Blood Quantum

A complicated system that determines tribal membership threatens the future of American Indians

  • LeRoy Comes Last, a full-blooded Lakota-Sioux, with his Northern Cheyenne wife, Sabrina, and their grandson, Ryan Padraza Comes Last, on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northern Montana. Ryan is a full-blooded Indian, but according to Fort Peck rules, his "blood quantum" is only three-quarters -- the tribe doesn't recognize his Northern Cheyenne heritage.

    Anne Sherwood
  • “Indian No. 16” by Fritz Scholder, 1967, oil on canvas, 71 x 71 inches, from the collection of Robert E. Herzstein. This painting is among the pieces currently on exhibit by the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian, in both Washington, D.C., and New York City. See for more.

    Fritz Scholder
  • Fort Peck Reservation housing and dryland farms along Highway 2 near Poplar, Montana.

    Anne Sherwood
  • A student enters Brocton High School.

  • Herman Pipe Jr. checks the Chelsea Presbyterian Church near Poplar.

    Anne Sherwood
  • Roberta Garfield and some of her extended family in front of her home in Poplar. Garfield, who is half Sioux and a quarter Assiniboine, has 24 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, at least a dozen of whom don't qualify for tribal membership.

    Anne Sherwood

LeRoy Comes Last and his family live on a hump of benchland in northeastern Montana, on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. In all directions the land is flat and treeless, with just a few soft ridges here and there, as if someone lay sleeping beneath the topsoil. To the south, U.S. Highway 2 cuts toward the town of Poplar in one direction and Wolf Point in the other. Just beyond lie the tracks of the Great Northern Railway, where passenger trains with names like Empire Builder once ran. And farther still, yellow cottonwoods mark the course of the Missouri River, the reservation's southern boundary.

Inside the Comes Last mobile home, toddlers -- the charges of a daughter-in-law who runs an ad hoc daycare center -- careen around the living room under streamers of black and orange Halloween crepe. Seated at his kitchen table, his rough hands resting on a plastic tablecloth decorated with cartoon spiders, Comes Last looks as if he might have wandered into the wrong home. A tall man in his 60s, he has a warm weathered face and a purple neckerchief, and wears his hair in long braids under a black cowboy hat. His young round-cheeked Northern Cheyenne wife, Sabrina, sits next to him, holding a child.

"I always say I stole her," Comes Last chuckles. "I still owe her dad seven pinto horses."

Comes Last is a full-blooded Lakota Sioux of the Hunkpapa Band. His ancestors arrived at Fort Peck more than a century ago. His business card proclaims him a "Holy Dog Consultant," spiritual leader and firestarter, and he is one of the few remaining Lakota speakers on the reservation.

The acrid scent of a smudge stick wafts into the kitchen as a sleepy 3-year-old boy with gravity-defying black hair wanders through. "Ice cream," the boy says plaintively. "Ice cream." 

"It's the man of the hour!" cries Comes Last, patting his grandson on the shoulder.

Ryan Padraza Comes Last is a full-blooded Indian, Sioux and Cheyenne on his father's side and Assiniboine on his mother's. He will soon receive his Lakota name: "A Rope." (Comes Last raises rodeo horses and always has a rope in his right hand. He likes to call Ryan his "right-hand man.") But despite his traditional roots and his Native heritage, Ryan may be one of the last of the Comes Last line allowed to enroll as a member of the Fort Peck Tribe.

According to the tribal Constitution, enrolled members must be at least one-quarter Assiniboine or Sioux, or a combination of the two. (Fort Peck is home to both groups, who share one government.) This method of measuring Native American ethnicity by percentage is known as the "blood quantum," and most Indian tribes use it to determine who can be admitted. A few use a different method, called "lineal descent," under which applicants need only prove they have an ancestor on the early tribal rolls. Before 1960, Fort Peck used lineal descent as well.

In general, Native Americans cannot enroll in more than one tribe at a time, and for those tribes that require a particular percentage of Native blood, the parameters vary. For instance, by Fort Peck's rules, Ryan Padraza's blood quantum is only three-quarters. This is because his Cheyenne blood does not count at Fort Peck.

As an adult, Ryan will face a dilemma that is increasingly common in Indian Country. If he marries outside of his tribe -- whether with a non-Native or, say, a full-blooded Chippewa -- his children will have a blood quantum of only three-eighths at Fort Peck. And depending on his children's marital choices, Ryan's grandchildren may not be enrolled at all. The only way Ryan can avoid watering down his Fort Peck blood is to marry within the tribe. But that will not be easy: He's related to many of his fellow members.

Thousands of Native Americans are not enrolled in their tribes because their bloodlines have become diluted over the years, as is happening with the Comes Last family. Even some full-blooded Native Americans lack enough of any one tribe's heritage to qualify for enrollment. And there are many mixed marriages: Studies show that about 60 percent of Native Americans marry outside of their ethnicity, a higher rate than any other group. Demographers predict that by 2080, 92 percent of Native Americans will be more than half non-Native. Already, a new generation is finding it is not "Indian" enough to enroll. Though its members may live on the reservation, participate in tribal ceremonies and even study their ancestral language, they are not eligible for a range of federal and tribal benefits, from subsidized health care and tribal voting rights to job preference and the right to gather eagle feathers. And, on a more intangible note, many simply feel they do not belong.

As more and more children are born with blood that doesn't measure up, tribes across the West are taking a look at their enrollment requirements. In the process, deeper questions -- about culture, about identity, about the future of the tribes -- are coming to the surface. Underlying them all is one with no easy answer: What exactly does it mean to be an Indian? 


I cut myself into sixteen equal pieces
kept thirteen and fed the other three
to the dogs

Excerpt from "13/16," a poem by Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian Sherman Alexie

In a basement office at Fort Peck Community College, financial aid director Lanette Clark clasps her hands on her desk and composes her thoughts. She has long dark hair and high cheekbones that disappear behind big round cheeks when she smiles. Clark has three grandchildren, none of whom are enrolled at Fort Peck. They're just under one-eighth Assiniboine, shy of the tribe's requirements.

Next fall, Fort Peck's voters may weigh in on a proposed change to those requirements. It would allow applicants who are at least one-eighth Fort Peck Assiniboine or Sioux and at least one-eighth of any other federally recognized tribe to be accepted as members. Even if the initiative were to pass, it probably wouldn't help Clark's grandkids, because their father is not currently enrolled anywhere. Clark plans to vote for it anyway, but she is against any further lowering of the requirements, even for the sake of her grandkids. She says that loosening the standards even more, as some tribal members advocate, would be irresponsible.

"I kinda get mixed feelings," she says. "For my own selfish reasons, I could say, ‘Yeah, let's lower the blood quantum.' But I think looking at it for the whole tribe right now. …" She shakes her head. "Financially, we can't even manage what we have."

Though Clark is one of the few willing to argue against her family's immediate interests, many at Fort Peck fear the financial impacts of easing the enrollment requirements. The tribe's resources are already stretched thin, the argument goes: The more members, the less each will have to show for it.

Fort Peck has always been poor, even by reservation standards. By 1881, early in the reservation's history, the buffalo of the region were gone. Federal rations weren't enough to make up for the loss. In desperation, the starving tribe took up farming, but northeastern Montana's dry climate and short growing season led to crop failures and more hunger.

Some tribal members still scrape a living out of the soil. But non-Natives now own more than half of Fort Peck's 3,200 square-mile land base, a legacy of the federal government's early attempts at forced assimilation. The 1887 Dawes Act allowed the government to break tribal lands up into individual tracts. The law was one of the first to use blood percentage as a measure of Indian ethnicity, though the purpose was quite different than it is today: Natives with a larger proportion of "civilizing" white blood could sell their allotments without restriction, while those with more Indian ancestry faced heavier constraints. Once each tribal member had received an allotment, much of what remained was available for white homesteaders.

The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 turned the management of Indian lands over to the tribes and made them largely self-governing. But it also led most to require that their members have a particular percentage of Native blood. The Bureau of Indian Affairs handed out boilerplate constitutions that barred anyone who had less than a one-quarter heritage. And for the most part, the tribes -- having no background in constitutional government -- adopted these documents without complaint. (Fort Peck's citizens voted against doing so, but by 1960, the tribe was also requiring its members be at least one-quarter Assiniboine and/or Sioux.) Indian Country had internalized the concept of blood quantum.

Some believe that the fractional breakdown of Native blood over generations was factored into the federal government's plan from the beginning, a sort of statistical extermination. "The one-quarter blood quantum was a criteria that federal officials devised in the early 1900s to reduce the number of Indians and save themselves some money," says University of Minnesota professor David Wilkins, an expert in federal Indian policy. "And by then, most tribes had been so brow-beaten they weren't in a position to challenge those criteria."

If the blood-percentage system was indeed part of an insidious plan to eradicate the Native American, it is slowly having the desired effect. Based on current requirements, most tribes will have no new eligible members in 50 years, and many will cease to exist within a century. In an effort to combat this inevitable breakdown, many tribes are considering loosening their enrollment requirements. If the initiative at Fort Peck passes, for instance, some people of mixed Native American ancestry, like young Ryan Padraza Comes Last, would suddenly be considered full bloods. And hundreds would be able to enroll in the tribe who now cannot, including some of Fort Peck's 1,600 "associate members." (They're at least one-eighth Assiniboine and/or Sioux but less than one-quarter.)

Fort Peck currently has just over 12,000 enrolled full members: 4,405 Assiniboine and 7,691 Sioux. Nearly half of them live off the reservation; most of the rest live either in Wolf Point, a former fur-trading post of about 2,500 near the reservation's southern border, or in Poplar, 22 miles east, with about 900. The remainder are scattered across the 2 million acres of arid farmland that stretch north towards Canada, or in hamlets of dilapidated houses that look as if they might at any moment pitch headlong into the shortgrass prairie. 

The seat of tribal government, a modern complex topped by a pagoda-like glass tower, sits on the edge of Poplar, northeast of the other well-kept structure in town, the community college. The rest of Poplar looks as though it had been conquered some time ago and left for dead, which isn't far from the truth. Many houses, especially on the edge of town, are boarded up. Stray dogs wander the wide empty streets. Here and there, the  hand-painted signs illustrate the faces of meth addicts, before and after. The empty A & S Industries warehouse on the southern edge of town once employed 500 people who made camouflage netting for the Army and other products. The business crashed in the 1990s, after the Persian Gulf War ended and its minority preference status expired. Now the chief employment opportunities on the reservation are with the tribal government or the college, unless you happen to be well-versed in dry farming.

The perks of tribal membership are meager as well. Because of Montana's restrictive gaming laws and Fort Peck's remote location, big casinos aren't an option. The tribe's business endeavors, like the Tribal Express, a gas station and mini-mart just east of Poplar, aren't making anybody rich. Each full member gets "Christmas money" from the tribe, usually around $75 per year. Money for burial, a free pass on state income tax for those who live on the reservation and first dibs on jobs at Fort Peck are among the other benefits. Both full and associate members supposedly receive comprehensive health-care benefits, but last summer the Fort Peck Executive Board declared that the tribe's health-care system was in a state of emergency due to lack of funds.

Some fear that if the tribe eases up on enrollment requirements, it will mean even skimpier benefits for each person. They may be right. The federal government allocates money to individual tribes using a formula based on need, not membership. "Of course, if you have a larger population, you would probably have more need," says Bureau of Indian Affairs spokesman Gary Garrison. "But how that would play out in this age of limited budgets is a big question mark."

Those who favor opening up the rolls, however, find the economic argument unconvincing.

"We'll never have enough resources to go around," shrugs Robert McAnally, co-founder of the community college and a proponent of expanding Fort Peck's membership. "For example, you see the bigotry and hatred that's going on with big gaming tribes."

Under various pretexts, wealthy gaming tribes have removed thousands of people from their rolls in the last decade, particularly in California. Last summer, the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians kicked out 50 people because, according to the tribe, they had an adopted ancestor. The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians has cast out nearly a quarter of their membership, claiming illegitimate bloodlines. And the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians has banished hundreds of members in recent years, with little explanation. Each of these tribes runs a multimillion-dollar casino, and the fewer the enrolled members, the bigger the cut for those who remain.

McAnally sees the same dynamic at work at Fort Peck, though the stakes are much lower. At a recent meeting on amending the tribe's Constitution, he supported switching to the lineal descent framework. But delegates voted down that proposal, along with others, including one that would have made associate members full members. The plan that passed was perhaps the most conservative -- the one suggesting that the blood of other federally recognized tribes be included in Fort Peck's calculations.

McAnally, a big man with the imperious air of an aging Marlon Brando, sees no nuance in the desire to restrict tribal membership. "It's all based on greed," he says. 


Blood quantum myth
Jan 13, 2009 10:12 PM
This myth of indians "dilluting" ourselves out of existence is an unproven myth, mostly perpetuated by those thinblooded indians who wish to turn a profit from their native ancestry via tribal benefits, or the mystique/romanticsm that follows "native" ancestry: ie books, poetry, art.

There is no hard evidence that tribes are marrying ourselves out of existence, to the contrary, our number grow every year, and each year we have a record number of Native Americans in this country.

I am cherokee. we currently have approximately 30,000 citizens who have 1/4 bq and above. this is far more than in 1839 when there were approximately 8,000. This is in clear contrast to this myth of us going the way of the Do do. Also the Navajo Nation is prospering with over 300,000 members who are 1/4 and above!

I have nothing against those who are descendants and those who have grown up in our native communities. Anyone can live anyway they wish, and if thinbloods acculturate our lifeways, than more power to them and I wish them well. However, it is hard for me to seperate many thinbloods wails of being kept from our tribal rolls without discounting their desire to obtain tribal benefits.

As I said I am Cherokee. the freedmen issue is much more complicated, and they are in the right in their case. The Cherokee Chief is using illegal racial poltics to stay in office.

Dr. Albert Wahftig, in his dissertation investigated this theory of vanishing fullbloods. He concluded that in the case of the Cherokee, the thinblood Cherokee perpetuated this myth, in order to keep them in power and in control of the tribal government. If everyone thought that we were all thinbloods, then everyone would be okay with thinbloods running the tribe.

I do agree, and I think that tribe should adopt the laws in which ALL indian Blood is counted toward citizenship. I believe that this is fair, and I have seen this work well with many tribes.

Again, I dont see any hard evidence linking BQ to our detriment. It is unfortunate, but marriage is a choice. I dont see an twist marks on the arms of those who had children with those outside the tribe.
Jan 14, 2009 09:05 AM
My only qualm with what you're saying is that for smaller tribes it it can be really difficult to find a mate you aren't related to and that you actually like. That's why a lot of people go outside their tribe, either marrying someone from another tribe or of a different ethnicity. Is this really a choice? I'm not so sure. I suppose we Indian women could just get artificially inseminated by a man of our own tribe if we didn't like him enough to sleep with him (sarcasm). I appreciate that there are a lot of Cherokees and a lot of Navajos.. but most tribes are much smaller.

Personally, I'd like to see lineal descent but with a "citizenship" type of test for those who are brand new to the rolls. Re-think membership as citizenship in an Indian least you'd have to learn something about your culture and nation to enroll besides just having an ancestor.
reply to cherokee
Jan 14, 2009 03:54 PM
you are wrongo, look at the smaller tribes and their bq requirements...they are the ones that will go extinct

Cherokee's, hell everyone is practically cherokee
Whats wrong..?
Jan 14, 2009 06:13 PM
Where am i wrong? Show me some concrete numbers. Every year the native American population GROWS. This does not look like extinction to me.

i agree some of the smaller tribes need a descendency requirement, but not the bulk of them. As i saud before, some tribe count all of ones native blood, and i think that this should be used more.

But as I said before, the ones mainly whining around are the thinbloods who want to benefit from tribal enrollment. they are just making exscuses for marrying a non-indian. Were they forced to procreate with a non-indian? If they were, then I think they should go to the police department. Otherwise, stand by your choice, be proud of ALL your children heritage, and move on.

This article is making a blanket statement that we are all the vanishing natives, so we just need to get used to seeing white indians. I disagree.
Blood Quantum
Gerald Sherman
Gerald Sherman
Jan 26, 2009 05:51 PM
I'm sorry, but you are wrong. It is not a myth or political. It is a simple matter of math. The Cherokees have a lot of Indian blood because at one time they declared all members full-bloods. It may just take you longer to go out of existence, but unless you control marriage or declare all members full-bloods again at sometime, you will eventually find yourselves without a tribe. This should be a matter of citizenship. All sovereign nations have laws regarding who can or cannot become citizens. I don't know of any other nations that use blood quantum. We are not animals, with our breed decided by a degree of blood. Remember where this concept came from. Our ancestors had different methods of deciding who could or could not be a member, and it was not by their degree of blood.
Jan 28, 2009 12:58 PM
I am sorry , but you are misinformed. at no time did the Cheroke nation, nor the United keetoowah band of Cherokee ever "make" everyone a fullblood. We have kept BQ for over 200yrs. At teh time of the Dawes Rolls in 1906 there were already citizens with 1/256ths BQ.

You are also wrong again because our population of Fullbloods is GROWING. In 1976 there were approximately 10,000 Cherokee with 1/4 BQ, today there are approximately 30,000.

no sir, even with a 1/4 BQ, we would still have a tribe of 30,000, and then we might even stop all the Cherokee jokes!
blood quantum
rose yellow eagle
rose yellow eagle
Feb 09, 2010 02:20 PM
I am enrolled at Fort Peck, and though enrolled, have never lived there. In the 50's my father's family moved to the west coast. I grew up on and off the reservation, however, never my own. All my father's brothers and sisters married into tribes of the pacific northwest. We grew up on the reservation, but did not have the luxury of traveling to Montana in search of a mate. We married from the families we knew. Some now have the problem of being 5 different types of Indian, but unable to get enrolled anywhere. I'm sure our grandmothers wouldn't be happy with someone calling them "thin bloods". I, myself, have never gotten or applied for anything from my tribe. I have never needed to. Perhaps this will change with my father's passing almost 2 years ago. My siblings and I will inherit our ancestors land, what ever that will be, but none of us want anything but our tie to our ancestry. I will not disown my grandchildren if they are some other native or some other tribe altogether (Black, White, Hispanic, or Asian). I would have to question your "Native Heart" if you are able to disown your grandchildren for such a reason. As far as I know, children in America still have the right to procreate with whomever they wish, and don't always ask their parents. I plan on educating my children so they are able to support themselves, and find creative ways to legally keep what is left of the land that was once all ours as Natives.
Just A Number
Feb 02, 2009 09:12 AM
How does 1 answer all the questons of the childern?In these changing times of the NEW WORLD.When I was removed from the chance of learning did I stop Learning?No I worked harder to find the answers.When I was younger I was told do you ever shut up?But would only ask another queston,I have been told by new FEW close Friends why have i not taken advantage of my Native Rights?I have been in the south all my life and as I have writen I have no RIGTS,ONLY BELIVES.The alotments of my CLAINS from the DAWES roll have been fought over for more years than i have been?I have never voted in ether on the TRIBES elections i was born into?They don't careabout us we live EAST of the Mississippi and have writen this on paper.1 must learn to follow the sprits and teach the young ones how to make change without Notice of WHO WE ARE AS NATION IN A NATION.ARE DAY IS CLOSER THAN 1 CAN SEE
Blood Quantum
Gorden Lee Jones
Gorden Lee Jones
Feb 12, 2009 01:12 PM
I e-mailed your editor already. Concerning Cherokee Blood Quantum article in your release. Posted by kurux Jan 13 2009. Do the Cherokee tribes take full reparation
payments in the names of "thin bloods" just as if they were full bloods. If they do, why then would they find it offensive that some of these thin bloods would expect some tribal benefits?
Myth of blood quantum
Deb Krol
Deb Krol
Jan 14, 2009 10:19 AM
Brothers and sisters, please remember that back in "the day" before the first European contacts, marriage outside the tribe was the norm. In my studies on biology and genetics, I learned that our Native elders did have extensive knowledge of biology, ecology, genetics, lethal recessives and the like--the only difference is that Western science quantifies, categorizes and classifies while Native science looks at the whole story [the overused term is holistic].

In California where I come from, marriages were made at Big Times, or between tribes or families, in order to keep bloodlines from becoming inbred. I've heard about other parts of the continent where ritual kidnapping ensured that marriages were made outside the community; other tribes have other ways of solving the biological problem of inbreeding [ever hear a Navajo explain his or her clan relationships?]

The myth of blood quantum is just that, a myth. Today, when a tribal members says he or she is a "fullblood," unless that person belongs to one of the really huge tribes like the Navajo, the extreme likelihood is that person has several tribes' worth of blood, and she or he is only a fullblood on paper--the CDIB, to be precise. In fact, the whole idea of blood quantum is an invention of the United States government which was meant to ensure that only tribal members were able to access the programs set aside for Indians [you know, like inadequate health care, insufficient educational benefits and the like]. However, the blood quantum requirements have come to be adopted by Indians instead of the old ways of counting who is and who is not an Indian, to our detriment.

It's time that tribes start to move away from the colonial institution of blood quantum and determine their own destinies, in accord with their traditional means of determining citizenship. Each tribe needs to figure out how best to accomplish this before we're all bred out of legal existence.
Jan 14, 2009 06:13 PM
The problem with the lineal descent idea is that there will be too many people that know nothing of the language and culture. There are already too few people that speak Native languages and know the traditions in many tribes. I agree with HarlemNdn. He says there should be a naturalization process for people that all of a sudden decide to enroll with the tribe for suspicious reasons. Kind of like the test people from overseas have to take to become US citizens. Except MUCH more difficult. Maybe language fluency, oral traditions, stories, and things like that should be mandatory for entry into the tribe. That way, if people have blood from 3 or more different tribes, or non-Indians, they would have to basically confirm their loyalty and dedication to their people by preserving the heritage.
Bred out..?!
Jan 14, 2009 06:18 PM
Those with a higher BQ are typically more likely to be closer connected to the culture. Tribes have used and are using BQ as a sort of measure of culture.

CA is unique, i know that they moved around alot between tribes, and intermingled much more than say the plains. As isaid earlier i am for counting ALL of ones native blood. Agua Caliente does that in CA.

I strongly believe we will never Breed ourselves out. this is a myth perprated by thinbloods who wish to be just as much "indian' as the fullbloods.
Blood Quantum
Jan 14, 2009 06:36 PM
I know lots of California Indians who have blood in four or more tribes, yet they are only counted as belonging to one tribe. Usually, it's their mother's tribe [although I do know that some CA tribes go with the father's blood!] and if you're unlucky enough to not have enough blood in the tribe, you're outta luck.

Again, Indian people need to consider where blood quantum requirements come from: the federal government and the people who colonized us. It was NOT set up to benefit Indian people, but to breed Indians out of existence by disqualifying people who had intermarried and fell below a certain percentage of blood.

The reason that as one person noted that people with higher quantum tend to speak the language is only because they stayed behind in their traditional communities--I bet that you'll find plenty of tribal members who don't have what that person considers the proper amount of blood who are fluent in the language and culture.

We as Indian people need to consult with our elders, look at how we used to count who was a member and develop policies that more closely reflect our traditional ways of counting who belongs. After all, the federal government's current policy is to stay out of these decisions--let's take advantage of it to develop our old ways again. [and for the record, I can claim 7/16 blood quantum--not a nosebleed Indian by anybody's account!]

Instead of trying to figure out how much Indian DNA a person has, let's figure out ways to build and sustain economies within tribal communities that keeps our young people at home where they can still earn a living and be close to elders, spiritual people, the language and the land from which they were created. People who have jobs that earn enough to sustain their families always do better, according to Paul Echohawk, former attorney general of Idaho and brother of NARF director John Echohawk. That will solve a lot of our problems in not only the membership arena but will strengthen our cultures, our families and ultimately, our nations.
Blood Quantum Issues
Gordon Jones
Gordon Jones
Mar 14, 2009 07:55 PM
The reason that a lot of blood quantum issues are various, is because greedy bloods using the less bloods for the enrichment of a few "bloody", greedy people.
. Indians, that are using the same evil purposes, that they complained about, that the white government did to our ancestors. So evidently that makes them a white "hearted red man". Monkey see, monkey do? Gordon Jones
blood quantum
Jan 14, 2009 08:23 PM
I am half Cherokee enrolled and my mother was an original enrolee. My wife is full Choctaw and my kids are 3/4. We both feel that both bloods should be counted. I believe that 1/8 should be the cut off to be a member of any tribe. The way I would handle is like this: 1/8th equals one vote, 8/8th if you are full blood. Less than 1/8th you are just a regular every day american. In the case of the so called freedmen if they have proof of blood they can be a member of the Cherokee nation. I know of high degree natives whose families would not sign for various reason and thus are not recognized. Maybe one day we can develop dna to the point it can break down your exact lineage.
Chelsea photo
Tatanga Mani
Tatanga Mani
Jan 14, 2009 07:02 PM
Isn't that a picture of Herman Pipe Senior? Jr. would be his son..
Kurux is not listening
E man
E man
Jan 15, 2009 09:34 PM
Kurux said...

"I strongly believe we will never Breed ourselves out. this is a myth perprated by thinbloods who wish to be just as much "indian' as the fullbloods."

I believe "kurux" is obviously biased and ignored some valid points that were made about smaller tribes because he hates "thin bloods" of which his nation, the cherokee nation, is mostly made up of. Hypocritical much? The cherokees are not a small tribe so you don't even have a dog in the fight, so to speak.
same old story...
Jan 16, 2009 10:39 PM
I've listened quite well, and I have heard this story over and over again. Those who have a drop of indian blood continually try and find some remnant of their "indianess" and then want to build this up and qualify themselves as the "indian authority".

As I said I am Cherokee. Our tribe is the case study of what happens when you open up enrollmetn and allow thinbloods to overrun the tribal govt. Most of our Tribal "citizens" grew up as white people. they can pass for white, grew up in white society, with those values, some were outwardly racist against even indians, but now because we get some small benefits, they turn around, and run to enroll. I have seen these people enroll, once they do, they quite frankly ask: "so where is my indian money and house?". these are the majority of the people trying to enroll. Us fullbloods who grew up in our small poor communities have been pushed to the back of our own tribal govt. We dont get the healthcare, or the small benefits that were intended to go to "indians". it is now bloated with the administrators, and recipients being the white cherokee who would never be mistaken for being indian and who sometimes just enrolled. The White Cherokee administrations have found a way to enroll as many "indians" as possible in order to use the tribes' bloated headcount to expand the federal monies which fund the tribes' budget. This year the Cherokee Nation's annual budget of $485 million dollars; most of this is from federal $$ based on our headcount. It is a "citizrn mill" with no respect for "culture" or language. They are white people exploiting the federal handouts by enrolling with a minute drop of blood. Currently the CN BQ is down to 1/9,064ths. Would you consider this person an Indian? there are also adopted and intermarried whites who bought their way onto our "by blood" roll and are considered Indians.

A side note here is that this is what makes the freedmen issue so blatantly racist. When the african amer. freedmen found a way for them to be counted, the white cherokee voted them out in a second; only for getting what is rightfully theirs, and doing the same exact thing as the whites have been doing for a hundred years.

SO speaking as a Cherokee, I believe no big tribes should ever drop their BQ. I think the Cherokee Nation should raise ours.

Smaller tribes are different, in CA some are basically families, and so they must have descendency requirements. BUT, for the most parts these small tribes are communities and know eachother.

I believe a huge blanket statemen to just enroll everyone with indian lineage (or supposed) is just wrong. And I beleive our elders, and ancestors would think it was wrong to.

If there is no bar for enrollment, anyone can be indian, and everyone will try.
No tribe is the same...
Aug 06, 2010 01:10 AM
I think not everyone is coming from the same place, and we all just need to listen to each other and consider the big picture, which isn't simple, and doesn't have the same solution for every tribe. after reading all of the posts by kurux, I think what he or she is saying is very valid for their own tribe. I don't think they are trying to insult every single mixed blood person who identifies as Indian. I'm not sure that are who say they are racist have read all the posts. They are talking about the reality of powerful or wealthy tribes that often are run by nontraditional or assimilated people with no cultural upbringing who suddenly want to run things because they have their degrees. I don't think the thinblood term is referring to a mixed blood person who grew up on the Rez and is part of a community. But every tribe is different, snd I think some of the ideas are more intuitive than what has been so far. There is no reason that tribal blood should not count for anything, and that is one issue ALL tribes need to work out asap as more and more ndn kids are a mix of many tribes and should not be barred from enrollment. Isn't that a no-brainer? But one other issue of lineal descent that wasn't mentioned is the matrilineal descent rules which may have worked traditionally and helped strengthen a tribe, but now are shrinking a lot of Eastern tribes, even larger Haudenosaunee tribes. It's counterintuitive as a woman who marries outside the tribe or a nonnative can enroll here kids but a man who does cannot. That's worse than blood quantum rules on the legalistic side.

While I think it is a mistake to think all hesitant or against loosening rules are motivated by greed...and how funny to imply that when few tribal members are getting fat checks or big does seem that one of our collective survival is still threatened by that historical enemy. Greed is what broke treaties, stole land, allotted land, slaughtered, stole children, destroyed land, over hunted, destroyed forest, hacked mountains, polluted rivers...etc, etc. If you look at all the catalysts for the negative things done in this country to Indians, it always comes back to greed. Even past the creation of reservations to take choice land, you had rations becoming a big business, with officials and intermediaries not only scoring profits on feeding people whose way of feeding their families had been robbed, but reselling supplies and further lining pockets. you had people even adopting children to get land. You had desperate gold rushers getting so enamored with gold that they exterminated California tribes. You had Mexican and Americans in he west enslaving Indians when labor was down. On and on. It is all greed, and even some people who began with innocent or neutral motives were corrupted by greed. It has always been our enemy and we would do well to not let the same whips and boundary lines continue to play us against each other and ourselves...

Thank you for listening.
Alaina Caudillo
Alaina Caudillo
Jan 26, 2009 11:46 PM
The big gaming tribes of course want to keep their money... it is sad for the small tribes that are suffering because of greed.
Blood Quantum
Andrew MacConnachie
Andrew MacConnachie
Jan 28, 2009 04:16 PM
I grew up on the Blackfeet rez in northcentral Montana. I'm not sure, but I had heard years ago that there were something like a dozen fullbloods left amongst the Pikuni in Montana; I suppose there are more amongst their cousins in the Confederacy in Canada, both on- and off-reserve. I have distant Cherokee cousins, but my bq is less than 1/16th, so aside from the jokes about Cherokee blood ("Which part of you is Cherokee, then?") by other kids growing up, I never thought it worthwhile to seek out the potential benefits, if tribal membership of an ancestor could have been proven. I consider myself a spiritual brother of the Oglala Lakota people. With the exception of my mother's father's people, my "people" have been here on Turtle Island for seven generations or more. My point? If there are so many ways for a white boy raised on a rez to identify in some fashion with Indian/First Nations/aboriginal cultural and spiritual values, how is it that Indian tribes and nations must be limited to either one or the other of two available means to identify/quantify their "Indian-ness." Seems to me that this is an outgrowth of vallues of those who thought they had a "manifest destination," wished to impose those values on a host of others, and did a pretty good job of getting many of them to buy into a classification system that was flawed from its conception, let alone the outset of implementation. The Navajo are known to say that "We are all five-fingered humans." For most tribal peoples, their strength IS IN THEIR CULTURE. From a certain perspective, those who are in their way(s) doing what they can to preserve that culture are the real "Indians," regardless of what their DNA might say about a quantifiable "amount" of "Indian-ness."
Blood Qantum
Troy M. Woodward
Troy M. Woodward
Jan 30, 2009 03:16 PM
The comment of "thin-blood" is racist. For most Indian people, it's intermarriage with other tribes that decreases blood quantum as much as it is intermarriage with non-Indians. In my case, my mother and father were both enrolled Blackfeet. Common sense says if two Blackfeet have kids, their kids will be Blackfeet. Not so. Both my parents have Chippewa-Cree as well as Blackfeet. They were both raised Blackfeet on our Reservation, they had no idea that their kids would be ineligible for enrollment five years down the road because the requirments were changed--this is history--it was changed to increase the living members' cut of judgment funds. This is the driving force behind this short-sighted policy today. As far as enrolling for benefits--that's laughable. There are few if any benefits when one is enrolled beside voting. Monetary benefits? I haven't seen any.
Blood Quantum Issues
gordon jones
gordon jones
Mar 13, 2009 08:24 PM
I have a question. Does the Cherokee tribe receive full reparation payments for all the registered tribal members of the Cherokee tribe even if they are thin bloods? Thin bloods meaning that they are less than 25% Indian blood. If they do receive the pay, then why would the tribe be offended with those thin bloods expecting some benefits? That seems to be a conflict of moral rules. Receive but not provide any benefits. What do you think? Gorden L Jones
thin blood
Mike Davis
Mike Davis
Mar 16, 2009 12:46 PM
I just want to let my voice be heard as a thin blood (Meskwaki). I'll never be enrolled in the tribe, and I'll never look for monetary benefits. But I really think to ignore my ancestry is not right. My children will have even thinner blood than I, but that to me doesn't make their ancestors any less important. Yet I want them to learn and be proud of their heritage. Trouble is, there is a difference between me and my enrolled Meskwaki counterparts. My family has been almost completely assimilated into the dominant culture. I can understand why someone who has been raised on the settlement as a Meskwaki would be suspicious of my motives. We've walked different paths after all. Well, all I can say to those thin bloods out there, like me, is to form relationships with those who are part of the culture you are trying to get closer to. Learn what you can sincerely. No one can deny you your ancestry.
Stereotyping people based on blood quantum hurts
Deanna M.
Deanna M.
Apr 11, 2009 03:12 AM
I think the term "thinblood" is racist and presumptuous. I guess I am one of those because I am below 1/4. But I was raised by my Oglala Lakota grandmother. She wasn't a medicine woman or anything romantic sounding, just a family oriented person. I grew up surrounded by Indian people, visited the rez as a child, and considered myself a proud mixed-blood Indian. I didn't know my dad, he died when I was a baby, and he happens to be descended from the Cherokee tribe. I have never met his family. My mom's father was white, and we visited his family twice ever in my life. So, who does this leave ? The Indians. It's who I identify with, and I have never received one dime ... OK, I lied a little, I think I used the IHS exquisite facilities a few times, and we managed to try some commodity cheese, which was yummy. Point being, I have Lakota blood coursing through my veins, and I love my heritage and people regardless of that amount. People need to be mindful in what they say or think about people based on their blood quantum or even skin color.
In the event I wanted to learn more about this minute Cherokee heritage of mine, it would be my decision, and no one else's business or room to judge me. Not that I would do this, but if I wanted to seek enrollment it would be up to the tribe, not the naysayers.
thin blood
mike davis
mike davis
Apr 16, 2009 09:17 AM
Thanks Deanna. There's a whole lot of us out there who are not full-bloods and not enrolled in tribes. Some of us are interested in keeping our heritage alive, and others don't care. I happen to care, and I don't see that as wrong, but just the opposite; necessary. This land we live in after all started with our native ancestors. I'm proud to live here where my ancestors lived.
Jul 20, 2009 03:44 PM
I think the term thin-blood is appropriate. There are far too many claimaing to be Native and then look white or black. No thin blood should be tribally enrolled as this is hideous. How would whites like some thin-blood black representing them at a beauty pageant just because they have some white blood? I'm black with Creek and Scots-Irish ancestry yet I don't go parading around talking and trying to be Irish or Creek. Futhermore, Natives really need to start marrying other Natives even if it's Natives from other tribes. You guys are really thinning the blood down and creating people who don't even look Native and probably wouldn't give a crap about the culture. I really hate going to powwows and seeing all these white or black dancers out there calling themselves Native. It's tastless! I want the real Mccoy! How would people feel if they went to see the Irish River Dance and all the dancers looked black but yet claimed some Irish ancestry?
Earl Travis
Earl Travis
Aug 06, 2009 11:24 PM
Here is a perfect story of what blood quantum does to present day federally recognized tribes. I know of a tribe by recent census count had a total of 1750 tribal members. This tribe used the 1/4 blood degree minimum requirement for tribal enrollment.

1400 present tribal members were of 1/4 and 3/8 blood blood degree. Due to the fact the tribe is very small and most are close cousin blood kin,
most all of these married local non-indians outside of their tribe and due to the fact no other tribes were within 400 miles.

Many of these younger generation 1/4 and 3/8 bloods
who did not want to marry their close cousins by blood, did not have money to travel long distances to intermarry with other tribes, had no choice but to intermarry non-Indian locals, outside the tribe.

Now most all of these 1/4 and 3/8 blood degree tribal
members have lost their children and grandchildren off the tribal rolls, as they did not qualify on the tribal rolls of their own parents, because they did not meet the minimum 1/4 blood degree tribal code requirement as mandated for tribal enrollment in the tribe of their own parents.

Only 200 tribal members are 1/2 to 3/4 blood quantum
and fullblood quantum & only 150 fullblood are left most all of those are of the older generation who
are too old for children. Many of the 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2, 3/4 bloods came from these older generations, some who did not want to marry close cousins and had also married off the reservation.

Here is the result:

The older 1/2 to 4/4 bloods will die having produced some 4/4/, 1/2 to 3/4 bloods a few hundred in number.
but when the other 1400 tribal members who are 3/8 & 1/4 bloods die off, none of their own children are allowed to be part of the tribe of their own parents.

Each of these 1400 1/4-3/8 blood tribal members had 2 to 3 children, the tribe is denying and cutting off 4200 first generation tribal roll children from membership into the tribe of their very own parents.

These are facts and this is what is actually taking place in many of the small tribal nations. Something to consider, as we are now self destroying our very own tribal families and tribal nations, by allowing a system of tribal enrollment that has been taught to the tribes and put in our tribal codes, yet this system of tribal enrollment was not our way, back in times before Reorganization Act, Dawes Roll, Indian
Sep 02, 2009 08:49 AM

Go watch some more indian movies for your "real" mccoy. The reality is that when people mix, they can favor one or the other. I know lots of indians who don't look "indian". So a friend of mine who is just about blond, has some bluish looking eyes, is half Ojibwe, is according to you "hideous" and shouldn't claim to be native because he doesn't look it? I'd be happy to see a black looking man with Irish ancestry participating in an Irish cultural dance. But that's just me I guess...
Luwella Leonardi
Luwella Leonardi Subscriber
Jul 07, 2011 03:24 PM

Mahalo for all your comments on this article, we are having the same problem too. And I was at lost for words because we are down to the wire of genocidal end game. It is our own thin bloods that are in partnerships with the non native Hawaiians for recognition of their published papers, benefits-access to ANA Loans, and continuation of toxicity usage of our lands. We were under the Rehabilitation Act of 1920 and are now being transfered without our peoples wishes to Reorganization of 1934. With the loss of Mankiller, I knew that the next person in charge would shift the native to corporate or mother earth to Afatar! As a Pacific Islander we would never die out either, so they concocted a definition of nuclear isotopes aggregation (low, medium, and weak)which would give us a few more (cancerous slow death) years. However, the Pentagon, are building Hoppers (leak proof housing)for the military families in Hawaii. I live in the most dense Native Hawaiian community in the world and we are considered the 'downwinders' of the US Armed Forces depleted uranium most toxic community. Getting off the subject! We are on a bloodquantum of 50% plus bloodquantum since 1920 and are being watered down July 7, 2011 to a one drop rule and born in Hawaii. The governor of Hawaii Neil (my friend) whose being an out right jerk at the moment is signing our death warrant SB 1520 into law. As a Recognized ....with a one drop or less rule! Ugh!!!!
Lindsey X. Watchman
Lindsey X. Watchman
Aug 08, 2011 01:56 AM
being Indian comes from your heart, where Creator put it before one was even born.

If you are truly proud of being Indian, rather than concerned about entitlements and how big a slice of the 'menial' US or tribal government pie, then you would support anyone else who 'believes', are, or wants to be considered Native.

the reason that African Americans and now Hispanic Americans have made so much progress is due to prolonged 'unified' efforts...and very importantly, increasing population numbers (voters and democratic participants).

I know plenty of fullbloods who purport non-Native values, such as individualism and capitalism; and many non-Natives that have the heart of an Indian.

we must to enroll so that the dominate society can 'track' us...just as the Jews were numbered for systematic genocide.

last comment...

i feel that those comments that denegrate entitlement due to blood quantum are forgetting one very important thing: that for the past 4 centuries, there WAS a Native man AND woman (ancestors) who SURVIVED peril long enough to even create the next generation - you and me - and because of that FACT, regardless what percentage one is now in 2011 - he or she IS Indian, and has the right to proudly proclaim (skin tone aside).

this ethnocentrism has gone so far that we have become internal racists ourselves...and that is not a Native value.

yox kalo...

my menial two cents worth. bless you all.
Luwella Leonardi
Luwella Leonardi Subscriber
Oct 04, 2011 08:57 AM
Lindsey X. Watchman,
Mahalo for your kalo comments..being Indian/native comes from your relationship with your ancestors and their aina. The Bloodquantum had a horrible heart in it's origin and his name was Dawes in 1877. The belief that Hawaiian Kingdom and Hawaiian Nationals are friends or foes are truely the crux of the problem. Our so called pie crust crumbs comes from the aina and ones hard work not the change over to 'unification' which last about ten seconds or in the moment of unification tactics. Both African Americans and Chicano's work hard in their arts to unify their people for common agreements. Case in point Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King unified and continue to unified through education and forums. I know lots of Pacific Islanders out of necessity work hard for their living in the capitalistic systems and go home to their ancestoral bones and kalo patches. As for the en/roll it's just a guilt trip for those that participate and unintentionally too. Historically, the change in nature and the unification behind the bloodquantum kept the pigments a darker shade in the sun. Politcally, and values of a culture that is foreign one seems to try and deny racisim, and welcome genocide over the traditional people. One that occupy's their aina as traditonalist continues to maintain their stretch of horizons that sees the future generations.
Alaina  Huxtable
Alaina Huxtable
May 17, 2015 08:21 AM
The insidious demands by the US government of blood quantum is dissolving the historical cultural ways, the very essence of being, which become a pathway for the eventual take over of the small remaining Sovereign lands of The People (of all original Nations) by the federal/corporate government. Is this slippery trick divisive, setting up unresolved divisions among all Nations ? Is it important to focus on original languages, cultural practices, oral traditions of teaching ? Would Intertribal Pow Wows, Conferences, Talking Circles with some opened to non natives also help to turn the tide ? Can the true historical story of the Original Peoples of this land be included in the texts of public U.S. schools ? While casinos may look advantageous on paper, that seems to be divisive, an exclusive appeal to deadly greed.

The Federal blood quantum story, illuminates my heart but brings pain and great sadness. Change is happening, but as long as the Federal blood quantum lives, the path of truth will be suffocated by the weeds and disappear.
Luwella Leonardi
Luwella Leonardi Subscriber
May 17, 2015 05:02 PM
When I wrote my opinion in the year 2011, I was overly excited, involve in too many fronts, and excited to read this article. The 'blood quantum' definition trumpeted our native people's wishes that both parents are to be Hawaiian for homestead land. The blood quantum became an issue politically in Hawaii in 1978 when the 'thin bloods" joined the then dominant ethnic group, Asians for their prosperity. In 1974 there were 3,000 on the wait list, and in 1975, 5,000 individuals that were mostly pure Hawaiians on the wait list. Today it's about 50,000, 50% plus blood quantum on the wait list for homestead land. These native only communities exist in Hawaii and managed by a state agency that employ mostly non natives. We have our problems that are similar to Fort Peck. I agree with Kurux whole heartedly for speaking for the pure bloods. I fought for the pure bloods, 200,000 acres, and education for our children since the early 70's here in Hawaii. The Department Of Interior, thin bloods and State Government are now trying to commit genocide with out people by imploding our Homesteaded with Department of Energy Corporate Businesses from Japan. And they are ruthless. Mahalo