It was 19 years ago, today when Neal McCaleb, the Assistant Director of Indian Affairs, reversed our federal recognition. I remember it like it only happened a couple days ago. The pain of something like that never really dulls, especially when the injustice remains.
I was fifteen years old and an apprentice to the Northwest Region’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) fisheries biologist. As I was getting ready for work, I heard my mom gasp. I ran out of my room to see what was wrong. I saw her trembling, holding the Oregonian. Her eyes flashed from pain to rage and back. She cursed. I had no idea why she was swearing.
I was hesitant to ask her about what she had read in the paper. She covered her face with her hand and began to sob. I crept over, put my hand on her shoulder, and asked what had happened. She turned and looked at me. What came out of her mouth next was a punch in the gut. “The fucking Bush Administration stripped us of our rights. We are no longer a recognized tribe.”