Skip to main content
Indigenous New England Digital Collections
Search using this query type:

Search only these record types:

Advanced Search (Items only)

"Op-Ed" (2014) by Ruth Garby Torres


"Op-Ed" (2014) by Ruth Garby Torres


Ruth Garby Torres is a member of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation (Indian Legal Program 10). She is an author, public servant, academic, and a recipient of numerous awards for her work (Charter Oak "Alumni"). A lifelong Connecticut resident, except for a brief period in Cambridge, Massachusetts while studying at Harvard, Torres is well-known in her community for her expertise regarding policy surrounding Native American tribal recognition; she has written and spoken about the issue extensively (Rodriguez).

Torres received her Bachelor's degree in an online program at Charter Oak State College and her Master of Public Administration from the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government ("Spotlight"). Torres has been involved with public service since she was a teenager, when she was elected to the Schaghticoke Tribal Council, the youngest Schaghticoke councilor in history. She has worked for the Connecticut State police for over twenty years, in numerous capacities (Rodriguez). Torres has served on many different boards and committees, including the Yale Native American Cultural Center board ("Spotlight"). During her time at Harvard, Torres participated in the program "From Harvard Square to the Oval Office," which aims to give women better access to positions working in public policy (Rodriguez). Now that she has an MPA, Torres plans on continuing her work in public service, specifically on public policy in Indian country to improve the quality of life for Native peoples ("Spotlight").


A number of Torres' works appear in anthologies, such as Dawnland Voices: An Anthology of Indigenous Writing from New England and Recognition, Sovereignty Struggles, and Indigenous Rights in the United States: A Sourcebook, and she has facilitated many formal discussions surrounding indigenous rights in America (Rose). Along with a fellow Schaghticoke tribal member, Trudie Lamb-Richmond, Torres co-edited the section in Dawnland Voices focusing on the Schaghticoke tribe.

In Torres’ 2014 op-ed, “Six things you did not know about the federal acknowledgement of Indian tribes,” she presents the basics of federal acknowledgement of Indian tribes in clear, plain language, with plenty of humor and wit. The piece highlights the many struggles that Native people face when seeking recognition, and similar issues. Torres is particularly invested in Tribal Recognition practices, as the Schaghticoke, have been alternatively recognized and de-recognized at both state and federal levels over the course of history. Their status is still presently unresolved, and the Schaghticoke people remain in a kind of political limbo. Torres comes from a long pedigree of Schaghticoke writers addressing government entities, particularly concerning sovereignty and tribal rights.

Torres is particularly on point in her op-ed, wittily engaging a largely uniformed audience, while also insisting on the lasting presence of Native peoples in New England. It is a commonly held belief that all the Native people in New England died after King Philip’s War, which did result in the deaths of many Native people. Although many Natives lived on after Philip was executed, the public delusion that Native populations disappeared after the conflict still persists in the twenty-first century. Indians still live in New England, and our constant denial of that is harmful, which Torres underscores.

Torres' awareness of public perception of Native people is apparent in her bitingly accurate recognition of policies and media that continue to make Native struggles difficult today. Torres explains how changes to the federal recognition process are not actually making the process easier for tribes, and she notes how the media portray Indians as freeloaders who want to take advantage of tribal sovereignty (which then perpetuates broader public biases against all Natives). Torres highlights how reality is quite different than media scape-goating, citing the City of Sherrill vs. Oneida Indian Tribe case, which holds that tribal sovereignty will not be restored just because the historically tribal land was repurchased. Essentially, land that has been Indian land for generations (hundreds of years) that has moved to other hands, often through illegal processes, becomes no longer accessible by Natives. Torres highlights how such cases are unfortunately common, and that Native rights are consistently challenged, denied, or whittled away, despite constant effort to maintain them. Her writing is enriched by deep research and an awareness of mainstream media bias; she is careful and methodical in making her points clear and well-informed.

Again, aware of media presentation and public biases and false perceptions, Torres notes that the Obama administration has been trumpeted for making federal recognition “easy." While the changes to the process of federally recognizing tribes have definitely made it easier for Natives to have their tribes recognized, the process remains far from “easy”. Torres succinctly writes:

Rebuilding a tribal nation’s infrastructure after nearly four hundred years of purposeful demolition is difficult, and over the last decade, has been further complicated by U.S. Supreme Court rulings.  And, by the way, this is a national issue – affecting the future of Indian peoples across the country – and none of the local media outlets are reporting on that.

Beyond defending her own community, Torres recognizes the jeopardy of all tribal Nations and peoples. While she writes from her own tribal perspective, her writing reaches beyond their sphere and recognizes the national import of these issues, both in the media, and in their impacts on the many Native peoples involved.

Torres writes beyond her own tribe, remarking that tribal recognition is only one issue amongst many that Native people face in a global context. Showing her vision beyond the local, Torres notes that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, released in 2007, announced that the rest of the world “must understand, negotiate with and live among the world’s indigenous populations" (Torres). The Declaration had been in process for over twenty-five years by the time it was revealed. Torres notes the magnitude of the many injustices Natives in our country must face, and the various frictions that exacerbate their ability to do so. As a powerful, persuasive living example, Torres has dedicated much of her life to fighting these injustices and educating other people about them, so that maybe they can do the same. 

Works Cited

CharterOak State College. "Alumni Spotlight: Ruth Garby Torres." CharterOak State College. Jan. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2015.

---.  Alumni. CharterOak State College. 2015. Web. 18 Apr. 2015.

Rose, Christina. "Connecticut Attacks Proposed Fed Rec Revisions, Fears Land Claims, Casinos." Indian Country Today Media Network. 10 June 2014. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.

Indian Legal Program. "Speaker Biographies." Who Decides You're Real? Fixing the Federal Recognition Process. January 16-17, 2014,  Arizona State University,     College of Law, Ventana Ballroom, Tempe, AZ. Tempe, AZ: Indian Legal Clinic, 2014. Web.

Rodriguez, Karla. "Spotlight on CAWP Member Ruth Garby Torres: A Woman of the Future." Connecticut Association of Women Police. Hollis Internet Marketing, LLC, 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2015.

Torres, Ruth Garby. "Op-Ed: Six Things You Did Not Know about the Federal Acknowledgment of Indian Tribes." The CT Mirror. The Connecticut News Project, 03 June 2014. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.



Torres, Ruth Garby


CT Mirror June 3, 2014




Alexa Procaccianti UNH '15


Ruth Garby Torres. Used with permission.









Copy the code below into your web page