lineal descendancy

John "Rocky" Barrett: The Origins of Blood Quantum Among the Citizen Potawatomi

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

In this excerpt from his presentation at NNI's "Emerging leaders" seminar in 2012, Citizen Potawatomi Nation Chairman John "Rocky" Barrett provides an overview of how the U.S. government -- specifically the Bureau of Indian Affairs -- imposed blood quantum on the Citizen Potawatomi people, and how the nation has worked to reclaim and exercise its right to determine citizenship according to its own criteria.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Barrett, John "Rocky." "A Sovereignty 'Audit': A History of Citizen Potawatomi Nation Governance." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. October 11, 2012. Presentation.

"Citizenship. We knew we could amend our constitution because they told us that the only way we were going to get this payment from the 1948 Indian Claims Commission -- the 80 percent of the settlement that had been tied up since 1948 -- in 1969 is we had to have a tribal roll and the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] told us that the only way you could be on the tribal roll was to prove that you were one-eighth or more Citizen Potawatomi. Now the blood degrees of the Citizen Potawatomi were derivatives of one guy from the government in a log cabin in Sugar Creek, Kansas in 1861 who was told to do a census of the Potawatomi, the Prairie Potawatomi and the Citizen Potawatomi. And he told everyone that they had to appear. And as they came in the door, he assigned a blood degree based on what color their skin was in his opinion, and full brothers and sisters got different blood degrees, children got more blood degree than their parents 'cause they'd been outside that summer and those were the blood degrees of the Citizen Potawatomi.

There was a full-time, five-person staff at the central office of the BIA in Washington, D.C. who did nothing more than Citizen Potawatomi blood-degree appeals, about 3,000 of the blood-degree appeals when I first took office. When I became chairman, it had grown to 4,000 or 5,000 and I was in the room when a guy named Joe Delaware said, ‘I have a solution to the Potawatomi blood degree problem. We'll resolve all this. The first mention in any document, church, federal government, anywhere, anyhow that mentions this Indian with a non-Potawatomi language name, he's a half.' Well, they were dunking Potawatomis and giving them Christian names in 1702, full-blooded ones. If you were dealing with the white man, you used your white name and if you were dealing with the Indians you used your Indian name, like everybody else was doing. And so it was an absurd solution. I told him, I said, ‘That's nuts. That's just crazy. You're going to get another 5,000 blood-degree appeals over this.' He said, ‘Well, that's the way it's going to be.' Well, that was the impetus for our coming back and establishing, ‘What are the conditions of citizenship?' And we stopped calling our folks 'members' like a club. They're 'citizens.' And it finally dawned on us that being a Citizen Potawatomi Indian is not racial. It's legal and political.

If they...according to the United States government, if a federally recognized Indian tribe issues you a certificate of citizenship based on rules they make, you are an American Indian, you are a member of that tribe. And you're not part one, not a leg or an ear or your nose but not the rest. You're not part Citizen Potawatomi, you're all Citizen Potawatomi. The business of blood degree was invented so that at some point that the government established, tribes would breed themselves out of existence and the government wouldn't be obligated to honor their treaties anymore. That's the whole idea! That's the whole idea of blood degree and we're playing into it all over this country now over divvying up the gaming money. But I'm not going to get into that. But the business of blood degree, the 10 largest tribes in the United States, nine of them enrolled by descendency and that includes us. We changed it from blood degree to descendency, which was the only reasonable way to do it because we had no way to tell because of this guy in the log cabin in Sugar Creek was what we had.

And then we had permutations of that over the next eight generations that became even more absurd and Potawatomis had a propensity...we're only 40 families and all 31,000 of us had a tendency to marry each other. So when one Potawatomi would marry another Potawatomi -- I'm not saying brothers and sisters or first cousins -- but when they'd marry another Potawatomi then you got into who was what and it was...and this business of the certified degree of Indian blood was ruled to be unlawful, to discriminate against American Indians in the provision of federal services based on CDIB. It's supposed to be based on tribal membership, not the BIA issuing you a certified degree of Indian blood card. A full-blooded Indian who is a member of eight different tribes, whose family comes from eight different tribes, not any white blood, would not be eligible to be enrolled in many tribes. They had absolutely no European blood, would not be eligible simply because he was enrolled in multiple tribes."

The other thing about citizenship is ‘where do we vote?' The only way you could vote in an election at Citizen Potawatomi was to show up at that stupid meeting, violent meeting, and the guys that were in office would say, ‘Okay, everybody that's for me stand up.' Well, nobody could count that was on the other side so everybody would kind of creep up a little bit so you could count. Well, they counted you 'cause you creeped up a little bit so you voted against yourself. So the incumbent would say, ‘Okay, everybody that's for this guy stand up. I won.' Well, that's not how to elect people. That's not right. Two-thirds of our population lives outside of Oklahoma, one-third of it lives in Oklahoma. Those people are as entitled to vote as anybody in the tribe, so the extension of the right to vote and how we vote and for whom we vote and what the qualifications of those people and the residency requirements of those, that was an issue of citizenship that we needed to determine."

Jill Doerfler and Carole Goldberg: Key Things a Constitution Should Address: Who Are We and How Do We Know? (Q&A)

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Presenters Jill Doerfler and Carole Goldberg field questions from seminar participants about the various criteria that Native Nations are using to define citizenship, and some of the implications that specific criteria present.

Resource Type
Citation

Doerfler, Jill and Carole Goldberg. "Key Things a Constitution Should Address: Who Are We and How Do We Know?" Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 3, 2013. Q&A Session.

Mike Burgess:

Mike Burgess from Pawnee Nation College. My question is to both either yourself Jill [Doerfler] or Dr. [Carole] Goldberg. In your research and findings, had there been any discussion on consolidation of tribal blood quantum and make it all one tribe?"

Carole Goldberg:

"By consolidation, you mean looking at people who have blood quantum from a variety of different tribes?"

Mike Burgess:

"If a member is not enough of your blood quantum, but they have more than enough to be a quarter blood, half-blood, even full-blood Indian, which is happening to a lot of our children in Oklahoma, they're full-blood Indian, but can't get on any roll."

Carole Goldberg:

"Right."

Mike Burgess:

"So if you're consolidating that and you recognize them as a member of your tribe and make them full-bloods or half-bloods, just your tribe only. Have any tribes approached that?"

Carole Goldberg:

"Not only have tribes proposed that, but I have actually seen it in some of the constitutions in California tribes where it may well be, for example, there are so many Pomo tribes in northern California. And you may not have descendance from this particular Pomo tribe, but in times past there was all kinds of intermarriage and kinship relations. And so the view of some of these tribes is as long as you're hypothetically one-fourth is from some Pomo tribe, they'll make you a member of this particular tribe so long as you don't also try to become a member of some other tribe. It's definitely being done. I wouldn't say it's widespread, but it's definitely being done."

Mike Burgess:

"Thank you."

Robert Hershey (moderator):

"It is. It is in a number of constitutions and membership ordinances that if you are a member of another tribe you cannot be a member of this particular tribe that you're trying to be included in. So that is something you'd have to look at either through your constitution or your membership ordinance and to change if that's the result you wanted. Yes, sir."

Ray Louden:

"Hi. I'm Ray Louden with Red Lake. This is for White Earth. How is the new constitution with White Earth going to affect the constitution with the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, and then is the ultimate goal then for the White Earth Nation to be removed from...?"

Jill Doerfler:

"The White Earth Nation has tried for many, many years to engage the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe in constitutional reform at the level of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and those efforts have not been fruitful. As I said, we've had efforts at White Earth for 30 years and we've tried to engage the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe throughout that time. Minnesota Chippewa Tribe has always -- well, I don't...not always -- they've had for a long, long time had a standing committee on constitutional reform. No actual action has come out of that committee for many years, and so ultimately White Earth citizens felt that we need to move on our own. It's unclear what will happen with regard to the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, whether White Earth will still participate or how the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe will react to us having our own constitution."

Robert Hershey:

"Thank you. You're Red Lake, yes? Yeah. We have time for two more questions right now, the speakers at the microphones then we'll break for lunch. I want to make an announcement about lunch in just a minute. Yes."

Stephanie Cobenais:

"My name's Stephanie Cobenais from Red Lake. What are you deciding on how...what's going to be a descendant on your referendum stuff? What is it?"

Jill Doerfler:

"We haven't identified a base roll yet, which needs to happen. We sort of worked under the presumption that we'd use our current roll, but that isn't 100 percent clear. So a descendant would be somebody descended from a roll that will need to be identified."

Robert Hershey:

"Thank you. Yes, sir."

Audience member:

"How many tribal members do you have enrolled in your tribe?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Excuse me?"

Audience member:

"How many tribal members do you have on your rolls?"

Jill Doerfler:

"We have about 20,000 citizens right now."

Audience member:

"Wow, that's quite a bit. Yeah, we have 900 enrolled tribal members in our tribe but due to our blood quantum it doesn't allow...a lot of our tribal member...a lot of family members to be enrolled. I have a granddaughter that's six tribes. She has six tribal...she's six tribes anyway right now and she couldn't get enrolled with my tribe so she went to one of the other tribes that she represents and then she got enrolled there. But it was kind of a sad deal. But I liked your presentation and I like the way that you guys dealt with the lineal part and I think we got a lot of good ideas out of that and it made me think a lot, too, about our lineal part because here in Arizona...I know tribes here in Arizona it's a lot different here. I have family members from a lot of different tribes here from Arizona that...even some of these guys like, I'm Tonto Apache, I'm related to these guys over here. I'm related to a lot of people in the San Carlos Apache Tribe. And we have other tribes too like Yavapai, other Yavapais up north. My father is a northern Yavapai and his clan still exists. It's still up there. And then I'm also half, I'm a southern Yavapai too. So there's a lot of this stuff going on here in Arizona, it's like a big melting pot. I see a lot of that, but I saw a lot of good ideas in your presentation that really stood out to me and I think we're going to probably take some of that home to our tribe and just try to present it to our people and see what they think about it. I just want to thank you for your presentation."

Jill Doerfler:

"Well, [Anishinaabe language] thank you to you. That's wonderful to hear. I didn't have time...I'll just make one brief comment. I am not a demographer, I'm more the historian/literature-type person, but the tribe did hire a demographer to do a population study and even though...sometimes it sounds like 20,000 is a lot of people, but we are going to soon be reaching a stage where we just have an aging population at White Earth. Our death rate is going to be outpacing our birth rate and we're going to be moving towards declining numbers and so that's also motivating factor. Even though it seems like we're big, we're still really feeling a lot of impacts of blood quantum."

Robert Hershey:

"Thank you. Carole."

Carole Goldberg:

"There's just one brief observation that I wanted to make. For a very good reason we don't have members of the outside press here but if they were, I think they might be very interested in the fact that the word gaming actually has not appeared in any of these presentations about enrollment because there is such a misconception out there that is driving all of this discussion and it's really not, as I think we've seen..."

Robert Hershey:

"Can you share some of the experiences in your community of what you're dealing with regarding identity, membership, citizenship? Why do we have this distinction between "˜membership' and "˜citizenship'? What does "˜membership' mean to you? What does "˜citizenship' mean to you? These are some of the questions you're going to be dealing with when you...I could call on my students. Can I call on a member of the Pascua Yaqui Nation's council to...sorry, Robert, because you brought it up at lunchtime. There's an issue within your constitution that is kind of contrary to the membership rules that you've set out. Is this something that you feel like that you're going to have to attend to? Is the Pascua Yaqui Council going to have to attend to dealing with some of the divergent issues or the irreconcilable positions within a constitution?"

Robert Valencia:

"There's two things that affect our tribe and our current constitution. One is our tribe was very instrumental in the Law and Order Act, getting that together, but our constitution still is what it is and we...that gives us a one-year limitation on the sentencing and I think it was $5,000 on fines and such, and the other is the Membership Act. Our tribe has been...was recognized in 1978, recognized again in 1994, and with this membership bill it's something that in order to do what we want to because it's in the constitution, it was in the Act, we would have to change that. So those are the two pressing issues that we have, among others."

Robert Hershey:

"Thank you very much. But the reason I asked you to speak to this was because there was a contradiction in the constitution as to what the nation wanted to do with regard to its membership. It went to Congress. Now some of you may have, not the IRA [Indian Reorganization Act] tribes here, but you may have also some other federal act that has designated you into the federal recognition and the acknowledgement process, too. So those types of things are unique where you can get congressional acts to go ahead instead of going through the whole formal process amending the constitution and the Pascua Yaqui Nation has been successful in that regard."

Robert Valencia:

"That's right. Initially the Act establishing the tribe did say that we had to have a constitution and initially it was supposed to be in 1980. We didn't have one until about 1988 and we haven't changed it or modified it since that time."

Robert Hershey:

"Thank you very much. Kevin, we've been looking for you."

Kevin Dupuis:

"I have a question for White Earth and as being a former tribal executive committee member I can understand what you're saying and as a reservation business committee member now, the question I have, if the constitution is done with White Earth, is there a point where the tribal executive committee of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe has to approve or disapprove that constitution? And the concern I have is this -- that if an individual reservation in the consolidation of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe writes their own constitution, do they become separated from the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe because the question I would have to that, if they have their own constitution they could not represent the membership of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe [as] their tribal executive committee member. Because our constitution that exists now, whether it be right, wrong, indifferent, it's the only document we have, and the concern with is if it can't be followed now, how is this going to go with the constitution coming from White Earth?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Right. We're definitely in new legal territory when it comes to the White Earth constitution and the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe constitution and these are questions that we'll have to be exploring, especially this summer in consultation both with MCT staff attorneys as well as TEC members, White Earth attorneys and White Earth tribal council and exploring how can the MCT accommodate in some way. Can White Earth have its own constitution and can other MCT nations have their own constitution and still participate in the MCT in some way. Is that possible? These are sort of questions that we need to be working on answers to."

Kevin Dupuis:

"I understand it and I agree with you, just simple principle of federalism. It was discussed years ago in 2004 and I think all the way to 2006 that the tribe already has its own constitution, can we delegate that authority to the individual reservations to write their own constitution and be under the umbrella of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe? My concern is this, if you follow a constitution that you write under White Earth and White Earth adopts that, even through the principal referendum I need to ask myself as a tribal member, because I'm not enrolled in Fond du Lac. We're all enrolled in the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. Our enrollment papers go to the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, not the individual reservations."

Jill Doerfler:

"Correct."

Kevin Dupuis:

"So an action like this, I'm asking at that point, you finish your constitution, it goes through a referendum vote with your people on White Earth. Is there a separation from White Earth from the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, because I can't see White Earth representing members of the tribe anymore if they have their own constitution."

Jill Doerfler:

"It will depend on what actions MCT wants to take. If MCT does nothing, that may be your question. If MCT does nothing, does White Earth essentially then separate? I would say the answer to that is most likely yes, but I'm not an attorney and I'm not here to give legal comment on that. These are issues that we're working on exploring."

Kevin Dupuis:

"Okay. Thank you."

Robert Hershey:

"If I may add something too. It implicates some other issues as well. One of the issues is, what is the Minnesota Chippewa constitution, the nations that are involved in it, is it a Secretarial approval constitution, to do amendments?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Yeah."

Robert Hershey:

"So even though there's a referendum, it doesn't automatically result in a new constitution if the new constitution and the...then you have to call for a Secretarial election, and so then there's a whole process that has to be put to the voters. Then that's also going to go ahead and implicate. Whether or not this becomes an example to the other nations or not as to whether they want to go ahead and adopt a new form of constitution, it could be very exemplary in that regard. And there are situations where in constitutions...the Tohono O'odham Nation for one, Hopi Tribe for another, that they have separate and distinct powers that like the districts here on the O'odham Reservation have their own sense. The Hopi constitution allows for the villages to establish their own constitutions as well. So this could be a number of ways to go ahead and satisfy some of the concerns that you were raising there and at the same time allow for that kind of semi-independence or quasi-independence and it could be a united affiliation of nations with separate and distinct constitutions. It could be an example to go ahead and formulate one type of a constitution if that's the way the people go. But it still is going to require after a referendum, it still is going to require a petition to the Secretary of the Interior to go ahead and have a Secretarial election."

Jill Doerfler:

"I should maybe clarify that our referendum, the plan is to proceed with that referendum via a Secretarial election."

Robert Hershey:

"Yes, please."

Pamela Mott:

"My name is Pamela Mott and I'm from the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. At lunchtime we sat with Navajo and the other Yavapai tribe and to our question who we are and how do we know, it all came down to a Creation story, "˜cause we all know people sitting here where we come from, how we were taught. The time I grew up, I grew up with a bunch of elders so everybody that I came with, we know who we are and where we're from, but when federal government came and gave us those IRA constitutions that we have today, we have to start changing and identifying ourselves. And I think one of the things at our table that we kind of agree with and I brought up was that when you brought up maximizing your numbers and talking about political, it had a concern to me as a Native American woman "˜cause we're raised like family and we take care of one another. I was wondering, it's so hard for me to understand why other tribes would make one tribal member less important than another one when you said you put restrictions on somebody living off the rez versus someone living on, because a lot of times we don't have the wherewithal to have jobs for educated tribal members and they have to go somewhere else to work or they have to go out of state to work. I have to use my family as an example. I have a nephew that's a doctor in mechanical engineering. There's no job for him on my little reservation, so he has to go. What makes him less of an important tribal member than somebody back home that doesn't have an education but is there working? And I think when you guys teach, as professors when you teach this to people or other Native students that are in your classes, every tribe is different, we're all different, so some of those things I think need to be brought out because I'm a leader for my tribe and when I have to go to [Washington] D.C. and fight for Native American rights or fight for...big one is gaming and you said gaming didn't come up. It is coming up because that's what we're fighting against now but a lot of the things stem...why would you want to make one person less than another when the way we were brought up we had to take care of everybody within the community? And there were adoptions. I know Navajo had talked about some adoptions they had and it depended on your history. If you took slaves in...we weren't mean people. We took care of those people, unlike when they brought the slaves. I understood back east the slaves were more happy to live with the Indians than they were with the non-Indians because they were treated better, they were incorporated as families and that's how we're brought up. So that was one of the things I think our table agreed with, it was kind of hard for me to understand why if there were tribes out there, why would you make somebody different than another based on whether you live within the reservation, whether you don't live in the reservation, because we get a lot of feedback from the people that don't live within my community because they're educated and they tell us, "˜This is what we're doing out here. How can you incorporate with the businesses on the reservation to help us be successful?' And those are some of the things I think that was brought up at our table and I wanted to share that. So I think when you guys are teaching you need to know that. A lot of it comes from our heart and family. We're not like the regular outside non-Indians because a lot of them, they just move. It's easy for them to get up and move one state to another and not have contact with their family members. It's not like that for us. We're always contacting somebody. My sister...I may not...she lives on the same reservation and she lives a hop, skip and a jump from me, but I call her every day or I go see her every other day or something and my children live...I have a son in Oklahoma and he calls me every single day just to let me know how he's doing, how we're talking. So a lot of times you guys don't incorporate that in your teaching, and I think...coming from us now maybe you guys need to start doing that or understanding the tribes."

Carole Goldberg:

"Thank you very much. Actually, I live in Los Angeles. My husband's tribe is in North Dakota, so I'm actually very familiar with the situation of living far away from one's home community. There are places where issues arise involving resource extraction. So there are places where there is a lot of potential money to be made by things like strip mining or various other forms of resource extraction. It has in some places created some tensions, not that people don't care about folks who live far away, not that people don't want to take care of them or stay in touch with them, but just plain old worries that the temptation to do things in the territory might be too great if you don't live there and so that's the source of the tensions that I was referring to over what do you do about folks who live in a place and want to make sure that it's not ruined by various forms of environmental strains and people who live far away and may not experience that. And that...but the variation is tremendous and there are places where that is not an issue and where there are not concerns about treating folks differently. What I was trying to do was give you some sense of the tremendous variety of issues that exist out there and only you can know whether those matter to your own community."

Robert Hershey:

"I'm going to add one thing here, too, just before and this was brought up at our lunch table with my students and they're very passionate about this as well. And if I may just digress just briefly into a little history lesson. Back in Jamestown Colonies with...we hear about Pocahontas, but we don't hear much about her father, which is Powhatan, who was the leader of a number of tidewater tribes in that region. During the treaty ceremonies that would go back and forth whether or not the attempted colonists would be allowed to stay there, there was a ceremony where the English wanted to put a crown on his head and they wanted him just to bend down a little bit so they could put the crown on his head. So the English were taking that as that he was declaring fealty to the crown of England. Now he wasn't thinking that. He was thinking that he was extending his empire. And what I heard from the woman that just spoke, and I thank you for those comments very, very much, is that those educated, those people that are off the reservation, they're contributing and they're bringing things back to your community. So it's very, very interesting how you can extend your empire out there and it doesn't just have to be that people living within a particular area, that's determinative, but it's about those relationships and those contributions that can be far and wide. So that was just something, so I appreciate those comments of what you said. Thank you. Sorry for the history lesson, it's just law professors."

Steve Cornell:

"Steve Cornell from the University of Arizona. For Carole Goldberg, Carole I was just wondering if you had any experience with tribes that are dealing with citizens who live outside U.S. borders with nations that were split by the border. Obviously it's a huge issue right here in southern Arizona with the Tohono O'odham people. There are Yaqui people south in Mexico, but it's also an issue for Mohawks, for some of the Blackfeet Confederacy and others, and have you seen any constitutions that directly try to address the citizenship of people who through no fault of their own are living on the other side of the U.S. border?"

Carole Goldberg:

"I actually have, because one of the communities that I've worked with is the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians in northeastern Maine and a number of the people from the Houlton community, the Maliseet people are actually living in Canada and it is interesting to note that over time the international border has had the impact on communities or it can have the impact of creating a sense of division that would not have existed had that international border not been introduced. And this is a topic that required a lot of internal dialogue within this community. Are they really a part of us? Even though the kinship relations were pretty obvious, the language, the cultural tradition were common but there was this bit of unease about whether...first of all whether there was something that would be viewed wrong by outsiders of including these "˜foreigners,' I use that in quotes, as part of our tribe and there was also again this sense that there had been some separation over the years. And there was at the end of the day I think more receptivity to saying, "˜These are part of our families, these are part of our culture and community and we shouldn't arbitrarily say that they're outside because they're in another country'. But it was a very hard discussion."

Jill Doerfler: "No Easy Answer": Citizenship Requirements

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Anishinaabe scholar Jill Doerfler discusses the process that the White Earth Nation followed to arrive at their new constitution, and details the evolving debate at White Earth about which citizenship criteria it would incorporate into this new governing document.

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Doerfler, Jill. "'No Easy Answer': Citizenship Requirements." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 3, 2013. Presentation.

"It's wonderful to be here. As I mentioned, had the privilege of being here last year, thrilled to be back this year. For the sake of time we're just going to sort of roll right into it. My presentation today is "'No Easy Answer': Citizenship Requirements," because it's a difficult topic for us. Basically I'm going to talk about a sort of case study of the White Earth Nation and focus on citizenship and how, over a number of years, we talked about citizenship and came to a decision on what we wanted. I identified four basic keys that helped us that you may find useful as well. We had an inclusive and open process, we talked a lot about the history of tribal citizenship, both how citizenship or identity was regulated prior to the Indian Reorganization Act, post-Indian Reorganization Act, and then when we came to a blood quantum in 1963. We worked really hard to integrate and practice our Anishinaabe culture and values within the governance structure and within citizenship. And then finally, perhaps most importantly, patience and perseverance. As I said, it's not going to be an easy task and as Carole [Goldberg] said, there are many, many different options and things to be weighed and considered and yet it's worth it in the end. So I'll elaborate on all of these.

I'll say briefly that White Earth is currently part of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT), which is an umbrella structure that has six nations. You'll see White Earth located furthest west there. White Earth has been very interested in creating our own constitution. We've had several different efforts for constitutional reform that have gone on for about 30 years. So it has definitely been a long process. What I'm going to focus on is our efforts from 2007 forward. In her 2007 State of the Nation address, Chairwoman Dr. Erma Vizenor noted that among the issues she wanted to address in the upcoming year was constitutional reform. Vizenor noted that a clear separation of powers of tribal government should be considered as well as requirements for citizenship stating, 'As tribal membership continues to decline under the present one-fourth blood quantum requirement, we must decide eligibility for enrollment.' She went on to note that 'White Earth members must decide these issues by referendum vote.' So she put it up right away, establishing from the outset that it has to be up to the citizens to make this decision. Tribal government isn't going to be the one to make it.

For me personally, I was elated. I had been studying tribal citizenship for several years and was in 2007 preparing to defend my dissertation, which examined citizenship regulations and cultural values among the White Earth Anishinaabe. So after the State of the Nation address, I contacted Vizenor's office and asked how I could be of assistance. We agreed that I would write a series of newspaper articles for our tribal newspaper called the Anishinaabe Today based upon my dissertation research. In the articles I delineated the ways in which Anishinaabe got White Earth conceptualized identity during the early 1900s, then I shared the history of blood quantum and then discussed the changes in tribal citizenship that had occurred within the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. What we hoped is that the articles would both provide information, as well as encourage White Earth citizens to get involved in what was the newest effort for constitutional reform. Some people were a bit wary of having been involved for several years at this point, but we wanted to sort of revitalize them.

So basically citizens were invited to serve as constitutional delegates. There was an application process. Everyone that applied was accepted. We had the first of what would be four constitutional conventions beginning on October 19th and 20th, 2007. The convention was an open public process. Anyone who was interested could come. It wasn't delegates only, but anyone who wanted to come could. At the first convention, Chairwoman Vizenor discussed the need for reform and gave a brief history of the different attempts for change. The delegates were provided draft copies of different constitutions both a draft that had been generated in the late 1990s at White Earth, another draft, and then the current Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Constitution that we were under -- that we still are under -- at that time. There was both an air of excitement and nervousness that day when the process began. We got right into it with the topic of citizenship on the agenda. I was instructed to give a presentation to start things rolling -- I did. I gave a brief presentation about the history of tribal citizenship, explained how blood quantum came to be, the requirement for citizenship in 1963. Part of my goal was to integrate Anishinaabe values and cultural practices so I asked delegates to keep in mind the concept of mino-binaadiziwin. Mino-binaadiziwin translates as 'live well, have good health; lead a good life.' It's a concept that's not about just physical survival, but about a world view in which individuals and groups work actively together to create what we think of as a rewarding, ethical and nourishing life. So it's kind of a whole worldview outlook. In conclusion I asked that we work to restore mino-binaadiziwin in our families, our communities, and our nation at all the different levels and I noted that by working together we could create a strong nation that would both echo our traditions and create a positive future.

After my presentation, delegates were divided into small groups to discuss citizenship. The use of small groups was really effective. It allowed everyone time to share their ideas and concerns. The small groups then, after a period, reported back to the whole group. Several of the groups agreed that blood quantum was not an effective or appropriate way to regulate tribal citizenship, but at that time they found it difficult to decide what the best requirement would be. Many people noted that they had at least some children or grandchildren who could not enroll because of the blood quantum requirement. One group stated that they were confident that a strong effort to maintain our culture and language would ensure that using lineal descent would not water us down, which is something we may be familiar with, the idea that it might be a problem if we used lineal descent. There were some delegates who voiced their desire to continue to use blood quantum. So at that time we agreed that the issue of tribal citizenship would require further discussion. Delegates were encouraged to discuss the issue with their families and their communities and to go home and continue to think about these things. We weren't going to rush to come to any decision that day or anything. The convention went on, we talked about other wide range of issues, separation of powers especially. Ultimately the convention ended with optimism and a real push for positive change for the future. So we'll continue rolling.

A second convention was held January 4th and 5th, 2008. Constitutional delegates had expressed a desire for the White Earth constitution to reflect Anishinaabe values; not surprisingly, that's the main reason a lot of people were there. So we began that first evening with a presentation by White Earth citizen Natalie MacArthur and she talked about the ways in which values could be applied to and implemented within constitutions. She stressed that a constitution must reflect a society's values. So delegates were asked to write down four of their own personal core values and then a correlating belief statement: how do you put that into practice? They discussed these personal values in small groups and then reported back the common values they had identified together. Many of the values, not surprisingly, related to respect, love, truth, honesty, family and compassion. One delegate noted that 'everything we do, all the hard work, love, respect, etc., should be pointed towards future generations. Core values should be used to take care of future generations.' The core values and sentiments discussed closely parallel the Anishinaabe seven grandfather teachings, which emphasize the importance of courage, truth, respect, love, honesty, wisdom and humility as the guiding principles of Anishinaabe life, to live the good life.

Then I was up again to give a presentation. I talked about the history of blood quantum, the concept -- where it came from, the European origins -- and then how it came to be used for tribal citizenship. I explained that while blood quantum was at one time considered science in the 19th century maybe into the 20th century a little bit, today we know that it doesn't exist as a real thing. It's used kind of metaphorically, but it's not real. Blood quantum was not a requirement for tribal citizenship as I said until 1963. And I wanted delegates to have clear and concise information about how the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe came to use this one-fourth Minnesota Chippewa Tribe blood as the sole requirement for tribal citizenship. I summarized resolutions passed by the MCT in the 1930s and '40s that required lineal descent for tribal citizenship and explained that these resolutions were rejected by the Secretary of the Interior, not surprisingly. The Secretary of the Interior was not interested in those and therefore were not made part of the constitution and the Secretary sent many letters back saying blood quantum would be great, residency would be great, you guys need to keep thinking about this. I also used a variety of examples to show that elected leaders of the MCT fought really hard against blood quantum because they knew that someday their descendants would not qualify to become tribal citizens. The records on this are just absolutely spectacular -- people getting up giving long speeches about the importance of family. So I was able to quote extensively from those. I hoped that this information would empower delegates to redefine citizenship in a way that both enacted Anishinaabe values and emphasized relationships, which was something that many people had talked about wanting. I ended the presentation by acknowledging that tribal citizenship was a difficult and controversial issue, but I also emphasized that it was an opportunity to put our values into action. I suggested the delegates consider how the core values that we had discussed earlier that evening might translate into citizenship requirements. How could we put those values into action in the constitution itself? So we had that discussion.

And then the next morning we had... turning it again to the topic of tribal citizenship. We weren't coming to any conclusions just yet. Delegates were asked to examine a list of options and you see them here on the slide. I'm not going to read all of them, but basically the 1990s effort for reform constitution had created a list of citizenship options because they couldn't decide at that time exactly either. And so delegates were asked to look at that list and you see them here. Lineal descent is one option and then the other options are each based on a variety of blood calculations, some of which get kind of complicated. At that time the Chairwoman Vizenor instructed delegates to narrow down the list to one or two options. However, before that happened, one group said, 'Actually we have another option to add to this list. We're not going to narrow it down just yet.' So their idea was that, 'All those who are currently enrolled be made full bloods.' This eventually became known to us as the 'Four-Fourths Band-Aid,' which I think does sum it up. So delegates discussed this at length and then reported back to the group. Basically they reported back saying that they really felt strongly that it was a difficult issue. Some people said, 'Yes, we favor the Four-Fourths Band-Aid because basically what it would mean is that everyone who is currently enrolled is going to be able to have his or her grandchildren enrolled.' So it'll go a certain step so far. So some delegates were ready for change to some extent, but they were uncomfortable making maybe a permanent decision regarding change. They were unwilling or maybe unable to completely let go of blood quantum. They kind of wanted to manipulate and still find a way to maybe use that. As the discussion continued, the issue of family surfaced on many time and again with the delegates' comments. One delegate noted that he favored the use of lineal descent because it includes all family members and was a way of taking care of our families, so enacting some of our values. It was also noted that lineal descendants would go on forever and that if blood quantum were to continue, White Earth -- our sovereignty could potentially be in jeopardy; the Nation might not always exist. However, some delegates were apprehensive that more citizens would put an increased strain on already limited resources. Another delegate stated pretty succinctly, 'No one is happy with blood quantum,' but that person just was unsure about how White Earth should regulate citizenship, how we could move forward. So ultimately the wide diversity of comments and opinions reflect both a desire for change as well as trepidation about what change might really mean. Even though the delegates could easily identify core values, some were having a difficult time conceptualizing how to practice those values in citizenship requirements. Again, delegates were unable to come to a clear conclusion about what the best requirement would be and so, once again, we agreed that the topic would be revisited at a later date. Again, go home, keep thinking about it; keep talking about it.

We came back several months later for what would be the third convention, October 24th and 25th, 2008, focusing here again on citizenship. During my presentation, I noted that delegates had discussed values at the last convention and suggested that a good way to think about core values is to think about the things that we were taught as children or the things that we teach our children or emphasize to our children or grandchildren today. And I turned to stories for this. Stories are one of the primary ways that we teach our children their place in the family, community, nation, and even within the world. Stories also delineate proper and improper behavior. Anishinaabe scholar John Borrows argues that stories contain core Anishinaabe legal principles and traditions that continue to be important as Anishinaabe nations create legal codes and judicial systems today. So I wanted to tie constitutional reform to cultural revitalization in a very concrete way and I thought story, for us as Anishinaabe people, would be a good way to do that. I talked about our story of [Anishinaabe language]. I thought this would be a good story because it offers some interesting possibilities for interpretation with regard to core values and the constitution. So I summarized the story for the delegates and then I gave an allegorical interpretation that related to citizenship based on that story. I invited delegates to consider how to create citizenship requirements based on the positive values expressed the previous convention and in the story about [Anishinaabe language]. I ended my presentation by advocating the themes and story, which were sovereignty, resiliency, persistence, respect and [Anishinaabe language]. I thought these would be useful to consider as we moved forward with constitutional reform.

When we reconvened the next morning, we had a wonderful presentation by Dr. David Wilkins. We saw a little clip of him earlier today. He gave a great presentation on tribal governments and kinship and how kinship can be used to create responsibilities within nations, how it functioned historically and could be used today as well. Then I gave a presentation entitled "Evaluating the Options for Tribal Citizenship," so we moved back to our list and we said, 'We've got to kind of work through these.' What I did was tell the delegates what we need to do is take a closer look at each of these requirements on our list and we're going to ask this set of questions and go through item by item and think about how can we evaluate this and how can we come to a decision. So you can see the questions here that we went through. So we were going through this process. Most delegates were listening intently, weighing the options and yet you could start to feel some tensions rising in the room. Some people were unhappy, some people began talking really loudly to each other and being really disruptive. At that point one delegate was frustrated and she stood up and she said, 'Can I make a motion?' And Chairman Vizenor said, 'Yes, you can.' And so the motion was made that no options for tribal citizenship that require blood quantum be discussed any further. The motion passed. There was only one option on our list that doesn't include any type of blood quantum, which was the lineal descendancy option. Consequently the issue of citizenship was decided. It was kind of surprisingly quick in a certain way even though we had been talking about it for a long time. It was the culmination of numerous discussions on citizenship that had occurred at the previous conventions as well as conversations that delegates had had with their family outside of the conventions. At that time, I simply ended my presentation early; we were done discussing the issue.

After that convention, Chairwoman Vizenor designated a constitutional proposal team to draft a constitution based on the three conventions that we had had. She asked constitutional delegate Gerald Vizenor, who was a very well known scholar and author from White Earth, to be the principle writer for the document. I was also a member of the team and as agreed upon by the delegates, during the process, lineal descent is the sole requirement for citizenship within the constitution. So we know then that the constitution of the White Earth Nation was created through a grassroots process of open discussion and compromise. Delegate Gerald Vizenor did an incredible job of writing the document. He did a nice job of astutely balancing a wide range of viewpoints and his attention to detail was crucial for the mechanics of the constitution. The constitution is a unique reflection of the White Earth Nation. Most importantly it reflects and enacts Anishinaabe values and incorporates enduring cultural traditions while envisioning a certain future. The constitutional proposal team was satisfied with the document. We presented it to constitutional delegates in April 2009. The delegates did make some changes to the document at that time, not to citizenship. They voted in favor of ratification and so the document was complete at that time. Chairwoman Vizenor was happy with the process and reminded delegates that we would...that the delegates were done with their work, but that the document would still go out for referendum vote.

Ultimately, the ratified constitution of the White Earth Nation echoes Anishinaabe traditions and envisions a perpetual future of promise. Today, what we're doing, we're in the process of preparing for a citizen engagement and education effort, which will culminate in a referendum vote on the constitution, which will hopefully be in September or October at the very latest. So we're working on that. Ultimately, in conclusion, as I said, I think four keys that basically worked for us is: really digging into our history -- thinking about how Anishinaabe people thought about identity and citizenship in historical times; looking at our cultural values: how they could be implemented; having these open respectful discussions; and focusing on the future -- what would be best for future generations as delegates often emphasized? Miigwetch."

Growth a Source of Pride - And Strain - At Some Northwest Tribes

Author
Producer
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Year

The membership rolls at some Northwest tribes are swelling much faster than growth in the general population. Some of that increase is due to a high birth rate among American Indians. Also, rising prosperity from casinos and other businesses is luring Native Americans back into the fold. However, fast growth has strained the fabric of some tribes, while others wish they had more...

Resource Type
Citation

Banse, Tom. "Growth a Source of Pride - And Strain - At Some Northwest Tribes." Oregon Public Broadcasting, February 8, 2012. (https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=146606951, accessed May 30, 2023)

Tribal Enrollment And Blood Quantum

Producer
Native America Calling
Year

Every tribe has its own rules for membership. Some tribes include lineal descent — proof that you descend from a recognized tribal member — while others have a blood quantum requirement that requires members possess a certain percentage of tribal blood. On White Earth, researchers found that the Nation would see dramatically diminished enrollment numbers in the future if they continued using blood quantum as a requirement for membership. In 2013, White Earth citizens voted to change tribal enrollment from blood quantum to lineal descent. The change hasn’t yet gone into effect, and questions linger about how enrollment will impact the tribe’s connection to the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, as well as its federal status. What are the benefits and drawbacks of basing tribal enrollment on blood quantum? Would you like to see your tribe change enrollment policy to blood quantum or lineal descent? If your tribe uses blood quantum, do you think your tribe will exist 100 years from now?

Guests:

Robert A. Williams Jr. (Lumbee) — the E. Thomas Sullivan Professor of Law and American Indian Studies and the Faculty Co-chair Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at the University of Arizona Dr.

Jill Doerfler (White Earth) - Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

"Tribal Enrollment And Blood Quantum." Native America Calling. May 6, 2015. Audio. (http://www.nativeamericacalling.com/wednesday-may-6-2015-tribal..., accessed May 11, 2015)

Tribal Enrollment

Producer
The Newberry
Year

Tribes have the right to determine their own membership. These criteria for enrollment vary from tribe to tribe. In the Midwest, the criteria are based on descendancy, that is, descent from an individual on a particular roll, as well as, in some cases, blood quantum and/or residency of the applicant or his/her parents. Most tribes also have constitutional provisions for adoption of members. Individuals who are enrolled in a particular tribe have rights that include hunting, fishing, and gathering on tribal land (or in some cases off-reservation), as well as per capita payments if the tribe distributes income from court cases or businesses. Other benefits include preferential hiring for tribal jobs, entitlement to certain services, the right to vote and run for tribal office, use of tribal land, and preferential selection for tribal housing.

Citation

The Newberry. "Tribal Enrollment." Indians of the Midwest. McNickle Center at the Newberry Library. Chicago, Illinois. Video. (http://publications.newberry.org/indiansofthemidwest/identities/legal-id..., accessed October 30, 2013)

Truth To Tell: Community Connections - White Earth Constitutional Forum Part I

Producer
KKWE/Niijii Radio
Year

In collaboration with production partner KKWE/Niijii Radio, TruthToTell and CivicMedia/Minnesota traveled west on August 14, 2013, to the White Earth Reservation to air/televise the seventh in our series of LIVE Community Connections forums on critical Minnesota issues. Convened at White Earth's Shooting Star Casino, panelists debated the meaning and impacts of a proposed new home rule constitution to be voted on by White Earth Nation citizens this fall, and fielded questions from members of the audience. This is a burning issue among members of the entire Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT), whose current Constitution currently governs all Minnesota bands under its jurisdiction...

Native Nations
Citation

KKWE/Niijii Radio. "Truth To Tell: Community Connections - White Earth Constitutional Forum Part I." Truth ToTell and Civic Media Minnesota (hosts: Andy Driscoll and Michelle Alimoradi). KKWE/Niijii Radio. August 14, 2013. Forum. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEdlRqSf970, accessed September 4, 2013)

Redefining Tigua Citizenship

Year

The materials in this informational guide are designed to provide you with important background information ”such as Tigua history, tribal population profiles, and fiscal impacts” related to upcoming membership criteria changes. Project Tiwahu is an Ysleta del Sur Pueblo-wide initiative to reclaim its membership determination, thus bringing the tribe into an era of true self-governance...

Native Nations
Citation

Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. "Redefining Tigua Citizenship." Project Tiwahu Informational Guide. Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, Texas. 2014. Guide. (https://hwpi.harvard.edu/files/hpaied/files/projecttiwahu-final.pdf?m=1639579190, accessed June 7, 2023)

Members Only? Designing Citizenship Requirements for Indian Nations

Year

Indian nations' constitutional reform efforts encounter some of their most paralyzing conflicts over criteria for membership. Three years ago, I initiated a Tribal Legal Development Clinic at UCLA, whose purpose has been to assist Indian nations in building their legal infrastructures. This Clinic has provided free consulting and drafting services to Indian nations seeking to establish or modify tribal constitutions, codes, or justice systems. As the Clinic embarked on several constitution drafting and revision projects, controversies over membership -- or citizenship as we preferred to call it -- readily and regularly went from negotiable differences among tribal participants to heated stalemate or irresolvable conundrum...

Resource Type
Citation

Goldberg, Carole. "Members Only? Designing Citizenship Requirements for Indian Nations." University of Kansas Law Review. Volume 50. 2001, 2002. Paper. (http://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/ukalr50&div=21&g_sen..., accessed October 30, 2013)