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It is important to begin by explaining why I take the title of my essay from the statement in President Barack Obama's 2009 Inaugural Address: "the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve." During the address, his words affected me and they remained with me long afterward. President Obama may very well have meant what he said in a metaphoric or figurative sense; I have certainly been provided with many interpretations and assurances by most that a literal meaning was not his intent and that he instead spoke in a good way of the beneficial melting of divisions between us." It serves my purposes, however, to complicate the statement's usage and to choose not to lose the opportunity to consider it in a literal sense given the history of our country, and not only our country, but the whole of the American continent. That is to say that there is a belief that the dissolution of the lines of tribe, in fact, can result in good and in peace. It is the chilling language and metaphor of colonists. I am familiar with the history of the good that white reformers thought would come from detribalization of Indigenous Peoples in the United States. Detribalization efforts severely weakened the lucky, but destroyed and disappeared others, and, in doing so, opened vast tracts of lands for, yes, the peaceful settlement by others. We have seen the lines of tribe dissolve, and not in a poetic sense, but violently. President Obama's reference to tribes brought to mind the modem tribal peoples the United States is engaged with in Iraq, Afghanistan, and within its own boundaries. There can be hope for a peace that does not require that the lines of tribe dissolve. "Additionally, President Obama's words evoke a picture that connects to present work on Indigenous identity. The words evoke an image that modem day tribes, in their utilization of blood quantum, may be hastening along. To a tribal person, "the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve" means the end of a tribe's existence. There is no Indigenous identity without the existence of tribe, or "the People." Such words convey the failure to recognize the significance of tribalism, of the United States' history with tribes, and of the sense of how near we came in this country to its literal meaning. The statement, spoken as metaphoric prophecy, focused my attention on the lynchpin of tribe (that is the continuation of"tribe", or "the People") to Indigenous identity and the link between blood quanta, the line of tribe, and dissolution.

Publication Title

Berkeley La Raza Law Journal



First Page



Detribalization, Tribe, tribalism, Indigenous identity



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