Residency and Enrollment: Tribal Citizenship and the Catawba Indian Nation

Friday, January 3, 2014: 2:50 PM
Columbia Hall 5 (Washington Hilton)
Mikaela Morgane Adams, University of Mississippi
Tribal membership is a legal identity that incorporates, but does not mirror, ethnicity. Although individuals may have indigenous ancestry or cultural ties to a Native community, without official tribal membership they lack legal standing as Indians. Tribes have the right to set their own membership criteria, yet these decisions have frequently generated controversy as certain groups and individuals complain of unfair exclusion from enrollment lists. Such has been the case of the Catawba Indian Nation in South Carolina. After most of the tribe converted to Mormonism in the late nineteenth century, several tribal members migrated west to Utah and Colorado with missionaries. The descendants of these migrants considered themselves Catawba, but the tribe excluded them from its official membership rolls. This paper explores the process that led to that exclusion, including how state-paid appropriations, cultural and political considerations, and federal demands for a fixed membership roll played into the tribe’s ultimate enrollment decisions. Examining the role of residency in the creation of the Catawba roll provides insight into the tension that sometimes exists between ethnicity and legality. The Catawba example illustrates how one tribe decided who belonged.