ADRIENNE KEENE: Welcome to another episode of all my relations we hope you're all doing well, we're so grateful that you have joined us on this journey and are back for another episode.
MATIKA WILBUR: Folks, today we're discussing blood quantum.
ADRIENNE: We both did it.
MATIKAOne time, Adrienne, I was at Pepperdine, giving a talk. And one of the very important people. The President, said to me, how do I enroll the full blooded Indians? Where do I find them? In front of a large group of people.
ADRIENNE: Like, enroll them in college?
ADRIENNE: Oh, God.
MATIKA: Yeah. He said, Well, you know, like, we really want to increase our Native population. But, you know, when we are looking for Native students, we can't ever get the full bloods. I was like uhhhh-
ADRIENNE: So yeah, today, we're gonna be talking about blood quantum, which is something that is a topic that comes up almost every time I interact with any people, but also a really big and important issue facing our communities, because blood quantum is often used for the ways that we enroll in our tribal nations, it's used to determine citizenship, and I don't think a lot of folks, because it becomes so normalized, like stop to really think about where this concept even comes from, and like what it actually means and the implications of it. Because it's so normalized, and just a part of our everyday existence as Native people.
MATIKA: Yeah. It's so deeply ingrained in our colonial history that some of us don't even know, like the very origin of how this began. But we know for sure that notions of blood quantum were not our fundamental ways of understanding our sense of belonging and kinship. And most of our communities. I know, for me, for sure, you know, our clan systems, our longhouse systems, were the ways that we identified who belonged. And most of that had to do with who our parents are and we have somehow fallen away from this from this belief system, and well its not somehow it was done very systemically. And we're going to talk about that today, with a group of folks that, that specialize in this field, and have litigated in this field, but also scientists.
ADRIENNE: And it's something we'll talk about on this episode. But we do want to make sure that we start out by saying that this is not something that has any roots in actual science or biology, you can't actually quantify the amount of Native blood that someone has. And it definitely is not something that can be done through genetics or DNA, either. And it's a concept that came from outside of our communities. It's not something that came from within Native communities. It was designed by colonizers to erase us to breed us out to have less resources that they had to provide for Native communities. Even so it's something that has deep roots, and a lot of defenders in Indian country, so we'll talk about that as well with our guests. And we should probably even take a step back because I know that we have a fair amount of non Native listeners who might not even know what we mean when we say blood quantum. This idea of blood quantum is the notion that you can somehow quantify the amount of quote unquote, Native blood that a person possesses. And the idea is that you start with a again, quote, unquote, full blood ancestor and then with each passing generation, depending on who that ancestor has children with, if it's a non Native person, then it becomes a subtractive identity. So then, the next generation is half blood, and then quarter and then eighth, and then 16th, and then 32nd, and on and on and on. It's something that is written on our Certificate of degree of Indian blood that we all have that I think non Natives sometimes don't know that we all literally have a certificate of degree of Indian blood that comes from the federal government that has our blood percentage on it.
MATIKA: Isn't that strange? People will say I'm a card carrying Indian meaning I can prove that I have this degree of Indian blood and it's very very well it's exhausting and demeaning to think about showing your pedigree.
MATIKA: So we have on the show today, Charlotte Logan, who is Akwesasne Mohawk and a molecular biologist working in upstate New York. Charlotte has a master's in molecular and cellular biology from Brandeis University and has spent a decade specializing in the field of small RNA and mRNA processing. She recently made a life altering choice by stepping away from her career and enrolling in the Onondaga language program, where she spent two years studying the Onondaga language. She recently returned to Biochemistry and Molecular Biology as a Senior Research Support Specialist.
ADRIENNE: Also joining us on this episode is Gabe Galanda. Gabe belongs to the Round Valley Indian tribes of California, descending from the Nomlaki and Concow tribes. As a partner at Galanda Broadman, Gabe is an attorney whose legal practice represents tribal governments, businesses and citizens often working on complex multi party litigation and crisis management. Gabe is a prolific writer on tribal litigation and sovereignty and Indian civil rights issues, having been published over 100 times in national periodicals, like the National Law Journal and business law today. And Skyping, in with us is Professor David E. Wilkins, who is Lumbee and holds the McKnight presidential professorship in American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota Professor Wilkins research and teaching interests include Indigenous politics and governance, federal Indian policy and law, comparative politics, and diplomacy and constitutional development. He most recently co authored with Heidi Stark, a book titled American Indian politics and the American political system. Third Edition.
MATIKA: Lastly, we have Tommy Miller, who is a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville reservation. And in Seattle law practice focuses on litigation, Indian law, government contracts and procurement, which touch on a wide variety of issues including treaty rights. He received his JD and bachelor's degrees from Harvard University. In 2014. He published the American Indian Law Journal, “Beyond Blood Quantum: The Legal and Political Implications of Expanding Tribal Enrollment”.
ADRIENNE: As we get rolling on this episode, we're going to take you back to the conversations with our guests in our studio space in Tacoma, and bring together the different perspectives on this really complex and complicated issue of blood quantum. As a faculty member, I teach courses on critical race theory, Indigenous methodologies, and I have to teach a lot of times about the origins of racial formations in our country as it relates to Native communities specifically, and one of the things that I often point out to students is the ways that the US court system has really played a huge role in making blood quantum quote unquote, real. And one of the things that I point to you is the very first line of Justice Alitoʻs opinion in the baby Veronica case. And he says, quote, this case is about a little girl parentheses, baby girl, who was classified as an Indian because she is 1.2%, parentheses, three 256ths, Cherokee. So to me, I think that that line is really important in pointing out how the court system uses blood quantum to their advantage in these court cases. We asked about these origins in the court, and what are the ways that the court system in the US has made blood quantum into this quote unquote, real thing? In the conversation that follows, you're going to hear Tommy's voice first followed by Gabe and also Professor Wilkins.
TOMMY MILLER: Sure. So there are some some examples of of being used at various points throughout the 1800s by the federal government in certain contexts, but the way as I understand it, that it really came to, especially impact Native communities was with the allotment period in Indian law, where the goal was to subdivide reservations into individual parcels, and then sell off the quote unquote surplus to essentially break down the tribal system and break down Native land ownership. As part of that. They realized that the land wasn't being distributed into white ownership at the same rate that they’d expected. So they put into effect a system of blood quantum where someone who was full Native blood would have Land held in trust for a certain period of time, someone who was half Native blood would have their rent held in trust for less time, and so on and so forth based on the idea that the more Indian blood you had, the less competent you could possibly be, and the less control you should have over your own land. Moving forward in the 1930s, during what was for the most part, more positive period of Indian law, they had
the Indian Reorganization Act under which tribes established the Constitutions that most of them now have, but the Bureau of Indian Affairs had kind of a boilerplate system that they wanted tribes to adopt. And that included in it a system of blood quantum for tribal membership. And that's how, as I understand it, blood quantum came to be the standard across the country for tribal membership, instead of the more traditional kinship based methods that most tribes employed before that, it was replaced with a very pseudo scientific, clear distinction between who should belong and who shouldn't, based on this idea of blood quantum.
GABE GALANDA: So there's quite a lot there. But I would say that the first racial formation as it relates to who we were, then kinship societies, and now who we are today, quote, unquote, citizens of quote unquote, nations, was started in the 1820s and 1830s by then Chief Justice, John Marshall and some of the language as you all know, even referred to acid he has he then. So if you carry forward that legacy, all the way to the baby Veronica case. And now the Brackeen case. The Supreme Court has decimated at least legally speaking, the notion that we were kinship societies. It was much more convenient for the United States government, including Chief Justice John Marshall, to make us nations or even governments, which by treaty, could cause us to see millions and millions of Indigenous homelands and then come along in time, quote, unquote, pulverized the remaining land base, thereby decimating our ancestral connection to our homelands. And then, over the course of the 19th remaining of the 19th century, of the entire 20th century, racialized us, and you now see that in the Brackeen decision that everybody is rightfully up in arms about. The entire notion of Indian identity has been to dis possessive of our land, and to extinguish our existence and blood quantum is a predominant way that that has happened to us since the late 1800s, certainly since 1934. And my biggest concern, legally speaking, is less to do with what the federal courts are doing to us by way of racialization or blood quantum analysis. It's what we're doing to ourselves by carrying out that legacy of blood quantum and now using blood quantum to decimate our own people in terms of those who have already belonged, and to prevent those yet unborn from ever belonging.
DAVID WILKINS: And what makes it particularly complicated, I just reread a couple of articles by Paul Spruahn, who is an Attorney for the Navajo Nation, he's written quite a bit about about the blood quantum issue as well. And in Matthew Snipp who's at Stanford who have a lot of work in the area of census data has wrote quite a bit about quantum in the 80s, and so on. But this is where I think things get mixed up between our racial status and our political and governmental status. Because we know that kinship matters to us, and therefore, by definition, who were related to genealogically, in, you know, matters a great deal. And we also know that we are, have inherently always been governing bodies, even though we didn't call ourselves governments necessarily. Because Ella Deloria says in her book, “Speaking of Indians”, you know, you know, we were related to one another. And that was all the government we ever had the kinship system, really provided that framework, that link of all, the linkage that was based on both genealogy, as well as a marriage as well as the people that you were, you know, that you hung out with people who are your friends. So it was a broad, encompassing framework, but the element of blood as it has been laid on to us by the Federal forces, not so much during the Allotment Act per se, but it really kicks in, according to my research in the early 1900s over educational provisions in which the federal government's trying to reduce the amount of expenditures that it was having to pay out for Native students to go to school. And then in Cato Sells’ policy in 1970. He comes up with the competency Commission's where you see blood quantum really begin to get, begin to infiltrate federal policy, and federal rules and regulations. And then IRA with the half blood provision, they defend anybody who is not a member of a recognized drive, you can still be identified as an Indian for federal purposes. If you have When you can prove one half or more Native blood, and that's where my tribe, the Lumbees who were quasi recognized the Native nation. And yet in 1938, John Collier a physical anthropologist to study our head size and our brain size and our eyebrow size, the texture of our hair, to try and determine whether or not we met the one half blood Quantum criteria. And it was an insane, ridiculous procedure in which, you know, some 22 Lumbees were then not known as Lumbees were determined to be Native individuals, and the others were not, and yet they were all related to one another, by the kinship system of the Lumbee people. So it's a complicated and a bizarre process. And until, unless, that we find some way to get a hold of this monster and move away from fractions of, blood is simply, you know, the body part that keeps us alive, right, that determine our values or our identity, something much more does that for our people, which is our land, in our, and our and our cultures.
ADRIENNE: Absolutely. And I think it's important to point out along those lines, how, in early America, the racial systems that we have developed very differently for Black folks and for Native folks. So like, in the early colonies, it was the white settlers, it was enslaved Africans, it was Native peoples were the three groups. And it was advantageous for the settlers to have less Native folks, because Native folks were useful for their land. So you wanted less Native people, because that meant that you had more access to the land and resources that those Native people possessed. On the other hand, for enslaved Africans, you wanted more of them, because they were able to work that land and to then develop capital and wealth and resources from that land. So because of this, you have these two opposite systems that have developed where it's blood quantum, which is subtractive. So you're making less Native people. And the one drop rule, which is expansive, it's the idea in Black communities that if you have one drop of African ancestry, you are categorized as Black. And that was a system that was created to create more enslaved Africans to be able to work that land. So you want less Native folks, more Black folks. And that's how you get these two systems of classification. And they're things that are still in place in many ways today, are things that did not come from either of our communities and weren't there to serve either of our communities. They were there to serve white supremacy, and settler colonialism.
GABE: And both of those notions one drop or blood quantum are not only racial formations, they’re racial fictions, it's not as if in 1705. In Virginia, a mulatto was one drop African, and 99 drops Caucasian It’s as if in 1934, that any Native was one half in terms of the blood running through their veins, Scandinavian, and one half Nomalki and Concow, or one quarter Nomalki and one quarter Concow. That's not the way at least I understand our biology work. It's a complete fiction.
MATIKA: This was a perfect time to transition to our conversation with Charlotte. We asked Charlotte if she could just take a moment to debunk these very unreal ideas around quantifiable blood or notions of blood purity and in Charlotte's way of being a scientist, she's going to tell us how to understand these notions.
CHARLOTTE LOGAN: It's kind of confusing to me how DNA was taken as something that could be quantified into a race because race is from what I understand is completely social construct. So I want to start with, let's just talk about the direct consumer testing business. What they've done thus far in American society is kind of jumped the gun. A lot of geneticists actually, they're not even ready for this. what's happening, the ethics that come with the knowledge that comes from looking at a genome closely or comparing genomes, if you're going to get a direct to consumer, something that you can do at home, then you mail it off. The problem is that they're not really, really high definition. So they're kind of like a blurry picture of something. But because the American public is so scientifically illiterate, they will take, you know, whatever, you know, these direct to consumer companies spin as truth. Now we've got companies spinning this idea of ethnicity and race in a way that is extremely misleading. They don't actually have the information to give you a very accurate definition of what area of the world you are from, or most like. So I'm not sure when people decided to start saying that you could have this, you know, 20%, European or 30% something else, but I can tell you the I can tell you about the human genome, kind of give you a better understanding about what, what's in there. So let's say we have around 3.8 point two to 3.5 billion base pairs per genome. Of that 3.2 billion, only 1% of that is actually coding DNA, which means that it produces genes. So we have around 20,000 genes in the human genome. And we actually have, depending on where you’re from, we have ancient genome, as well. So we don't just have a genome in our nucleus of ourselves. We also have a mitochondrial genome, which is separately inherited. There's 37 genes on on mitochondrial genome. So if only 1% of your genome is actually an actual gene, there's all this in between DNA. And all this in between DNA is kind of viral DNA. So we, if you wanted to count by base pairs and make a percentage every human is probably about 9% viral DNA. We also have bacterial DNA, which is the mitochondrial DNA that's bacterial. In origin, I think, I don't know if you can call it bacterial anymore. And then we have these huge spans of DNA in our in our genomes that are actually like viral graveyards, we call them transposons. And they, what the transposons like to do is they they jump out of the genome and switch places, so they're kind of like, constantly playing leapfrog. And so the transposons are actually what drives our evolution, because they like to jump in the middle of a gene, and maybe the mutation will be positive or negative, we don't know. You know, so in terms of, of genome and, and saying that race is something that can be divided up, it doesn't make sense to me, because the functional part of the genome is is is all the the actual genes. And if you want to compare functional genomes we’re almost identical. You know, we have so many, that's where we, that's where we have the most homologies is within our genes, the 20,000 genes that we have.We also carry genes from from long ago. Whilst not all of us, but a lot of us carry Denisovan DNA, as well as Neanderthal DNA. So that's probably anywhere from two to highest, I've seen 10%. And that just means that how many mega bases there are in the genome. So you can actually quantify that the borders around race, those are more gray areas, maybe areas that how do you what what genes makeup or race? Have we had that definition yet?
ADRIENNE: Charlotte, I'm wondering. So I know, in a lot of our communities, there's been this movement of these direct to consumer DNA tests kind of coming into communities and saying, we would like you to participate and get your genome mapped, because we need more Native participation in our database. And is that a good thing?
CHARLOTTE: So right now, because we don't have the ethics of DNA testing in our communities or even mainstream America, you don't have the ethics nailed down, and the implications for the future of what these what giving over your genomic information will hold, we don't know what that looks like. Because of the way that direct to consumer testing or testing is being used for disenrollment or enrollment, I think it's safe to, to just not put our information out there. It's safer to, to be conservative about about who and how we let look at our genomes as Native people just because we've been taken advantage of in the past. So I would advise people to be very careful and I would actually advise people not to use the direct to consumer testing, if they are, you know, Native people, just keep us out of the system. Because until we figure out and get things under control in our own communities, in terms of enrollment and disenrollment, I don't think that that information should be out there to be used against us in certain ways.
ADRIENNE: And because it's not necessarily just your DNA that you're putting in to the system, there was a study recently that 80 I think, is 80% of white people in what is now known as the United States can be identified based on their relatives who have taken direct to consumer DNA tests. And so when you are opting into the system, you're also bringing your entire family with you, in terms of then law enforcement and the government and all sorts of whoever having access to that information. So it's not just a singular decision, either.
CHARLOTTE: Yeah, that's true. That's very true. And a very good point to haplotypes that they found for Native people, their original five or six mothers that they say that we came from, those were actually mined from data sets that were old, they actually use data sets as well, if you give yourself over to be used for medical research, I've actually stays where they're using those genomes to mine for Neanderthal genomes. So they can actually mine for ancient genomes through databases like, like the ones created with with the 1000 Genomes Project and the direct to consumer data sets. So it's just better that we, we don't enter that, that arena until we're ready, ethically, for the repercussions, because there are a lot.
ADRIENNE: From my understanding. Each of these companies also uses a different database. They have kind of their own proprietary database of genomes that they use. And then on top of that, you were talking about the way that mitochondrial DNA decompose or decomposes, is the wrong word I know but like breaks down, mutates. So we're not necessarily all inheriting it the same way, like from a single ancestor. So there could potentially be people in your family that have inherited that gene differently. Am I understanding that correctly?
CHARLOTTE: Yes. So if they're using mitochondrial DNA, because there's only 15,000 base pairs, there's actually a very, very significant probability that you are going to have the same haplo haplogroup as other people, I think the difference between maybe two unrelated human beings is around 15 to 18. mutations, and that's it. So it's a small data set. That's why it's very, very general and that's why the mitochondrial DNA haplogroup system is flawed. And it's also flawed, because what they're learning is that there's pieces of that genome that mutate faster, and there's pieces of that genome that mutate slower. So in that case, the the idea, the idea that we would have a lineage of certain number of mutations between generations, it's not empirically determined, that's theoretical. Also, they're finding out which is this is really cool to me that what they thought was just a matrilineal passage of genomic information isn't. So there's actually evidence of mitochondrial DNA contribution from the patrilineal side. So usually, when the sperm and the egg come together, the sperm gets in there, it has a lot of mitochondria, because that's what keeps the tail moving. And so when it gets into the egg, it gets completely destroyed by the system inside of the egg. And so there's no DNA. But that's not true. Because not every egg is equipped with what it needs to destroy that genomic DNA. And so there's leakage. And then when a leakage occurs, that DNA actually integrates or recombines with the maternal mitochondrial DNA, so that's in Yes. So a guy I know that actually discovered the recombinase for the mitochondrial DNA actually works at SUNY upstate Dr. Chang. He's pretty cool. So
ADRIENNE: What I am understanding from all of this is basically the ways the public has been sold the science on this totally don't line up with the actual science. So those like ancestry.com commercials that show like a teepee and like old Native folks in buckskin or whatever and imply that you can use this to figure out your Native ancestry, that's not what the science is telling us.
CHARLOTTE: Very likely. It's a, it's a, it's a very messy quick sketch. The science is not complete. To be able to give any kind of accurate picture of how much, and I'm not gonna say percent Native American you are, how much genetic contribution you had to an ancestor. That's completely different.
ADRIENNE: Those are two different questions yeah.
CHARLOTTE: Also we do not keep all genetic contributions. So the nature of evolution is that what what works sticks and what doesn't work, it gets gets passed to the wayside. And to say that you're this percentage. You're 10% versus your grandmother who was 50%, but what if there was some, you know, genetic loss that that was good for you that happened, does that mean that you're less or less Native because your body didn't keep whatever contribution. That also blurs the nice lines that they're trying to draw around the idea that you can quantify how much Native American you are.
ADRIENNE: And I know Dr Tallbear who we also talked with. She has a consortium of Native genetic researchers that she works with. And I think that the conversations they're having a really powerful around. How can we do it differently so how can we do genetic research that benefits Native communities and we have control over the data, and we know where it's going and what questions are being asked and how they're being asked and how the data is being used, because there is a lot of power in this type of research if it's done correctly, and with the community in mind.
CHARLOTTE: Right, well they're actually not looking at any genes at all, they're looking at the pieces in between the spans between genes that are different. So because it's in between the gene, it can change, and that would be really detrimental. And so what they can do is look at let's say someone from 10,000 years ago and they have this specific gene. And then when it's inherited it actually shrinks a little bit, because every time that a human is created the genomes shuffle like a deck of cards, and some shuffle and chunks on shuffle, you know, whole decks, will you know, so if you're going to think about it. Pieces get handed down, but they don't always get, they don't stay intact. And so what they're doing is they're saying, oh six to 10 generations ago that would, you know they, you know, this is how long it took for that gene to break apart. But the thing that drawbacks to that are that they actually don't know what the, they don't know how the DNA is is splitting. So, they can't say exactly where it's happening or how long it takes to happen so the time between mutations is their clock to figure out how many generations back something is and it's, it's not real it's completely theoretical. And so they don't have any real, real data to back up their mitochondrial, you know clock or, you know, every time a paper is published on something it's a different person's perspective of the molecular clock or, you know, this idea of of anthropology anthropological perspective. So some people are closer to the truth than others but you don't know who those people are really until you see more than one data point so. They can they can pinpoint where geographically, they can put you. And that's compared to everybody else's genomes, but people move. And so, those people who live like England, now, what their genomes look like present day versus what it looks like 100 years ago. It's different, drastically different, but those are still English people. Do you know what I mean? And so they can place you where you exist now where your closest relatives are now. But that doesn't that doesn't translate to race for me.
ADRIENNE: So what we can take away from Charlotte's scientific expertise is the understanding that the scientific methods and understanding, just doesn't really match what we as a society have come to think of this concept of blood quantum or even genetic ancestry, there's too little information, too many factors at play, and no matter what from the basis, there is no scientific foundation for us to be able to build this construction of blood quantum.
DAVID: DNA, I’m not a hard scientist, I’m a social scientist, but we know that they can be useful to crime, and it can be useful for determining paternity, but it's not gonna tell us a damn thing about identity. It's just not going to do that. We know that race is in fact a social construct and the best definition I heard of race was an article I've read where the author said that race is a figment of our imagination. And I think that's absolutely. I think it's absolutely true. Because it really was based on kinship kinship that extended beyond our immediate genealogical genealogical families. And so I think we've got to quickly harness these arguments to convince tribal governments to not keep going down that road because when a tribe pick up a DNA testing procedure. Next thing you know, four more tribes will pick it up, and I think my think of 25 is probably under numbered I think they're probably more tribal governments that are employing DNA testing because they think that's the next wave. And we need to get past that we need to get past the whole concept of race, as a scientific construct and return back to the fundamental issues of determining identity based on concepts that we all know inherently in our, in our hearts.
GABE: Well, in my line of work having defended 600, or more, relatives, from up and down the West Coast out to the Great Lakes, and beyond from a process of disenrollment. It epitomizes how far we have strayed from who we were before 1492 or 1787 or the 1830s or 1934. As Dr Wilkins has written and has just said, we were kinship societies. There was nothing greater than us, as our relationship to one another, there was no government or overlord dictating how we behaved. We were societies, we were communities. We were religions. And we were interrelated with one another very simply because of biology you were who you were because of whom you were born, and to where you were born. And they said it wasn't there wasn't a biological connection as Dr. Wilkins alluded. There was intermarriage there was adoption. There were other modes of welcoming people into a kinship society who weren't even of that biology. In the last few 100 years we have strayed dramatically far away from that and we are now way more exclusive than we are, are inclusive, because our governments are now dominated by colonial norms, foreign constitutional norms and capitalism. And as a result, we are now getting rid of our own people at an unprecedented rate. Dr Wilkins scholarship suggests 80 tribes, which is about 15% of the federally recognized tribes in our country have gotten rid of anywhere between 9, 10 and 11,000 relatives, predominantly over the last decade. And it's no coincidence that during that time, the Indian gaming industry has blossomed into a multi billion dollar industry. We are now treating each other. In, not just colonial ways but capitalistic ways. Even to the point where we have people auditing CPAs auditing membership roles to then tell tribal politicians who belongs and who doesn't. That is how far we have strayed from where we were before, before 1492.
DAVID: Thatʻs well put, my man. He laid out the basic numbers. I began tracking, first it was banishment which first popped on the scene in 1991 I think it was involved in a case in Washington state, where a couple of Native youth beat up a pizza delivery man, and were banished to a reservation, right off the coast of, right outside of Seattle. And I started in that it was another case of banishment involving the Isleta Pueblo down in in Texas and then a year or two later there was another banishment. And then there was a case that wound up in the federal district court in New York State involving Seneca, five Seneca were banished for having allegedly committed treason against the nation, they were banished and escorted off the reservation. And then all of a sudden, and I began to keep a file in of these of these, these, these management, then all sudden, I stopped thinking about banishments and then it turned into disenrollment, because by now, by the time we're in the middle of the 1990s, a few tribes were beginning to accrue great economic wealth because of gaming revenue predominantly, particularly in California and then I began to see the spike. And then they weren't talking about banishment they were talking about disenrollment. Just a much more categorical termination of a Native person's political and legal right to be identified as an Indigenous person. Banishment is simply a social exclusion, and historically we all had some familiarity with that concept related to the Biblical notion of exile. But disenrollment which is something that we rarely did not do historically the earliest disenrollment I could find in the research was in the 1950s involving the northern Ute. And again, that was over money as Gabe pointed out. And so, but it's been that spike with the gaming wealth in the 1990s along with compensation from various judgment funds has led to a significant surge in banishment. I mean, in disenrollment. Banished is typically associated with crime and gang activity and drug activity and violence against members of a Native community. Disenrollment, almost invariably is connected to family squabbles, gaming revenue, personal vendettas, and tribal tribal corruption. And so I really want to applaud Gabe sitting there with you all for the critically important work that he's doing and representing the disenrollees and those facing disenrollment from this scores that um is leaving a real blemish on our Indigenous cultural identities.
GABE: And the good thing is through conversations like this there's been a reawakening or re education about disenrollment. I have to confess that when I started this advocacy, I didn't think that this enrollment was anything other than just part of the process, because I didn't stop to really think critically about it. And now I realized it was never part of our process historically speaking, it was introduced to us, along with blood quantum and residential meaning residential reservation residential requirements in 1934. And it is now decimating us through our own devices and in our own hands. But when I ask my disenrolled clients, for example, if you know your language, can you tell me any word that comes remotely close to the word disenrollment. Theyʻll say no we can't, there's, there's no word, other than maybe banishment which is distinct that we can even articulate that captures the notion, let alone the word disenrollment it's wholly non Indigenous, but we through, you know, the legacy of boarding school, and reorganization and termination, and even self determination in some respects when you bootstrap that with capitalism gaming. We've sort of been brainwashed to believe that this was somehow our way. And it's never been our way. It's completely foreign to us, and it's now, basically, killing the Indians in our own hands. Disenrollment and this is important, is never, ever, about the truth of who belongs. It is always in my experience, for an ulterior motive, such as sustaining power and wealth and what they asked disenrollees to do, put yourself in those shoes for a minute, is to prove their ancestry or prove they belong. I've had I've had disenrollees been asked to go find their great grandma's birth certificate from the late 1800s, or to go find some record of their great great grandma, proceeded to that. Now keep in mind we didn't count as citizens till the 1920s Natives, especially Native women in the 1800s didn't count for just about any reason so there aren't so called vital records like death certificates or birth certificates or even marriage records that you can go back to in the late 1800s to prove that your great grandma is who you say she was now in the in 2018. That is the proverbial gun that has been placed at the head of my clients of disenrolless and it's a complete farce and has nothing to do with the truth of who belongs.
ADRIENNE: Since our tribes have always had other ways of determining who belongs in our community kinship wise adoption was plan wise, other ways, potentially, that means that he could incorporate folks into our nations that have no discernible tribal ancestry, and Tommy actually wrote about that, in his Law Review article.
TOMMY: There's really any variety of ways that that could look like or the form of that take and kind of the central thrust of my paper was the tribes need to take a hard look at themselves and their past and where they are now, and figure out what it is how they want to define themselves going forward in the future. Gabe had touched on this before about different ways, non biological ways that people can become incorporated into a tribe through adoption or marriage or any number of other ways and, so essentially, as we start to think about the different ways that tribes can define membership outside of blood quantum, I thought that it was worth exploring the concept of opening up that membership to people that didn't have any Native ancestry, necessarily, but had some other specific connection to the tribe that reflected the kinds of values that we thought were important in tribal members. That's sort of the internal component i think there's also an external component that comes into play and in about the quote from Scalia where he highlighted the blood quantum baby Veronica, and that is that the way that the outside culture basically defines Native is by blood quantum. That's become just the standard that everyone uses I'm sure we've all gotten many times, the question of how Indian are you. And, yeah, and by that they only ever mean what is your blood quantum. Those two ideas are synonymous for the outside culture. The idea that we could define redefine membership or citizenship in a tribe to not have any necessary ancestry requirement could help to start to shift that conversation away from, these are racial groups purely and what it means to be Indian is how racial you are to these area actual political entities that have real relationships and real sovereignty that needs to be respected outside of just their blood percentages and how Native the outside culture thinks they look or are.
GABE: I appreciate what you just said, I've been in some of my latest writings asking us to beg the question, are we even nations as John Marshall declared us to be in part to dispose us of our lands, or are we at our core still kinship societies before the United States, put any term on us? If we are nations and citizens makes some sense in terms of the sensibility of nationhood, but the United States came up with this idea that we're members. And so now you all these different sort of norms, but I do think we need to be more careful about the language that's why I say I belong to Round Valley. I descend from Nomlaki and Concow. And I've sort of taught myself to do that, lately rather than say I'm enrolled Round Valley. Because enrollment, like disenrollment, meaning putting names on a roll or taking them off or on a census or off is not the way we decided who belonged. And again, there was, there was no tradition of telling somebody they didn't belong. So I think we should deconstruct nationhood on some level, at least in the form of the question that there was some government that was greater than the people and their interrelationship. Not to say that we need to do away with nationhood because I think if we did, it would be political suicide. But in sort of like a post colonial way we need to embrace who we are, who we were sort of what we become and try to figure out the best of all of those things. At Round Valley we do operate by lineal descent, and it's imperfect because I was enrolled because I directly descend from original allottee, which my great great grandma in the late 1800s. Allotment, of course, was designed to exterminate us. So the base roll for me and my family is an allotment that corresponds to a Trail of Tears and my great grandma being born into land that was a concentration camp. But from her was of course my grandma and my mother and now me and my children and we all are enrolled based on the simple lineal descent from one to the next, dating back to my great grandma. And I believe that is, although imperfect, because it still has this allotment legacy and this termination legacy. I'm grateful that it's not a matter of blood quantum. And I think it's more consistent than with kinship than, than not.
ADRIENNE: If we don't have blood quantum, let's imagine something else. What does that look like if we abolish for quantum tomorrow what alternatives, could we have for determining tribal citizenship?
DAVID: Well that would that would be up to each individual Native community to to dig into the residue of their own memories and see how, historically, they defined, who belong to their community. And that memories still live in tribes, I mean in some tribes has been punctuated been punctuated and perforated and shredded to a point. But we have ways to create new traditions right? Traditions get developed constantly by human societies, and we're not just have we don't have to just look at the past we can look to the present and looking at, and come up with a new tradition that will determine our identity as a Native people. And it just means that the entire community coming together and deciding what are the criteria, what are the values> What are the understandings that we should hold as a people that are going to guide us that comport with our ancestors, but also deal with the reality of now? And that will prepare us well for the future for our children. And I think that that knowledge is inherent in every Indigenous community. If they would just take the time to sit down and talk to one another.
CHARLOTTE: I feel like Iʻm learning a lot about the rest of you know like, great greater mainstream Native communities, because I must be you know I mean Ithink Oklahoma gave me a good understanding but I hadn't realized how lucky I was that we have our clan system, because we don't have to, you know, go through the difficult process of trying to figure out another way to define ourselves. But I think that ultimately a clan system is a family system doesn't matter if it's, you know, whatever the name of that clan is but family system seems seems to make the most sense but I might be biased.
ADRIENNE: I am curious clearly we are a group of folks who does not buy into this idea of blood quantum that understands the context, that understands where it comes from, that understands the implications of it. But why is it that communities do hold on so tight to this idea? What are the arguments that you hear for blood quantum, because we can sit here and say, our grandchildren will literally not be able to enroll in the tribe, and there will definitely still be folks who say no we need to keep our one quarter blood quantum requirement. So why is that?
MATIKA: Well actually I just came from a general council where this was discussed in our community. And I think that I think the impacts of colonization have to be understood and felt, you know, in the ways that the boarding school era so dramatically impacted our thinking that it's hard to say I think in our own communities that these things that we're reiterating to each other even belong to us in the first place and I think we say it over and over and over and over and over again so many times it's in our blood that we, we begin to believe these ideas. And so, when I hear people stand up for blood quantum. The main argument that I hear is that if we don't have some way of identifying our children, and who belongs, then what are we going to be, you know, if we continuously marry non Indians, after six generations, you know, do, are we even going to look like ourselves or sound like ourselves or, are any of our traditions, even going to be alive? And I think what they're talking about is kinship right and is the fact that people are marrying outside of our communities, leaving and not coming back and assimilating themselves into Western belief systems, and not necessarily maintaining that traditional [Native word] way of life. But
the way of understanding that is, has been convoluted as something that's related to blood. And so that's what I think I hear over and over and over again. When I hear people wanting to maintain blood quantum, I don't know. I can't think of anything else.
TOMMY: I've heard that and I've also heard the more cynical kind of flipside of the disenrollment thing which is that if we open it up and let everyone join then tons of people are going to join, just for benefits, and not actually participate in the tribe or have any other relationship, other than to collect a check or something that's something that I've heard expressed as concern for.
MATIKA: well for sure and it's complicated because we do have plenty of tribal members that participate in that way, I mean I come from a per capita tribe I come from a place where, you know, many people will have several babies just for the sake of getting more per capita and they don't like and they're not necessarily great citizens and they're not giving back to the community, particularly, and maybe they're very draining on our economy in some ways, and you know like this is the truth of what's going on on our rez and you can't say it any other way and so that's a messy thing to say but. But how do we then create a healthy whole nation, where people have opportunities to participate and become whole people at. Doctor Wilkins, you have to come answer.
DAVID: I mean, this is, this is the real conundrum that I think all of our nations, find themselves at least those that have a blood quantum measurement in their, in their legal code or in their constitution or whatever governance mechanism that they have, because it was an outside originally an outside imposition thrust upon us for expedient economic expedient reasons by the federal government. And yet we've taken it on, and we've internalized it and now we use it as a way to exclude as Gabe said earlier, people who we don't want to be a part of our community, right, as you just pointed out, and we also think it as a as a badge of honor right. No one else gets to be defined by blood, except us right. And so there's there's this there's this weird sort of a you know thing that we hear the word work unique applied all the time the Indian law and Indian policy. Indian law is unique, Indian treaties are unique, everything is unique. But we're not that unique, we're just human societies trying to find a way to make it right. And yet that notion of uniqueness, we bought we have bought into that to the point where we perpetuate some of these misconceptions that are leading in causing great damage to our very folds and to our very identities. And unless we find some way to redefine that, to recalculate that, and I'm convinced that you pointed out earlier, that it really should be and could be rooted in the clan system, many tribes no longer have clan systems, but why not create a new clan system. That's possible. I mean Vine Deloria talked about that all the time in many of the books he really strongly encouraged, if you had clans, to fortify them, and if you didn't have them, to create them, because that is ultimately to our kinship is a way to socially ground us into uh into given landscape and really help guide us into the future. So I think it's a combination thing but it's a conundrum until we can identify as that and understand whatʻs at stake, we're not going to be able to get our way out of it.
MATIKA: I just want to bring up one question for all of you like we did an episode called Love in the time of blood quantum so you know there's also this way that this plays out in our own lives. Do we marry Native people? Do we make the conscious decision do I as a woman make a conscious decision to only date somebody from my own tribe, given the current blood quantum policies and given the fact that I don't have voting rights in both of my nations? And, or do I just hope that things will change so what choices have you made in your own life are you, what did you do?
TOMMY: I mean I signed up for this thing he was a dating thing.
MATIKA: There will be a buzzer.
TOMMY: So I'm doing my best. But no, it's, it's definitely hard I've been thinking about this kind of stuff is what started me thinking about the blood quantum problem, generally, and I guess my real answer is, would be that I'm trying to get my tribe to move away from that system of blood quantum for myself and for other people. I don't feel like in some of, in a number of the stories that I've heard of people trying to find someone from their tribe and that being essentially their only qualification for dating someone I feel like that's often worked out very poorly kind of for their families in the long run. And that's something that is worrying to me and not something that I think necessarily is beneficial for our tribe.
CHARLOTTE: So I'm lucky enough to be a woman, Haudenosaunee Confederacy, which means that I will pass a clan down, no matter what, which allows me to choose whomever I please. But, on that note, I would prefer someone of Haudenosaunee background, if possible, or [Native word] which is just Native background because I do feel like having that family kinship on both sides is really beneficial especially in this day and age when there's so much complexity to navigate about identity, about, you know, your connection to the land. I don't feel like I'm harnessed by any kind of blood quantum because I don't get any benefits. So I don't think that, like I don't see anything in there. Like, there's no motivation for me to get to have them to have Mohawk status, they will, if they need it, if they need to go back and live at home, they can you know petition the government to buy land, I would still have to petition the Mohawk nation, or the VA government to purchase land on my territory, but because I've been away at school and living in cities for so long. I just don't, I'm completely, you know like, not dependent on any kind of membership benefits I don't feel like that's going to ever be a determining factor in who I choose. It's more about having someone who's going to also put their, their concentration on wellness and from an Indigenous perspective and keeping that that [Native word] or keeping that good that good mind going forward, so that my grandkids will have whatever they need here instead of, you know, instead of having to worry about, you know, money or if they're going to have a territory to live on, they'll be fine. You know we've been fine on the East Coast for thous-, you know, hundreds of years under colonial government systems. Well, well, we'll still be here. If you know I can pass down that that mindset.
GABE: Yeah, to me, love is love, and I fell in love with a non Indian woman who I married and like I said is now my inspiration, and we have two children, who belong or quote unquote are enrolled to the Round Valley, Indian tribes. But what's important for me and my wife is health. And what's important for me is sobriety. And in living and having some ability to be a father to my children. And so I found a partner who is who is able to keep me healthy and vice versa, to participate in my sobriety, to participate in kind of a spiritual well being, as a family, so that I can just live and be a dad and sustain myself and my family for sake of my daughters coming from a family who's been out of like all of our families with drug and alcohol abuse suicide early onset of death, diabetes. For me the value that I just cared about most was values or love life wellness and sobriety and that's what I found in my wife and in my family and I cherish those things.
DAVID: My first wife, was Navajo, I married young at 26 and we raised three children and when each of them came of age, we asked them which nation, they want to be enrolled in because we wanted them to have choice. I'm married into the Navajo Nation because they're matrilineal. And of course several kids all abandoned my tribe and joined the Navajo Nation. So theyʻre all Navajos. I was divorced over years ago, I remarried, to a beautiful non Native woman, and I married for love like Gabe said, both times but the second time was the real kicker for me. And so it's all good. And I don't have to worry about enrolling children now or anything like that but knowing what I know now, it would be something that I would be thinking about much more, if I would have known about it at the time I first got married, because it's an important consideration for, for many people. And as we know, depending on who you get introduced to, some people want to know whether you're full blood or half blood or quarter blood, but you belong to a fairly recognized tribe or not recognized tribe, but you try sign treaties or did not sign treaties. So there's all these dimensions that come into play when it comes to question that people have when they're out on doing this snagging route, but Iʻm past all that now.
ADRIENNE: The challenge with a lot of these conversations around notions of blood and belonging. Is that so many different things get conflated in the process, so, we have conversations about DNA ancestry, about blood fractions, about citizenship, about enrollment, about belonging, and all of them have come together in this big mess to be how we determine who we are as Indigenous people, and that is super complicated and not something that there are easy answers for, but it becomes very clear when we're talking to all these folks how much all of these disparate pieces come together to make just a really complicated mess.
MATIKA: Absolutely. This is a very complicated conversation and it's a conversation that's worth having. It's important that we continue to look at our policies, our practices, and our procedures and ask ourselves if we're working towards inclusivity as a nation. Are we nation building or are we nation detracting? And I think that we especially have to have this conversation about how this affects us in our everyday lives and how does it affect our health and our wellness and our sense of belonging, which is why this next episode that weʻre doing is a really critical part of this conversation so tune in next week for the second part of this episode, and final release for season one as we turn our conversation inward for a more intimate discussion on blood quantum, and how it affects our love lives with our production team Juanita Toledo from Jemez, Brooke Swaney from Blackfeet and Salish, I think you're going to like it it's juicy and spicy and all the good things, especially thanks to, Charlotte Logan, Gabe Galanda,Tommy Miller and Professor David Wilkins, for coming all the way out to the Tacoma Art Museum, or Skyping in for joining this conversation. We really appreciate you and send our love and blessings to you wherever you are, and huge thanks to Teo Shantz for continuing to do the work of production. We love you, and big [Native word] and wado to [names] and Bryant Moore for the killer music on this episode. As always, if you're loving the content, please, you know, head on over to iTunes, leave a comment, subscribe. You can also, if you're really into it, go to our Patreon and send us some love there, or, you know, if you would like to get involved, we're planning the last couple episodes for season two right now and we would love to hear some of your thoughts and concerns, what would you like to hear us talk about send us a voicemail on our website allmyrelations.com.