Part I discussed why blood quantum rules, often a criteria for Tribal citizenship, are seen as an existential Tribal threat. Part II discusses constitutional reforms to change that rule.
To recap Part I: The 1887 Dawes “General Allotment” Act was devastating to Native Nations, an assimilation policy that imposed private land ownership and capitalism on communal societies centered around reciprocity. The law broke up community-held Tribal lands into small parcels and allotted them to individual Indians and families.
Passed under FDR’s administration, it’s referred to as the Indian New Deal. (It’s still the basis for federal law regarding Indian affairs.)
The Indian New Deal stopped allotments, restored Tribal land management, and sought to strengthen inherent Tribal sovereignty. It encouraged Tribes to write their own constitutions.
Today, roughly 70 percent of Tribal constitutions define citizenship using the colonial idea of blood quantum, according to attorney Gabe Galanda, a member of the Round Valley Indian Confederation of Northern California.
As Tribal members have intermarried with people from other Tribes or non-Indigenous people, children’s blood quantum often drops below the threshold to be considered a Tribal member.
Native Nations are wrestling with whether to eliminate blood quantum rules.
Prior to European contact, Indigenous people were born into a Tribe and their sense of belonging was never in doubt.
Colonial assimilation policies changed that. A little discussed government tactic used to undermine Tribal identity, divide Indian peoples, and steal Native lands is the legal fiction of “blood quantum.”
Instead of traditional kinship ties of belonging to a Tribe, the government imposed a formula to determine who had enough Indian blood to qualify as a Tribal member and who did not.
Blood quantum falls in that category of things colonists made up to get what they wanted.
Division of Race & Equity staff go public with long-standing complaints
The Minneapolis Coordinators Office, which houses the Division of Race & Equity, is under fire for creating a toxic work environment for division employees.
Seventeen of the division’s current and former employees have gone public with complaints, asking Mayor Jacob Frey and the City Council to reject hiring Interim City Coordinator Heather Johnston to the permanent post. They wrote that the office “has a history of ‘toxic, racist and unsafe workplace conditions’ and she [Johnston] hasn’t done enough to stop it,” according to a Star Tribune report.
This story shouldn’t be seen in isolation. It’s part of the city’s troubling pattern of failing to live up to its anti-racism and equity promises.
The U.S. Department of Interior this month released its first report documenting the historical and ongoing trauma the boarding school system inflicted on Indian children, their families, and their communities. It’s a first step in national efforts towards truth telling, education, and repair with Indigenous communities.
The Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report:
Confirms the United States created the boarding school system to force cultural assimilation and dispossession Indigenous peoples of their lands.
Identifies 408 boarding schools across 37 states that the U.S. government operated or supported. Roughly half of them “may have received support or involvement from a religious institution or organization.”
Identifies at least 53 burial sites for children who lived in boarding schools — with more discoveries expected. Approximately 19 boarding schools accounted for the deaths of more than 500 American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children. That number is expected to rise.
Identifies more than 1,000 other Federal and non-Federal institutions, “including Indian day schools, sanitariums, asylums, orphanages, and stand-alone dormitories that may have involved education of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian people, mainly Indian children.”
Native Nations made approximately 368 treaties with the U.S. government between 1777 and 1868. Native Nations negotiated those treaties as sovereign, independent entities.
The United States would later unilaterally declare Native Nations “domestic dependent nations.”
When and how did that switch happen? Were the U.S. actions legally valid?
An article published this year by the NYU Law Review, Revitalizing Tribal Sovereignty in Treatymaking, says no. It provides a new analysis on how Native Nations could challenge the paternalistic system the United States has imposed on them — and have their sovereign status recognized.
Efforts to overturn the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) have been going on almost since it was passed.
Researchers have reviewed editorials and commentaries over 40 years to show how writers have tried to sway public opinion against ICWA. The findings were recently published in The Indigenous Peoples’ Journal of Law, Culture & Resistance at UCLA, under the headline “Editorializing ICWA: 40 Years of Colonial Commentary.”
“There is a clear agenda and public relations campaign presented in our research of anti-ICWA columns, particularly those from the 21st century,” the article says. These columns “use a settler colonial ethic in an attempt to ‘destroy’ ICWA and ‘replace’ Native parents with white couples.”