A Native American's Immigrant Song

"We may be different in color or origin but we are connected in one way or another." -- Lower Elwha Klallam Chairwoman Frances Charles, Canoe Journey 2017

The Dreamer controversy got me thinking, about how we Natives are in fact more connected to immigrants than we might realize, or admit.  

So I wrote a "song" about it.  Here's my riff on it all:

First, I'm no fan of the barbs or memes that Indians are the only people who are not immigrants to the United States.  

That may have been true in 1492 but unless you're a full-blooded Indian---the overwhelming majority of us aren't---you descend from immigrants too.  

Speaking of 1492, there are oral accounts of Columbus' arrival to Haiti, wherein the "Indios" actually welcomed him and his people ashore. Indeed, as the image above suggests, America's Indigenous Peoples have generally been more inclusive of immigrants than we might believe.

So let's end all of the divisive rhetoric about "us" (Indians) versus "them" (immigrants).

Second, let's realize that birthright citizenship, as guaranteed by both the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment and 8 U.S.C. 1401, is a tie that binds certain undocumented persons---like so-called anchor babies---and Indians.  

Simply, if you are "a person born in the United States," you are a citizen of the United States.  8 U.S.C. 1401(a).  Anchor babies, i.e., born unto the land, are United States citizens even though their parents may be "unauthorized."  Id.

Likewise, if you are "a person born in the United States to a member of an Indian, Eskimo, Aleutian, or other aboriginal tribe," you are a citizen of the United States (8 U.S.C. 1401(b)). Indian babies, born unto the land, are also United States citizens under federal law (id.), and may also be a Tribal citizen under many Tribal laws like IRA constitutions that guarantee citizenship at birth.

Third, let's recognize that Indians also immigrate, from one tribal nation to another, through a process called relinquishment.  With tribal peoples having inter-married for generations, it is very common for an Indian to have ancestral ties to multiple tribal nations.

In this day and age, Indians are frequently relinquishing their citizenship with one tribal nation, and becoming a citizen of another.  Although this mode of immigration is often fueled by per capita dollars, it is nonetheless an Indian's prerogative to relinquish and enroll elsewhere.

Fourth, let's also appreciate the potential commonality between Dreamers and too many Indians. Dreamers are persons who were brought to America as children by undocumented parents or others. To many Dreamers, America is the only home they have ever known.

Many Indian children are born away from their Tribe's homelands---as the United States has intended since 1887---but "brought home" to their Tribe and enrolled by their parents or others. To those Indians, their Tribe is the only home they have ever known.  Now several of those Indians are being told, by "leaders" of their Tribe, that they don't belong; they are being disenrolled. 

President Trump threat to deport 800,000 Dreamers after ending DACA makes me think of those Indians.  Much like Autocrat #45, who stands poised to jettison Dreamers from their only home, tribal autocrats are today kicking out thousands and thousands of Indians from their only homes. 

Unconscionably, what President Trump proposes to do, and what as many as 80 tribal autocrats (or autocracies) have already done, is to separate children from their parents and families, and nuclear families from their extended families; and to displace them all from their homes.

We as Native people, knowing full well the traumatic effects of separation and displacement, should raise our voice against the injustice we are witnessing throughout the land. 

This is my immigration song.

Gabriel S. Galanda is the managing lawyer of Galanda Broadman, PLLC, in Seattle. Gabe is a descendant of the Nomlaki and Concow Tribes, belonging to the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Northern California.  He is also of Austrian, Scandinavian and Portugese descent.