The blood quantum and Indian Identification


use of the blood quantum at first glance, the blood quantum appears to be relatively unimportant in the complex web of eligibility criteria. the question of native american identity is so complex on the federal level alone that indianness is defined thirty-three different ways in assorted pieces of legislation.

1 nonetheless, the blood quantum is a common thread throughout these varying definitions. the blood quantum first appeared with the dawes severalty act of 1887, the landmark legislation that divided tribal reservation lands into individual allotments. the dawes act was a benevolent but misguided attempt at reform; its objective was to facilitate assimilation of native americans by ending what the early reformers saw as the isolated and nomadic nature of tribal life. in order to break the tribal structure, the federal government ended legal recognition of tribes and divided tribal lands among individual members. legislators adopted blood quantum standards to prevent white and black americans from claiming shares of the land.

2 however, after allotments were given to all individuals with enough indian blood, a significant amount of tribal land remained. the land was declared surplus and sold to non- indians, reducing native american lands by almost one half. this policy was not reversed until 1934, and the blood quantum standards were never reversed. since the dawes act, many bureau of indian affairs (bia) regulations have provided services to those with one-half or one-fourth indian blood.

3 the indian reorganization act of 1934 (ira) has been the most influential piece of legislation on the question of indian identity. the ira defines indian as a persons of indian descent who are members of any recognized indian tribe now under federal jurisdiction, and all persons who are descendants of such members who were, on june 1, 1934, residing within the present boundaries of any indian reservation, and shall further include all other persons of one-half or more indian blood.

4 despite this generally inclusive definition, the ira still excludes those who are not members or descendents of tribes under federal jurisdiction and who do not have more than one- half indian blood. due to the government complicated procedure for federal recognition and its historical policy of termination, only about 562 tribes are officially acknowledged.

5 because many indians do not meet the federal recognition standard, the ira definition heavily relies on blood quanta. since 1970 the federal government has shifted away from the explicit use of blood quanta. still, the blood quantum as recognized in the ira remains an important concept; bia regulations frequently refer to it when defining an indian.

6 aside from explicit federal use, blood quanta have crept into eligibility criteria through many other channels. even in instances where the courts have struck down use of blood quanta, the bia often uses them informally and secretly. according to margo brownell, an attorney for maslon edelman borman & brand, llp who regularly represents tribes seeking federal recognition, n its eagerness to apply the blood quantum, the bia has time and again proceeded without formally publishing its certification has repeatedly exceeded its administrative authority by imposing a blood quantum where the authorizing statute provided for a different, and often more generous, definition of indian.

7 the federal governments attempts to move toward tribal membership as an eligibility criterion have been largely meaningless due to covert and restrictive bia practices. for the bia, the blood quantum defines indian identity, even when federal law says otherwise. ms. clark is a freshman at dartmouth college.

written by a kathryn clark

found at:

(wolfie note: blood quantum was a means to limit and exclude others from owning these western lands at first... then later, to capture and redistribute as seen fit [the goal all along, especially for the railroads and precious minerals] was all about land. ...not about the indian. notice the blood quantum amount set at that time and thereafter...which could exclude many mixed blood indian who failed to meet it. at that time in our nation's history, land was equivalent to money/wealth. divide and conquer and manifest destiny were the words of those days...especially with the lands west of the mississippi.)

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