How Indian Are You?---A case against today's use of Blood Quantum

Nurses General Nursing


Specializes in Med-Surg, Geriatric, Behavioral Health.

Of the 12 races listed on the latest census form, only one has an official membership card. That document, known as "the white card," is what makes an Indian an Indian at least in the eyes of many U.S. government and tribal programs. Not surprisingly, the use of the white card to record a human pedigree raises civil rights concerns. The use of "blood quantum" to define a genetic cut-off point for Indian people is viewed by many as an instrument of assimilation or extermination. Yet over a century, blood quantum has become a deeply ingrained and even valued tool in the relations between sovereign tribes and the rest of world.As a new generation of Indians comes of age, blood quantum reform may be closely tied to the future of Indian nations and cultures.

COREY LAWRENCE IS A HALF-BLOOD SPEAR LAKE SIOUX. Lawrence, a junior at St. Cloud State University, is an enrolled member of the North Dakota tribe along with his father. But his mother is Ojibwe, and right now that means Corey Lawrence's grandchildren will probably no longer make the cut at Spear Lake. "It's an iffy thing. I'm enrolled, but after my kids have kids that's it. They can't be enrolled any more and the funding stops. And that's what I think blood quantum was set up to do. In a way, it could be seen as genocide," says Lawrence. The vast majority of Indian tribes require one-quarter blood, specifically from their reservation, for enrollment. One full-blooded grandparent, for example, would give someone a blood-quantum of one-quarter. Today, blood quantum data is dispersed among the records of 558 federally-recognized tribes. But conventional wisdom holds that most enrolled Indians, especially in the younger generation, have a blood quantum of less than one-half. This is of some concern to groups like the Minnesota Chippewa. "It's against our spiritual beliefs to marry someone within your clan," says Tom Andrus, who teaches Ojibwe history at St. Cloud State University. He notes the irony that Minnesota's Ojibwe clans can maintain their bloodline only by betraying their culture.

Written by a Jeff Horwich

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