Blood quantum myth


Regarding your "Blood Quantum" story, back before the first European contacts, marriage outside the tribe was the norm (HCN, 1/19/09). 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 heard a Navajo explain his or her clan relationships?)

The myth of blood quantum is just that, a myth. Today, when a tribal member 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 Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood, to be precise. In fact, the whole idea of blood quantum is an invention of the United States government that was meant to ensure that only tribal members were able to access the programs set aside for Indians (you know, inadequate health care, insufficient educational benefits and the like).

We as Indian people need to consult with our elders, look at how we used to decide who was a member, and develop policies that more closely reflect our traditional ways of counting who belongs. 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 keep 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.

Debra Utacia Krol
Phoenix, Arizona

Anonymous says:
Jan 30, 2009 09:45 AM
I agree that blood quantum is an invention of the federal government and has its roots in the deep south where they kept careful records of any negro blood, down to 1/8, 1/16, etc. Some Tribes have no blood quantum requirement for enrollment. Some didn't until the 1960's (Blackfeet) when the Tribes were expecting payouts from the Indian Claims Commission judgments. With the change to blood quantum requirments, it is entirely possible to have both parents enrolled in the same tribe but have children who "lack" sufficient blood quantum for enrollment. This happened at Blackfeet where an entire generation of people were disenfranchised from the Tribe beginning in August of 1962. Since then, it has caused constant problems as tribal members' children are not tribal members. This needs to be changed back to the way it was before greed caused the change to blood quantum. Don't buy into this racist policy. Being Indian shouldn't come down to having to rely on BIA spotty record keeping and guesswork.
Anonymous says:
Jan 30, 2009 11:58 AM
Being someone who really stood by the "blood qantam" thing, over the last few years Ive taken a different perspective.
Do we need to prove our who we are? Yes I agree with that, to make claim and identify with your inherent birth right.
 I am someone who many times is veiwed as full blood , but I to Am of Mixed Native blood , even saying this makes me cringe , and that comes to my point.
 This blood thing is archiac , primitive and useless.
Our Ancesters taught us we are all Human beings , and that what I am , 100% Human being Im not be broken down by blood.
Why not break us down by our eyes, hair or even how tall we are?
Again, yes we need to ensure all of us who are survivors of the Indian Holacust have justice , but this blood thing needs to end.
No percentile of blood, more or less can make you a better or worse Human being.
 This is Biological Racism
Our Traditions and Ceremonies are Sacred and bind us to our Ancestors.But one thing our people forget, we Ndns are very intelligent people and we were never Static.
Point being, the world is changing and we know how to change , so today we apply our Ancient ways of respecting and loving the Earth and the people Creator Made.
So...Tell me about your Nation, Your Creation story or something about your Elders.
But dont tell me about your Blood , save that for the RED CROSS.
Spotted Crow
Anonymous says:
Feb 16, 2009 03:06 PM
i for one do not need to spend hundreds of dollars to prove who or what i am.. i know in my heart that there is Cherokee blood running through my veins. I have been told by my elders. I do not wnat anything from the federal goverment for being what i am. I am proud just the same.
Anonymous says:
Feb 07, 2011 05:11 AM
Spotted Crow,
You are so incredibly right. Who really cares how much of who's blood runs through our veins, we are all people that should treat each other with respect whether we're dark, light, story, tall, fat, skinny etc. etc. We should all know where we came from so we know our own ancestry, but we should be familiar with many other's as well. My great great great grandfather was an Indian Chief, and it saddens me to know nothing else. We need to tell our children where we came from, document life in diaries and other writings, pictures and so on, so we all know the where, but we make the who on our own. We are all just people, that's it. Be proud of who you are and where you came from but accept all others into your life as well. One can never have too many friends or family or even mere acquaintances. We all gotta survive this life together.
Anonymous says:
May 08, 2010 05:52 PM
My late mother's father, George Thomas Young, was full blood cherokee, verified by the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, Ok. in 2000.
His Dawes Roll # 17835. I believe her mother was also full blood but
I can't verify it. I am 72 years old and have been trying to get accepted with the Cherokee Nation for many years, but they keep asking for document after document. The BIA contacted my mother in the early 1950's stating she and her siblings had land in Oklahoma, but she couldn't obtain the documents they requested and I picked up the issue in later years. I submitted her original death certificate and my original birth certiicate from Los Angeles County last year and submitted them. Now I have to submit the same documents from the state of California. I won't have them until sometime in August. It just seems like the run around. I know what my heritage is, and all I'm asking is recognition. I writing this to you after reading Jim Pell's quote about 'part-Cherokee. What else can I do.
Anonymous says:
Jun 01, 2010 05:53 PM
Yes, because the laws were passed in 1962 and this raised the blood qantum to 1/4 to be enrolled by the Blackfeet. Anyone born after 1962 was not eligible for enrollment into the Blackfeet Tribe, even if you did met the 1/4 blood qantum. My sister was an enrolled member all her life raised on the rez as all my family does. My sister was born before 1962. But as for me I was born in 1966, and I was told over and over that I was not eligble for enrollment and both my sister and I have the same qantum of Blackfeet Blood from our mother. I used to argue that with enrollment all the time and yell genocide. But all they gave me was descendant paperwork and sent me on my way. It was not until I showed up again to the Tribal Enrollment Office in August of 2008 when a young lady behind the counter asked me, why are you not enrolled? I told her I would like to know the answer to that myself. She had me fill out my paperwork and submitted it to council and now I am enrolled with the Blackfeet. What's up with that? Now, my question is this: Do I get the money due to me from 1966 to 2008? $20.00 a year or so. Humm....I will check into that and let cha know. But the enrollment is now open and if you meet the Blackfeet Qantum of 1/4 rush it. (406) 338-3533.
Anonymous says:
Jan 30, 2009 01:04 PM
This blood degree within different tribes amazes me these days, this day and age of 'big' bellies. We all seem to forget the hardships our ancestors went through for survival, we all seem to forget the 'principles' of our tribes. My recent experiences with just moving back to the rez, I see tradtionalists who show colonialized behavior in the/our ceremonies, and they publicly make to qualms or excuses for it, usually the response or excuse for it. This blood degree is more than the amount or degree individuals have, and I do understand the 'entitelments' or 'nonentitlements' that blood degree has. But, if you/we are tribal, then be tribal. This issue of blood degree needs to be fixed. I am of Dakota parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and great great grandparents,....they all come from the four bands of Dakota, yet I am listed as only 3/8 Santee. And matter of fact it actually says, or is written as 3/8 Santee. Hilarious, hilarious cause I am alllll Santee, Santee is another term for Isanti, all four Dakota bands are collectively called Isanti. So it is quite obvious theres descrepancy here. So right now there is, for the 'concerned' an uproar for this tolerated ongoing pratice of being referenced to fractionalized blood degree when people are literally all Dakota. So this is what is going on in this part of Dakota territory, so I'm sure that may be other tribes with the same practices of this division of bloodline. The question quite obvious should be 'who' and 'why' did this practice start, the fractionalized bloodline of tribal members who quite obviously show a strong blood degree. We've been 'divided' by bands/tribes, and in that circumstance, in that way of division there is no unity. It's sad and it's time for the concerned and unconcerned to tackle these issues and set straight who we are.
Anonymous says:
Jan 31, 2009 07:32 AM
I am full-blooded Navajo
Anonymous says:
Jan 31, 2009 07:58 AM
In my own case refugees from the Second War of Puritan Aggression left the Narragansett country and fled north and were accepted into the Western Abenaki bands. Eunice Williamson, a captured (liberated) colonial girl lived happily among the Mohawk and Abenaki until her death, married well, and has many descendants of mixed Anglo-Mohawk-Abenaki heritage. Blood quantum rules as a test of being Indian, however well motivated today, most especially applied within a single tribe, is a prescription for extinction in the fullness of time.
Anonymous says:
Jan 31, 2009 12:34 PM
I am 100% Human Being. My heart belongs to The Creator, Mamogosnan, the One Who Created Us All in His/Her image from the Star Nation and Mother Earth. Anything else is simply a way of keeping us all off guard and out of touch with each other. Can you imagine if Native American Indians had their own anti defamation league or naacp? Wow~what a power house of good works we could do together.
Anonymous says:
Feb 01, 2009 08:24 AM
Because I look Indian, it was never a issue of if I was or wasn't.And coming from a family of many many siblings,half and full,raised in a unhealthy enviroment on the rez,(south dakota) just surviving was important.So when I left(moved to another state) and married white and now my children have also, my grandchildren are not recognised as Indian.Not enough blood(1/8) and unless they marry or have a child with someone of nakota,dakota,or lakota blood(we're lakota)the bloodline ends with my children.Does this make me sad? Alittle but thats the way it has to be,surviving was more important.
Anonymous says:
Feb 01, 2009 11:39 AM
Interesting article.
I want to know if the author studied any of the National Archive's records from the Competence Commission in the late 19th century? Clearly from these records you would learn that blood quantum were based on the theory that a white man was the most intelligent being on the planet and any mixture of his race he became incompetent. A Indian who was 1/4 was in the eyes of a full blood white man '3/4 intelligent'. A Indian who was 1/2 white man was '1/2 intelligent'. By this theory we know what a white man thought of a 4/4 Indian. The blood quantum genetics theory was and is to this day the most dangerous opponent to tribal government sovereignty. Example, as long as the Creek, Cherokee or Apache etc. think and refer to themselves in blood quantum or race instead of political nationalities we will never reach the promised land of self govern. Most Americans think a Cherokee is race instead of a political group. This is very dangerous.
Eli Grayson (Mvskoke)
Anonymous says:
Feb 01, 2009 02:04 PM
I agree.
Besides being a way to ensure that only Indians got the pitiful and paltry benefits that the federal goverment was giving to the Natives they made treaties with, it was an insidious way of permanently removing the land and memory of a people.
What has happened to many Native families is a tragedy. To be told you are no longer native because you fail a minimum blood quantum must be heartbreaking and its totally false. Many Eurasian peoples moved and interbred over centuries of war, conquest, migration and political alliance. They were not tatooed and catalogued the way the Jews were in WW2 nor the way Natives are now. They were who they were by culture, ethnicity and nationality. They were mixed of course but it didn't matter. It was kinship, family and self-declaration that made them Hungarian (East Europeans mixed with Mongol), Spanish (Celts, Iberians mixed with African and Arabian) and Italian (Mediterranean diaspora!).
Many tribes have rid themselves of this system and some have reinstituted it because of Casino greed. No matter how you look at it Blood Quantum is about exclusion when times are good and inclusion when times are bad. If money and benefits abound, the rolls are restricted so it can't be shared. If times are hard and they need someone to blame, they round up the ones who might have loyalty to be question and sequester them. Sometimes sequestration for the safety of the "american" public, sometimes for termination altogether.
Blood quantum is especially cogent to my situation. I am Mexican (part indigenous/part European) and although I look completely Native, have to prove my heritage. Mexican people, whose lands were stolen twice, once by the Spanish and secondly by WallStreet, have to come the US to survive. All of Mexico's wealth lies in US or European hands. Yet, we are persecuted and blamed for the bad economy taking away jobs that no one else wants. Blamed for international security even though the 911 terrorists came through Canada. Blamed for the drug trade, even though the CIA benefits from that money and drug flow can be halted at anytime. I hope more Natives read this editorial because Natives are Natives by culture and family, not solely by blood. If you don't believe me, try looking into the eyes of your blond haired neice and telling her she is not part of you and your heritage.
Anonymous says:
Feb 02, 2009 12:31 AM
I believe that the indian blood issue has been taken wayyyyyyy out of contents, and in all honesty there are many anglo saxons who have prospered off such through deception, whle many true indians by blood have been deceived out many things, while anglo saxons and some ignorant politians continue to misled people into believing that one person is better than the other because of the amount of blood. Sounds crazy to me! I believe if one would consider the history of how such an issue came to be ( through much deceptive labeling ), then maybe there would be a better understanding of the facts that those generations before us who dealt in deception, their generation of offspring ( some )continue to practice the same deception of misleading tribes into believing such foolishness. There is only one race, the human race, and many nationalities! Get it right people! I believe that blood does matter to some degree, but it shouldn't be the only thing that qualifies one to be a citizen of any tribe! Anglo Saxons are still dictating to indian people how to this and that, well it's time for indian people that are honest and on the level to keep buying into such foolishness, and as a whole tribe...make such decisions as to who belongs and who does not, no the anglo saxon laws or rules! That's how all this deception came about years ago! It's time for change as to how indians govern their own affairs! Not Mr. Charlie...darn it!
Anonymous says:
Feb 02, 2009 12:43 AM
Please forgive me for the mispelling. I meant to say, That indian people should stop buying into the anglo saxon's foolishness, not keep buying into it! My mistake!
I believe you understand where I'm coming from? It's time for self governing among the tribes, and all bad dealing indians in politics who work along side of deception should step off, and let someone who is honest in their dealings handle Indian Affairs, not generations of deceivers! I believe as some have mentioned when there are many mix marriages through generations that takes away from the pur blood, but that doesn't make them less of an indian, because their bloodline is generated from such a beautiful people and culture! Whether they're 100% or 1 whatever...if taught properly the generations of mixed anything should be able to identify with their Native roots!
Anonymous says:
Feb 02, 2009 10:33 AM
Need and Desire uncovers the deep desires, needs, and spiritual issues within our character. It takes us to a place within ourself, where we can draw upon those aspects of our feelings that have collected dust or need to be confronted. It is excellent reading for any challenge one faces, because it encourages us to take that step in challenging the unknown, but with the kind of wisdom that brings peace and the opportunity to live.

I know that I have made several comments about the blood quantum issue and a few more, and in my book under the About The Author there are several tribes mentioned, and yes there's anglo saxon in the bloodline, but more so native blood that was shed as well as many slaves, whites,and others who shed their blood so that we would be free! Blood should only be an issue if disease is an element we should be concerned about, otherwise what's the point? Many claim to be something they are not, but there are those who remain true to their culture and I don't need blood to signify who I am. Anyway my book Need and Desire can be purchased at AuthorHouse Publishers,, Barnes and Noble, and Borders. Pricing is as low as $7.90 -$10.75. It's all poetry and I keeps it real, even if I can't please people all the time, some will be satisfied! It's not about us, it's about the Great Spirit and how we are to be good stewards over that which he has allowed us to have as a loan, not borrow, and how we manage what has freely been given by him to us! Hope I'm making!
Anonymous says:
Jul 05, 2009 10:18 PM
My grandmothers parents on my fathers side. Were Mexican/Comanche and Mexican/Apache/Irish. Since learning of the two tribes that my ancestors have came from. I've been trying to learn as much as possible. I came a cross this site and after reading this. I must agree with what this says.......

"There is no such thing as 'part-Cherokee.' Either you're Cherokee or you’re not. It isn't the quantity of Cherokee blood in your veins that is important, but the quality of it . . . your pride in it. I have seen full-bloods who have virtually no idea of the great legacy entrusted to their care. Yet, I have seen people with as little as 1/500th blood quantum who inspire the spirits of their ancestors because they make being Cherokee a proud part of a their everyday life." - Jim Pell: Principal Chief of the North Alabama Cherokee Tribe"

I am a Texas Native, born in San Antonio. All my life, I was told in school. That if I had even some Native American blood. I could apply for schoolships. I can care less about money and schoolships. All I want is to be part of my ancestors tribes..... Maybe one day, I will be!
carol shoemaker
carol shoemaker says:
Feb 12, 2012 10:52 PM
Blood quantum only serves to 'divide and conquer'. No woman worth her salt would not include one of her grandchildren because they don't meet the 'blood requirement' of a 'foreign government'. The only 'requirement' should be that you are 1)loyalty to the tribal constitution, 2)learn the language 3) learn the history and culture
and teach your children and non-tribal citizens. When the American Indian tribes break away from the subjugation of their foreign oppressors and form an AMERICAN INDIAN CONFEDERATION OF TRIBES, then and only then will they become truly sovereign. It should NOT be up to the BIA or any other agency to decide who is or who is not Indian. Once a person is enrolled with a tribe, blood or adopted (it matters not) they should be considered equal...period!!! Stop all the discrimination because this was brought in by the FOREIGNERS...HELLO?? Where are my tums...