Blood quantum influences Native American identity

Condensed by Native Village

For Native Americans, "blood quantum" is all about identity.

The term was first used in the 1700s by Colonial Virginia. Those who were more than 50% Native American had their rights restricted.

Today, the federal government uses to determines the benefits a tribe receives based on its population.

Different tribes have adopted their own levels of blood quantum. Some, including most of the Cherokee Nation, have abandoned blood quantum. They favor a simple ancestry based on rolls drawn up by a congressional commission in 1893.

But many tribes are angered by this, saying that practically anyone can claim membership in the Cherokee tribe. For many, particularly the elders, blood quantum is a matter of pride - a simple, incontrovertible measure of Indian identity. 

But as Native Americans intermarry among other tribes and with non-Natives, blood quantum may mean "extinction." One such example is Scott Davis, the Executive director of North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission. Davis has a list of his family and blood quantum fractions:

Scott is 44% Lakota Sioux from the Standing Rock Tribe. The Standing Rock tribe requires 25% blood quantum.
His wife, Lorraine, is 36% Dakota Sioux. She comes from the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribe which also requires 25% blood quantum.
When their daughters were born, the girls had 39.8% blood quantum. However, Standing Rock would not recognize his wife's blood, but the Sisseton-Wahpeton accept Scott's. So the girls are enrolled with the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribe.

Faced with this process of diminishing fractions, some tribes are looking identity changes. These include reducing blood quantum requirements, pooling of blood lines among tribes, and doing away with percentages and fractions altogether.

Another solution is for tribes to adopt citizenship acts that requires one to know their language and culture and to visit home.

Jesse Taken Alive, a Standing Rock councilman, wants to stop thinking in terms of numbers. "What's important is to focus on a way of life," he says.

Scott Davis agrees."I don't believe in the system," he says. "In my heart and my mind, I'm full blood. I always will be full blood."

Tribes requiring / degree blood quantum for membership
(Equivalent to one parent)
Tribes requiring / degree blood quantum for membership
(Equivalent to one grandparent)

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, Arizona
Yomba Shoshone Tribe
, Utah


Absentee-Shawnee Tribe of Indians
Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes
Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, Washington
Oneida Tribe of Indians
, Wisconsin
Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma
Pascua Yaqui Tribe
, Arizona
Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma
Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation
, Kansas
Navajo Nation, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico
Shoshone Tribe of the Wind River Reservation, Wyoming
Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation
, Arizona
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, North and South Dakota
Utu Utu Gwaitu Paiute Tribe
, California
Havapai-Prescott Tribe, Arizona
United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Oklahoma
Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, Montana


Tribes requiring / degree blood quantum for membership
(Equivalent to one great-grandparent)
Tribes requiring / degree blood quantum for membership
(Equivalent to one great-great-grandparent)
Apache Tribe of Oklahoma
Comanche Nation Oklahoma
Delaware Nation, Oklahoma
Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Reservation, Oregon
Fort Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma
Karuk Tribe of California
Muckleshoot Indian Tribe of the Muckleshoot Reservation, Washington
Northwestern Band of Shoshoni Nation of Utah (Washakie)
Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians, Oklahoma
Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma
Ponca Nation, Oklahoma
Sac and Fox Nation, Oklahoma
Sac & Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska
Squaxin Island Tribe of the Squaxin Island Reservation, Washington
Suquamish Indian Tribe of the Port Madison Reservation, Washington
Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation
Upper Skagit Indian Tribe of Washington
Wichita and Affiliated Tribes (Wichita, Keechi, Waco and Tawakonie)
Caddo Nation
Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians
Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon
Fort Sill Apache Tribe
Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma
Sac and Fox Nation, Oklahoma
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, North Carolina






Tribes determining membership by lineal descent
These tribes do not have a minimum blood quantum requirement; however, this does not mean anyone with any amount of Indian blood can enroll. Members must be direct descendants of original enrollees.

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