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Abstract

On March 3, 1839, the Brothertown Indian Nation became the first American Indian tribe whose members had U.S. citizenship. One hundred and forty years later, the tribe learned that it no longer had a government-to-government relationship with the U.S. government. It soon entered the new administrative federal acknowledgment process, where it would remain for three decades. In August 2009, the Office of Federal Acknowledgment issued a Proposed Finding against federally acknowledging the Brothertown. This decision was based in part on the 1839 Act, which OFA determined was a congressional act of tribal termination. Having worked toward tribal survival since its inception in 1785, the Brothertown Indian Nation is once again a victim of the structural and cultural violence present in federal Indian policies, policies that make the government sole judge, juror, and executioner regarding federal acknowledgment. The Brothertown are not the only victims of these policies, but they are in the unique position of either continuing with the status quo or finally (and openly) acknowledging the illegitimacy of the federal government’s assertion that it, and it alone, controls tribal sovereignty.

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