog deals with some of the seedier sides of tribal sovereignty, namely tribal disenrollment. This blog’s flagship article series, Greed or Growing Pains, kickstarted my quest into understanding the plight of the disenrolled and why gaming tribes do what they do. Needless to say, I am not anti-gaming, far from it; it can be quite beneficial when used responsibly. When it is not, it can be quite devastating to Indian families.
For the full gamut of substantive blog articles, please refer to the page, First Time Here? to get started.
I should also stop and point out that even though I am an attorney, I am not your personal attorney. Please read my Disclaimer to see what I mean. This blog is for your informational enlightenment only, and not a solicitation for employment.
Although I generally avoid giving out biographical information on my blog, I feel I should state a few things which might explain why I have the opinions that I have. I was born and raised in Fresno, CA, where I grew up and attended college here. I went to law school at the San Joaquin College of Law in Clovis where my passion for knowledge and learning the law took full flight and I haven’t come down since.
While growing up, my grandparents told me numerous times that my ancestors came from a place called Ah-Wah-Nee, or as it is better known, Yosemite. My family and I are descendants of Ten-ie-ya (or Tenaya in popular vernacular), who was a Paiute Indian. The Indian history in and around Yosemite is fraught with mistakes, errors, and lies, committed either intentionally or negligently, by various federal government officials, other Indians, and various private individuals (both well-meaning and otherwise). Though you would never have thought about it, the picture of Indian identity within the park, both past and present, is not the full story. Curiously, I have shied away from using this blog as a means to tell everyone what I think about the situation and perhaps set the record straight. It is not for a lack of devotion to my heritage, I assure you. Time, research, and plain ol’ reluctance to take up such a monumental task keeps me from talking about it. Plus, it’s a subject that is immensely personal to me and I fear losing objectivity. However, the time may come when that will no longer stop me as I keep seeing abuses piled up on my ancestor’s lands and origins. For most people, the future is uncertain. In Yosemite, even the past is uncertain.
On the other end of the spectrum, I am mixed blood. While I am federally enrolled through my great-grandmother’s people (Walker River Paiute), my bloodline is intermixed with European and Hispanic origins. California is a great melting pot, beginning with the Native Americans, then the introduction of the Spanish, the Mexicans, and then the white man. In and around Central California it’s not uncommon to see Native Americans with Hispanic surnames. Other times you’ll see Native Americans with Euro-centric names as they assimilated into the population. For example, Rhoan. I’ve never been called “half-breed,” or a “nosebleed,” but I’ve often felt like that, standing with each foot in two separate worlds. In some ways, I am a mutt; but as my grandmother and grandfather always told me, I am a Native American and should always think of myself that way.
My sensitivity for Indian issues stems from these two places, Yosemite and my mixed blood heritage. In one sense, I am aware of the special and particularized needs of the Indian community, the importance of elders, the maintaining of tradition, protecting sacred sites, the survival of language, and the need for self-reliance. And yet I am pulled in another direction, one that stresses the Judeo-Christian foundations of this country, devotion to federalist principles, the need for fair and equal adjudication of our laws, and most of all, grateful for the liberties and freedom that America has provided me.
It’s a tough road to walk sometimes. I believe, perhaps naively, that there is a place for a stable, co-existence between Native America and the United States, based on mutual respect. However, the reality is that one group of people is clearly subordinate to the other. Documenting the clashes between Indian law and American federal law is what this blog is truly about, even with all my attention on tribal disenrollment. Even with that narrow subject, the intersection of gaming and Indian culture is truly a collision of Native and European values. It’s forcing tribes to deal with issues of Indian identity, cultural maturation, and a vast change in tribal infrastructure that no tribe has ever had the capacity to deal with in all the years leading up to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. It is truly a time for growing pains in Indian Country.
So, welcome to Notes on Indian Law, written by a mixed-blood Indian attorney who likes to think he can see both sides of an argument in a murky, ever-changing legal and cultural environment. I will never profess to having the answer, only an answer. And it might be wrong or misguided. If I was truly right about anything I wouldn’t have gotten into so many debates with people over what an answer should look like.
The ultimate goal of Notes is not to change the world or even a mind, but to inform, to enlighten, and hopefully, to encourage critical thinking and discussion of the issues brought up here.
I have an opinion on certain issues and you will have yours. If you wish to express them here, then feel free. All I ask is that you keep it clean, don’t troll, don’t be obnoxious; and, please, make coherent arguments that substantively relate to the post you’re commenting on. If you are just here to make noise then don’t expect to have your comments published. This is my blog and you are welcome to go start your own if you don’t like mine. For the rest of you, thanks for reading.