Micah Armstrong: A war over blood quantum in Indian Country

These vials were used as part of IAIA Blood Quantum Drive, an exhibition of works by students at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo from Facebook

Writer Micah Armstrong wonders what will happen if blood quantum continues to prevail as a standard for tribal enrollment:
There’s a war going on in Indian country. But instead of the cavalry against the tribes, this time it’s the tribes against the tribes. Many tribal councils on reservations do not offer a way for those who are lineal descendants of the tribe to live on the reservations and to legally own land there. This places many people in a position to be torn between two opinions.

One side of the controversial coin claims that by abolishing the certificate of blood standards and by creating a way for lineal descendants to join the tribe, maybe fifty years down the road there would be no full-bloods left living on the reservations. This sparks a belief that it could destroy the culture, and would leave lands to eventually be owned and run by people who were just half-breeds, or less than even that.

This seems like a reasonable argument to many people in numerous tribes, especially when not thoroughly thought through. These sort of knee-jerk reactionary arguments and ideals are the kinds that can tear families apart. This holds especially especially true when those same full-bloods who are against lineal descendants were also the same people who created “half-breed” children by marrying a white man, or white woman.

But this can also pose a problem for those who have lived on the reservation with their families, even if they are less than the minimum blood-quantum for being an enrolled member. Just because they weren’t enrolled due to the government’s standards, doesn’t always mean that they are disconnected from their cultures, or even their people’s languages.

On the other side of this figurative “controversial coin”, many people have begun to consider that through allowing lineal descendants to join their tribe, there would be less disconnection between family members. There could also be a greater opportunity to teach others who had not lived on the reservations, or who had not been raised in that culture, how to continue to use the traditions and trades which had been passed down from generation to generation.

Get the Story:
Micah Armstrong: They’re Called Reservations, Not Preservations (Indian Country Today 8/11)

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