There is no quicker way to start an argument on the internet among Indians than to bring up the issue of blood quantum. I discovered that recently. You will hurt feelings and make enemies.
It is an issue with which many Tribes are struggling. Some Tribes have dropped blood quantum in favor of descendancy. You no longer have to prove a certain level of Indian blood. You do have to prove that you are a direct descendant of an original enrollee with the Tribe.
One of the questions is “Does Indian blood run out at some point?” If someone is 1/32 Indian and 31/32 white could they still be considered Indian? Will they still think and act like an Indian? The general American public will most certainly consider them to be white. They will probably be culturally white.
During the 1950’s and 1960’s the federal government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs had a program called “Termination.” It was the death blow to Indian status. Some enrolled Tribal members were lured into voting for termination by greed. If a vote for termination was passed, the Tribal members would receive a money settlement and they would no longer be considered Indian by the federal government.
That is a fear of many Tribal members who oppose doing away with blood quantum or lowering it. Most of those who voted for termination did not live on their reservations. They did not want to. They wanted to move into white society. They could and should do that on their own without jeopardizing the whole Tribe.
The question of blood quantum becomes one of morality and loyalty. Will the person who is 1/32 Indian and 31/32 white be loyal to the Tribe or to white society in general? Will their thinking still be Tribal? Will they look out for the good of the whole Tribe? Or will they look out for themselves before anyone or anything else?
In the Pacific Northwest Treaty Rights had to be proven and secured in court. That included fishing, hunting, shellfishing and gathering medicines, and plant food and whaling.
On May 17, 1999 the Makah successfully hunted their first gray whale in nearly a century. Animal rights activists from around the world came to protest. They used stereotypes and racism to turn local citizens against the Makah. Racists did not differentiate between the Makah and other Tribes in the area.
Seashepherd International, headed by Paul Watson, advertised for anyone with Indian blood to speak out against the Makah whale hunt. In Port Angeles he found one woman claiming to be Navajo and one man claiming to be Chippewa. Neither one appeared to be Indian. They were not enrolled. They wrote letters to the editor and made speeches as “Indians” who were opposed to the Makah Hunt.
Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say they were actually 1/32 Indian or less. Their loyalty was to their white blood.
The local Tribes unanimously supported the Makah Treaty Right to hunt whales. Those with a faint drop of Indian blood chose to stand with the racists.
Jonathan Paul of Ocean Defense International called a press conference demanding that the federal government revoke and renegotiate all our Treaties. He wanted the phrases retaining our rights to hunt removed.
Jonathan Paul is an animal rights activist that was convicted of arson in 2006. Self-proclaimed Indian, Ward Churchill did a benefit speaking engagement for Jonathan Paul and his cohorts.
Churchill is a coordinator of the Denver Autonomous American Indian Movement and their annual Columbus Day protests. He held a position as professor and head of Native American Studies at the University of Colorado. He held those positions as an Indian. Many researchers have proven that he has no Indian blood.
If Churchill had the miniscule amount of Indian blood that he claimed, he committed what amounted to treason to the Tribes when he performed the benefit for Jonathan Paul and his merry band of homegrown terrorists.
Would a real Indian support someone who wants to do away with our Treaties?
He needs to come to one of our Traditional Foods dinners and witness the elders eat the deer, duck, salmon and clams that is guaranteed to us by Treaty. Our Traditional Foods heal our body mind and soul.
He should talk with men and women who went away to boarding school, college or the army. They tell stories of knowing when salmon enter the river. They can feel it in their blood. They can sense the deer in the woods. We have a symbiotic relationship with those that give up their lives to feed us.
We were never able to get that through to the animal rights activists who fought the Makah treaty right to hunt whales. Another Indian should have understood that. Ward Churchill didn’t understand or he wouldn’t have done the benefit for Jonathan Paul. If he actually does have Indian blood, his white blood overwhelmed it.
Should someone who is descended from a French trapper with 1/32 French blood be recognized as a Frenchman? Should that person be able to vote for their president or to extinguish French land and culture?
What of those with an English sea captain or Irish or Scots sailor hiding in their woodpile? They might belong to the Secret Societies and speak their language. They might have lived their whole life on the reservation. White society would certainly consider them to be Indian.
No one can take away the right to claim whatever Indian blood a person may have. Many Tribes are struggling with whether or not to grant legal status to anyone who can prove Indian blood no matter how miniscule.
The big question facing us is whether or not we can trust those with a microscopic amount of Indian blood with our future. Will they care? Will they live up to the responsibility taught to us by our Ancestors?