Blood Quantum, Part II: The Indian New Deal and Tribal Constitutions

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.

John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, meets with South Dakota Blackfoot Indian chiefs in 1934 to discuss the Indian Reorganization Act. Photo: Unknown

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.

The Allotment era ended with the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, an effort to reverse such assimilation policies.

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.

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White Earth Appeals Court dismisses Right of Manoomin suit; Canada tries to sell Indigenous groups the Trans Mountain Pipeline: Buyer Beware!

In this post:

  • White Earth Court of Appeals dismisses Rights of Manoomin (wild rice) suit against DNR
  • Canadian government’s effort to get First Nations to buy financially troubled Trans Mountain pipeline seems cynical
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Manoomin (wild rice) is suing the DNR in White Earth Tribal Court

Manoomin (wild rice), the White Earth Nation, and others are suing the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in White Earth Tribal Court over the DNR’s decision to approve excessive dewatering as part of Enbridge Line 3 pipeline construction.

Those speaking on behalf of Manoomin, the lead plaintiff, said Manoomin requires water to live and thrive and the Line 3 dewatering threatened its very existence during a severe drought.

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As Walz administration continues to fail on Line 3, Line 3 continues bringing trauma to Indian Country

T-shirts spelled out: “We are all treaty people”

Native Nations and environmental groups opposed to the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline announced Wednesday they would appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court to overturn the pipeline’s Certificate of Need and Route Permit.

One notable advocate that had sued to stop Line 3 dropped out this time: The Minnesota Department of Commerce. Commerce represented the public interest before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). It has consistently argued that Enbridge failed to prove that future oil demand justified building the new and larger Line 3.

Those continuing litigation to overturn the PUC’s Line 3 permits are: The White Earth Band of Ojibwe, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, the Sierra Club, Honor the Earth, Friends of the Headwaters, and Youth Climate Interveners.

Gov. Tim Walz appears to have caved to political pressure. His administration’s decision to drop the appeal emphasizes what’s been clear for a while: In spite of promises, Walz is not taking climate damage or treaty rights seriously.

In related news, top elected leaders from the White Earth Nation came to the Capitol today to press the Walz administration for nation-to-nation consultation around Line 3.

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An Executive Order that wasn’t, Capitol Rally to oppose Line 3 dewatering, Shell River Rally, and more

In this blog:

  • The Executive Order that wasn’t
  • White Earth pushes against Line 3 dewatering increases, Capitol rally Wednesday at 3 p.m.
  • Women for the Rivers Rally at Shell River Thursday, noon-3 p.m., with V and Marisa Tomei
  • Last push for Line 3 monitors; we need eyes on the Horizontal Directional Drilling sites
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Enbridge Line 3 stands in a long line of Minnesota’s treaty violations

This day in history, Congress creates the ‘White Earth Roll Commission’

The White Earth Nation (Gaa-waabaabiganikaag) is invoking its treaty rights to stop the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline from being built. To date, it’s had no success. For White Earth and other Ojibwe bands and nations, it’s the latest in a long string of treaty abuses.

Let’s look at one other example. On this day in history, June 30, 1913, Congress created the White Earth Roll Commission to determine which White Earth Band members were “full blooded” and which were “mixed blood.” This was not a distinction Native communities made. Congress created these designations so businesses could “legally” steal White Earth’s valuable pine lands.

On one hand, it’s a typical story about people with money and power abusing the system to enrich themselves. On the other hand, it’s a little known story about how the United States decided, in its hubris, that it could dictate who is an “Indian” and who is a “mixed blood.”

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Treaty People Gathering was about more than resistance and arrests, but a teaching moment

Treaties are a two-way street with rights and responsibilities for both parties. On Line 3, Minnesota is failing its duty.

Photo: Ron Turney, EIN

The Treaty People Gathering, June 5-8, garnered extensive media coverage, notably the June 7 actions taken to stop construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline through northern Minnesota.

The media covered the political pressure placed on President Joe Biden to live up to his campaign promises to address climate change and respect Tribal sovereignty. It covered water protectors chaining themselves to Enbridge equipment and the subsequent arrests of approximately 200 people. It covered speeches by important movement leaders and celebrities such as Winona LaDuke, Tara Houska and Jane Fonda.

Most stories made a passing reference to treaty rights, but failed to give the topice much ink. It’s not something that fits easily into a two-paragraph summary or a 30-second video clip.

The problem is that many non-Indigenous people erroneously view treaty rights as a gift from the United State government to Indigenous Nations. Treaty rights are a binding contract between two parties, each with their own rights and responsibilities.

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Line 3 resistance now focuses on Biden

One piece of broader effort to stop pipelines

Darrell G. Seki Sr., chair of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa and Michael Fairbanks, Chair of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe wrote a strong letter to President Biden last winter asking him to shut down Enbridge Line 3 by executive order.

They asked Biden to respect Tribal sovereignty and treaties. “As elected leaders, we wish to state clearly that the Bands never gave consent for the construction of the pipeline through our treaty lands,” the Feb. 2 letter said. “In fact, the Bands’ governing bodies have each enacted multiple Resolutions throughout the course of the five-year regulatory process in opposition to the 338 miles of pipeline construction through the largest concentration of wild rice watersheds in the United States.”

With Walz being a wallflower in the Line 3 debate, Tribes, water protectors and their allies have ramped up presidential pressure.

Last month, more than 300 organizations “representing Indigenous groups and national and local organizations, sent a letter to the Biden Administration calling on him to immediately suspend or revoke Enbridge’s Line 3 permits,” WECAN reported.

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Enbridge Line 3’s COVID Preparedness Plan has no teeth

On Dec. 2, the day after Enbridge started construction of its Line 3 pipeline, the company updated its COVID Preparedness Plan with state regulators.

The plan was part of a compliance filing for Line 3’s Route Permit, approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

The plan seemed deficient, lacking transparency and enforcement. Healing Minnesota Stories wrote the PUC to ask why it didn’t require a stronger plan.

PUC Executive Secretary Will Seuffert wrote back: “the Commission did not require Enbridge to file any plans related to COVID-19, and did not approve the COVID-19 prevention plan.”

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MN Court of Appeals rejects stay in Line 3 construction

The Minnesota Court of Appeals Tuesday rejected an appeal by the Red Lake and White Earth nations to stop construction of Enbridge Line 3 until all the legal challenges could be heard.

While a big disappointment, Line 3 opponents still have a separate request for an injunction on construction pending in federal court.

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