Jodi Rave: Blood, DNA and tribal citizenship

"Tribal nation leaders don't rely on DNA tests as proof of Native heritage, but the majority of tribes have self-imposed criteria that require blood quantum measurements. This means most tribes support and uphold a mechanical proof of tribal heritage, such as three-fourths degree blood.

Judith Kaye, chief judge of the state of New York, called it a “lopsided” case, but commended Ogletree for otherwise presenting superb arguments on behalf of the student who recently discovered her ethnic bloodlines.

After the case ended, I walked up to a huddle of the lawyers and judges. I showed them my tribal identification card from the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota, which clearly displayed my degree of Native blood.

My proof of blood quantum didn't require DNA testing. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has been tracking Native bloodlines for more than a century. Today, most tribes require a person to be at least one-quarter Native. Others simply require proof a relative once appeared on the bureau's tribal enrollment list.

I told the legal experts the mechanics of race is something Native people live with daily. They seemed genuinely amazed enrollment cards existed. Ogletree said I should have stepped forward to help his case.

But the lawyers were arguing something make-believe.

My ID card represents reality."

Get the Story:
Jodi Rave: Should tribes consider ditching blood requirements? (The Missoulian 3/14)

Relevant Links:
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