Yet according to federal regulations,Star Pathlu Hisa,13,does not qualify as a tribe member because she is not one-eighth Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.
Hisa,37,urged Congress Wednesday to eliminate the guidelines.
“We want that removed so we can determine our own citizenship,” Hisa said.
The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo live primarily in El Paso County and have 1,692 enrolled members as of April. “Blood quantum” regulations mandate that tribal members be descendants of those people named on the 1984 Tribal Membership Roll and have one-eighth or more Ysleta del Sur Pueblo blood. Fewer and fewer people meet the quantum requirement,which tribe members say jeopardizes their community’s future.
“If that’s a factor,it could very well be spelling our extinction,” tribal Councilman Christopher Gomez said in an interview. “Our existence as a tribe is on the clock right now.”
Hisa and Gomez attended a hearing of the House Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee in support of H.R. 1560,which would amend the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and the Alabama and Coushatta Indian Tribes of Texas Restoration Act of 1987.
The bill would allow the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo to determine membership qualifications,a right that most other 564 federally recognized tribes already enjoy.
Two tribes that set their own rules have vastly different requirements. To enroll in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians,one must possess at least one-sixteenth degree of tribal blood and be descended from a person named on the tribe’s 1924 roll. Enrollment in the Navajo Nation requires one-fourth tribal blood.
“We’re not asking for anything more than any other tribe has,” Gomez,32,said.
Gomez said about 800 people would be eligible to apply for tribe affiliation through the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo council if the blood quantum regulation is removed.
“It’s a very stringent process that we have set up internally,” he said.
A similar bill passed the House during the last session of Congress but died in the Senate,Hisa said,due to an inaccurate report that the change would require additional federal funding for the tribe.
This year’s bill is sponsored by Rep. Silvestre Reyes D-Texas,who emphasized that putting membership qualifications under the tribe’s jurisdiction would come at no cost to the government. Reyes called the Yselta del Sur Pueblo central to the El Paso community.
“This bill will ensure their survival as the oldest community in Texas,” Reyes said.
U.S. Department of Interior Assistant Secretary Jodi Gillette testified before the subcommittee and endorsed the measure.
Subcommittee members also expressed support.
“It strikes me as one of the inherent powers of sovereignty to determine citizenship,” Rep. Tom McClintock,R-Calif.,said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Koenig at [email protected] or 202-326-9867
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