One of the most misunderstood aspect of Native life is Blood Quantum and one of the most common questions is:
“What is Blood Quantum” ?
A myriad of answers will cascade forth depending on the person and their understanding of what you are asking. For in some communities a person could be counted as Full Blood but not meet the minimum Quantum to enroll in a particular tribe! This mainly because the person is of multiple tribes, but you only count the tribe you are enrolling with. And yet Nations, Tribes and Bands continue to use Blood Quantum as a basis for enrollment and citizenship with a particular tribe. What can keep a Full Blood from being enrolled in one tribe, but that same person could meet the minimum of as little as 1/16th Degree? How in the world could a person with 1/2000 degree of Indian Blood receive the same benefits as a 4/4 Degree (Full Blood)? I will attempt to fully answer these question and perhaps give an insight into this very complex issue. But first a History lesson:
Blood Quantum in the modern sense was first “Officially” used by the BIA after passage of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, better known as the Indian Welfare Act. An awakened interest in the Affairs of Native populations had come to the forefront due to several events. During WW1 Native Troops had played significant roles in theater operations including as Code Talkers, combat troops and gave distinguished service in the US Military. In 1924 Congress authorized the Merriam Survey that spotlighted conditions and state of native populations on the reservations and in Oklahoma. The shocking conditions under the regimen established by the Dawes General Allotment Act (1887), as detailed in the Merriam report of 1928, spurred demands for reform. Many of the Merriam report’s recommendations for reform were incorporated in the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. The act curtailed the future allotment of tribal communal lands to individuals and provided for the return of surplus lands to the tribes rather than to homesteaders. It also encouraged written constitutions and charters giving Natives the power to manage their internal affairs. Finally, funds were authorized for the establishment of a revolving credit program for tribal land purchases, for educational assistance, and for aiding tribal organization. At first only 160 of 550 tribes or villages adopted written constitutions under the act’s provisions, in addition applied for and received monies from the revolving credit fund. This allowed many tribes to improved their economic position. With the funds for purchase of land, millions of additional acres were added to the reservations. Greatly improved staffs and services were provided in health and education, with more than half of all Indian children in public school by 1950. The act awakened a wider interest in civic affairs, and Indians began asking for the franchise, which they had been technically granted in 1924. The Reorganization Act remains the basis of federal legislation concerning Indian affairs. The act’s basic aims were reinforced in the 1960s and ’70s by the further transfer of administrative responsibility for reservation services to the Indians themselves, who continued to depend on the federal government to finance those services. 2
Up to 1934 a person was considered an Indian if they were recognized by their community and lived as an Indian. This definition was fairly straightforward but a more definitive method was needed for those that lived or would live farther from there communities as the 1950’s would show when the Urban Indian Relocation Program was rolled out by the BIA. “The Indian Relocation Act of 1956 (also known as Public Law 959 or the Adult Vocational Training Program) was alaw intended to encourage to leave , acquire vocational skills, and assimilate into the general population. Part of the of that era, it played a significant role in increasing the population of in succeeding decades. At a time when the U.S. government was decreasing subsidies to Indians living on reservations, the Relocation Act offered to pay moving expenses and provide some vocational training for those who were willing to move from the reservations to certain government-designated cities” 3.
Because of the program and others that were put together in the 1960’s a method of determining who was Native and who was not had to be devised. Originally the BIA administered this program of CDIB and gradually as more tribes took over there own Self Determination the tribal office now administers for its own tribe except for the very small tribes.
Here is an example of a BIA Application:
Expiration Date: July 31, 2011
BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS
CERTIFICATE OF DEGREE OF INDIAN OR ALASKA NATIVE BLOOD INSTRUCTIONS
All portions of the Request for Certificate of Degree of Indian or Alaska Native Blood (CDIB) must be completed. You must show your relationship to an individual Indian listed on an Indian census
roll, tribal base roll, Indian judgment fund distribution roll (Roll) that includes Indian blood degrees, or other document prepared and approved by the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary), or
his/her authorized representative.
• Your degree of Indian blood is computed from ancestors of Indian blood who were listed on a Roll or other document acceptable to the Secretary, or his/her authorized representative.
• You must give the maiden names of all women listed on the Request for CDIB, unless they were enrolled by their married names.
• A certified copy of a birth certificate or other official documentation is required to establish your relationship to a parent(s) listed on Roll or other document acceptable to the Secretary.
• If your parent is not listed on a Roll or other document acceptable to the Secretary, a certified copy of your parent’s birth or death certificate, or other official documentation is required to
establish your parent’s relationship to someone listed on such Roll. If your grandparent(s) were not listed on such Roll, a certified copy of the birth or death certificate or other official
documentation for each grandparent who was the child of an enrolled member of a federally recognized Indian tribe is required.
• Certified copies of birth certificates, delayed birth certificates, and death certificates may be obtained from the State Department of Health or Bureau of Vital Statistics in the State where the
person was born or died, or from a tribal office of Vital Statistic. The Indian tribe must have a duly adopted tribal ordinance concerning the issuance of such documents.
• In cases of adoption, the degree of Indian blood of the natural (birth) parent must be proven.
• Your request and supporting documents should be sent to the Agency from whom you receive services.
• Incomplete requests will be returned with a request for further information. No action will be taken until the request is complete.
1) IT DEPENDS… Up to this point in the article I have only written in broadest aspect of this very complex subject, for now we will start drilling down to the heart of the article and what most people who are not enrolled are desiring and that is: NDN Card! If I heard this once I have heard it a thousand times and that is “I cant be enrolled because I don’t have enough Indian Blood”. I point my lips to the beginning of this paragraph! IT DEPENDS! If you are attempting to register with the some odd 19 tribes that DONT use a Minimum Blood Quantum then your in luck for all you have to prove is you are a DIRECT DESCENDANT of somebody that was on the ORGINAL ROLL of that tribe. All tribes use a Membership Roll that they have determined best represents that Tribe in the past.
2) You Can’t change the past to fit today’s desires… What I mean to say your ancestors determined what you will be today! AND I MEAN all of them, If the Parents are Native so are the Children and the brothers and sisters of the parents and Uncles and Aunts, Cousins,Grandparents ect. If you are searching far in the past it will do no good unless you can show an unbroken line to them. MOST Base Rolls were done between 1900-1924 and some as late as 1947 so depending on your age, your grandparents or great grandparent would possibly be listed on a Base Roll. Do not rely on family Lore it will not help in your search it is far easier to search using a hired Expert they are not that expensive and you can rely on the results, more importantly you can actually use the results to apply. Another HUGE point NOT ONE of the 566 Tribes will CHARGE you for ENROLLEMENT!
3) There are 566 Federally Recognized tribes in the United States. I will not mention Canada for they have a far different method to determine who is considered “1st Nation”As you may noticed I underlined that phrase Federally Recognized Tribes, this means that the US Government has acknowledged that they have held a Government to Government relationship for more than 100 years and other criteria that they have determined. (that is another article so for the sake of this one we will use the these terms). This means that STATE Recognized tribes will not get you the same services as a Federal Tribe will. States have there own reasons to recognize groups mostly to do with attracting TOURIST dollars and has nothing to do with an actual Native populations or providing services for them.
4) As time has passed, especially in the 1980’s the Federally government has passed more and more powers to Tribal Governments for “Self Determination”. What this means is the TRIBE determines who is a Citizen. As a Citizen you are granted rights to vote, hold office and Hold Land in Trust (Oklahoma) or residence on the Reservation of your enrollment and of course access to Health Care.
5) Criteria for Citizenship is varied as the stars are in the sky, some tribes use no minimum blood criteria but the notion that a Tribal Citizen is a DIRECT DESCENDANT of an Original Enrolled Member, others use a minimum quantum that is set usually by the tribal council and subject to change as the need arises. This criteria is perhaps the most confusing of all as I have mentioned there are 566 tribes all have a different way to recognize a person as a citizen that works for that tribe. This means it is best to contact that tribe for there enrollment criteria most have a web prescience and the forms are usually found online.
Some Examples of Tribal Minimums as of 2014
Kialegee Tribal Town
Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida
Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Mississippi
St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin
White Mountain Apache Tribe, of Arizona
Yomba Shoshone Tribe, of Nevada
Absentee-Shawnee Tribe of Indians, of Oklahoma
Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, of Oklahoma
Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, of Washington
Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin
Hopi Tribe of Arizona
Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma
Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma
Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Arizona
Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, of Montana
Navajo Nation, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico
Oneida Tribe of Indians, of Wisconsin
Pascua Yaqui Tribe, of Arizona
Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, of Kansas
Shoshone Tribe of the Wind River Reservation, of Wyoming
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, North and South Dakota
United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, of Oklahoma
Utu Gwaitu Paiute Tribe, of California
Yavapai-Prescott Tribe, of Arizona
Blackfeet Tribe, of Montana
Apache Tribe of Oklahoma
Comanche Nation, of Oklahoma
Delaware Nation, of Oklahoma
Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Reservation, of Oregon
Fort Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma
Hooopa Valley Tribe of California
Karuk Tribe of California
Muckleshoot Indian Tribe of the Muckleshoot Reservation, of Washington
Northwestern Band of Shoshoni Nation of Utah “Washakie”
Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians, of Oklahoma
Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma
Ponca Nation, of Oklahoma
Sac and Fox Nation, of Oklahoma
Sac & Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska
Squaxin Island Tribe of the Squaxin Island Reservation, of Washington
Suquamish Indian Tribe of the Port Madison Reservation, of Washington
Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation
Upper Skagit Indian Tribe of Washington
Wichita and Affiliated Tribes (Wichita, Keechi, Waco and Tawakonie)
Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon
Fort Independence Indian Community of Paiute Indians of the Fort Independence Reservation, of California
Fort Sill Apache Tribe
Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, of North Carolina
Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians
Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town
Citizen Potawatomi Nation
Delaware Tribe of Indians
Eastern Shawnee Tribe
Mashantucket Pequot Tribe of Connecticut
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts
Miami Tribe of Oklahoma
Muscogee Creek Nation
Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma
Peoria Tribe of Indians
Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma
Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Michigan
Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma
Thlopthlocco Tribal Town