Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sketch of the Brothertown Indians

The "Sketch of The Brothertown Indians" was written in 1855 by Thomas Commuck, a member of that community. It was initially published in the Wisconsin Historical Collections in 1859. In the first sentence, Commuck makes it clear that he believes that his tribal government had made the right decision in the 1830's when they chose to accept citizenship and allowed their reservation to be divided into parcels for private ownership.

Today's Brothertowns continue to be an organized community, still not recognized as Indians by the United States government. However, the Brothertowns, whose headquarters is now in Fond du Lac (WI), have been trying for a long time to become "re-recognized," and federal agencies are now giving it some serious consideration. A government anthropologist was sent to Fond du Lac a few weeks ago to gather data.

The Citizen vs. Indian controversy is complex enough that I really want to be careful to avoid making any generalizations about it. At least for some period of time, many of the Brothertowns felt that Citizenship was the right choice for them. Meanwhile, their neighbors, the Stockbridges, were divided more-or-less evenly on the Citizen vs. Indian controversy and their political in-fighting was so bitter that it nearly destroyed that Native nation. I would say that the Brothertowns now wish their ancestors had kept their tribal recognition, but, I bet the way they look at it now is that their ancestors shouldn't have had to choose between being recognized as citizens and recognized as Indians. And who can blame them for that?

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