For every Indian on the rolls of an official tribe there are two who are not members of a tribe ,unknown, unseen, unrecognized and, invisible. These are not wannabees or fake Indians but real blood Indians. I know because I am one of the unseen. I am Ani-yvwi Tsalagi. My name is Ustahli.
Europeans stole our land, crushed our traditions, and in the case of unrecognized Indians, they even stole our tribes from us. How did this happen to hundreds of thousands of Indians in America? In the early 1800's the U.S. government began to document the number of Indians in the East. This was in preparation for removing them from their land and marching them west of the Mississippi.
We had been fighting the Whites for 300 years by that time and many Indians did not trust the government so they did not answer the call to come in and be counted. The wiser and wilder ones could see what would come of this and stayed away. Most of the settlement Indians signed up on the rolls and within a decade were forced marched to the west.
The undocumented unregistered unseen Indians hid in the forest and sometimes hid in plain sight after all, they were not "official" Indians.
There were two choices, become a documented member of a recognized tribe and be shipped out or, become unseen, unwanted, and unknown and stay in the homeland.
So today, we unrecognized, unseen, and unofficial Indians are still here in our sacred land because we have never left.
My tribe was stolen from me. I still carry my traditions. I still know the stories of the mountains i live in. I still know the ceremonies. I am still Indian,,,,,,,,but invisible.
Good medicine to you all. witsadoligi Ani-Yvwuyu. Dohiyi,
Ustahli ( my name means "inchworm" in tsalagi)