Citizenship and inequality in Native California

Native Americans have endured many hardships throughout history. In modern times, tribal disenrollment is becoming an epidemic for many Native communities. Disenrollment is a non-traditional concept where an individual, or family, is stripped of their tribal citizenship. They are no longer able to participate in tribal affairs, they lose access to healthcare, cultural and financial resources, and the effects are detrimental to an individual’s Native identity and feelings of belonging. This thesis analyzes the causes and consequences of disenrollment. I interviewed seven disenrolled members from three Native Nations in California to understand how and why they were disenrolled, along with how being disenrolled has affected them and their families. Structural violence, symbolic power, and symbolic violence all play a part in disenrollment and it is a violation of a person’s civil and human rights. Based on my findings, I have concluded that disenrollment is a form of inequality that many Native people are experiencing. I have found that the effects of disenrollment range from the fracturing of an individual’s identity, PTSD and other forms of mental trauma, along with experiencing poverty and a lack of resources.