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ICFRC: The Indian Card: America's Native Identity Problem

Listen to an audio podcast of this program.

Over the last twenty years, there's been an explosion in the number of people who are checking the so-called "Indian box." More than 9.7 million people in the United States self-identified as Native American or Alaska Native in the 2020 census, twice as many as in 2000 when the number was just 4.1 million. And while there have been some changes in the way things are measured or defined, nothing can explain the astronomical rise. Rather, the story over the last twenty years is one of more and more people claiming -- perhaps for the first time -- to be Native.

As more and more people claim Native-ness, the irony is the fewer and fewer people are able to clear the tribal membership "hurdle." That is, fewer people are able to prove either lineage or DNA that is sufficient to formally enroll in a tribe. In The Indian Card, University of Iowa Associate Professor Carrie Schuettpelz (Lumbee) explores this issue by weaving together history, policy, and storytelling.

Carrie Schuettpelz is an Associate Professor of Practice, University of Iowa School of Planning and Public Affairs, focusing primarily on social policy, homelessness, and poverty. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors for the Iowa Balance-of-State Continuum of Care, she works with communities across the state to create plans to prevent and end homelessness. She also serves as the Vice President of the Native American Council.

Prior to joining SPPA, Carrie was a homelessness policy advisor in the Obama Administration from 2009-2016. She was a Fulbright Scholar in 2006, which was awarded by the U.S. Department of State to study the East-West divide of the European Union in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is a trained storyteller and teaches digital storytelling at a variety of levels. She is also at work on a nonfiction book about Native identity. She is an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. She has a MFA degree in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison 2016, and a MPP degree from Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government 2009.

For more information about the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council, visit icfrc.org.

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