Jill Doerfler

Blood Quantum and Sovereignty

Producer
Native Governance Center
Year

"Blood Quantum and Sovereignty" is a beginner-level conversation focused on why blood quantum is controversial, as well as how it came to be used as an enrollment and citizenship criteria for Native nations. Produced and recorded by Native Governance Center on March 30, 2022.

Featuring: Wayne Ducheneaux II, Megan Hill, Dr. Elizabeth Rule, Dr. Jill Doerfler, Gabe Galanda

Resource Type
Citation

Native Governance Center. "Blood Quantum and Sovereignty." Mar 30, 2022. Video. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldvC2bWRXu4, accessed March 8, 2023)

 

Good Native Governance Break Out 3: Tribal Constitutional Revitalization

Producer
UCLA School of Law
Year

UCLA School of Law "Good Native Governance" conference presenters, panelists and participants Melissa L. Tatum, Devon Lee Lomayesva, and Jill Doerfler discuss constitutional reform efforts. Melissa describes the purpose of consitutions. Using her own Nation's experience, Devon discusses the Iipay Nation's constitutional reform process. Dr. Doerfler talks about the White Earth Nation's recent consitutional efforts.

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the UCLA American Indian Studies Center.

Citation

Tatum, Melissa L. "Tribal Constitutional Revitalization." Good Native Governance: Innovative Research in Law, Education, and Economic Development Conference. University of California Los Angeles School of Law, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, March 7, 2014. Presentation.

Lomayesva, Devon Lee. "Tribal Constitutional Revitalization." Good Native Governance: Innovative Research in Law, Education, and Economic Development Conference. University of California Los Angeles School of Law, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, March 7, 2014. Presentation.

Doerfler, Jill. "Tribal Constitutional Revitalization." Good Native Governance: Innovative Research in Law, Education, and Economic Development Conference. University of California Los Angeles School of Law, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, March 7, 2014. Presentation.

Jill Doerfler and Matthew Fletcher: Defining Citizenship: Blood Quantum vs. Descendancy (Q&A)

Producer
William Mitchell College of Law
Year

Panelists Jill Doerfler and Matthew Fletcher fields questions from the audience, and several participants offer their heartfelt perspectives on the complicated cultural and social dynamics surrounding citizenship and identity in their respective Native nations and communities. 

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Bush Foundation.

Resource Type
Citation

Doerfler, Jill. "Defining Citizenship: Blood Quantum vs. Descendancy (Q&A)." Tribal Citizenship Conference, Indian Law Program, William Mitchell College of Law, in conjunction with the Bush Foundation. St. Paul, Minnesota. November 13, 2013. Presentation.

Fletcher, Matthew. "Defining Citizenship: Blood Quantum vs. Descendancy (Q&A)." Tribal Citizenship Conference, Indian Law Program, William Mitchell College of Law, in conjunction with the Bush Foundation. St. Paul, Minnesota. November 13, 2013. Presentation.

Sarah Deer:

"At this time again we'd like to open it up to questions and comments. We have a few minutes before lunch and we'd like to have some dialogue based on what the speakers had to say.

Audience member:

"Has there been any talks with the state level officials or any federal officials on how they view what an Indian is and at what point...or what do they expect of Indian tribes? We've been talking about funding, we're talking about land being taken back. Okay. I know in Wisconsin we had a meeting with a state representative and he didn't even know we had 11 tribes in the state of Wisconsin. He knew that all the tribes in Wisconsin were per cap Indians. That was his perception and he was from the southern part of the state. And so a lot of times when we...we struggle with this blood quantum issue is the end game that what does the federal government and Chairman Bugonaghezhisk hit it right on the head though. At some point they don't want to pay no more. And of course I speak for myself that they can never pay us enough for what they've taken from us. And I notice that when I look in the appropriations inside the Department of the Interior. Parks and Services get more money than the tribes do and why is that? And so these are some of the questions on the other side of the line is what does the government...what is their end game? The gentleman here talked about...Mr. Fletcher was talking about that at some point all they want to do is wipe the slate clean and mainstream us into society with no debt to the Anishinaabe people."

Dana Logan:

"Hi. My name is Dana Logan from Grand Portage. My question regarding the lineal descent is if the government has wanted to, like you said, wipe the slate clean, get rid of Indians? So if you are going to go to...are thinking of going to lineal descent and I'm going to use the Cherokee Nation, going to lineal descent and I've seen their blood quantum as being at one-3000th. So at what point if tribes go to lineal descent are we no longer going to be identified as Indian tribes and we're going to be so what the government might say is diluted, there aren't no real Indian left? And so that I worry about a little bit in identity and what the government thinks of us. Myself, I'm enrolled in the Chippewa tribe. I have children who are Northeastern Oklahoma Indians enrolled there at a ome-eighth requirements. They're half, my husband is a full blood Indian. Now, look at their CDIB, they're Grand Portage, they're Canadian on my family's side, they're Cherokee and they're also part Shawnee and Eastern Band, and then in the Cherokees, split you up on what kind of Cherokee you are. So you have all of these things that we do to ourselves but yet we have to protect ourselves as a group of people...I don't like to say a racial group either, but we do need to keep our identity so that the American government doesn't say, "˜You people aren't here anymore and you don't matter.' Thank you."

Matthew Fletcher:

"I'd like to just toss out something. I think the way that the self-determination policy has worked in the last couple decades along with the Supreme Court has looked at Indian identity is to really rail and recognize a tribe's decision as to who is a member, who is not. So if you look at a lot of statutes that Congress and state legislatures have passed prior to the "˜80s really, they all talk about blood quantum, they talk about half blood, quarter blood, who's an Indian, who's mixed blood. The U.S. and most state legislatures even have moved away from that. And so for example a year or so ago the Department of Justice, Fish and Wildlife Service in the U.S. government said, "˜Well, we're going to recognize anybody who's a member of a federally recognized tribe. Blood quantum is irrelevant. Whatever they decide, they are able to with their citizenship card they can carry an eagle feather. We're not going to give them any crap for that.' So that was the policy floating around. What it means is, they talk about tribal membership. Whatever blood quantum is, it's up to the tribes and I think that's a really good development. But that's the politics right now. 50 years down the road, maybe John Roberts type people, and he's the one who asked the question in the Baby Veronica case, "˜Hey, the last time that this kid and dad had a full blood Indian was during the time of the American Revolution in their ancestry.' It was important to him and so maybe that will change over time. But right now, now is where the federal government is deferring to tribal prerogatives on tribal membership, whatever that might be, and I think it's a good time to take advantage of that."

Jill Doerfler:

"Yeah, and there's lots of prevailing arguments as well that blood quantum and this racialization was meant to destabilize politics. The U.S. and native nations have a nation-to-nation relationship. It's not a relationship between a nation and a race and so there's also lots of arguments there that treaties that form a big part of that government-to-government relationship there primarily are not racially based. They're governments making agreements with other governments. The U.S. government racial...the race of Americans is changing over time. We're going to start to see the white race decline and we're going to start to see white people becoming a 'minority' in the U.S. Does that mean if the race of America changes, does that mean that those political agreements are null and void? Most people would argue no because it's still the same political system that's in place. The makeup of the people might be changing, but you still have that government structure."

Audience member:

"So I guess to touch on another one of those stories that we carry with us from our relatives, one of the things that I was taught was if you wonder about who you are, think about yourself when you're done with this world and who is it the ones that's going to take care of you to help you on your journey to the next place. And sometimes that is the defining characteristic, because when you're left by yourself and you're completely dependent upon the people who are supposed to take care of you, sometimes that defines who your identity is. What we have based on these discussions is a converging of social, cultural, political type of discourse -- I guess for lack of...for a more intelligent English word -- but...and how that convergence comes into play. I mention these things and the things that come from me that I work with when I work with my people in my tribe is we never lose that connection we have to our relatives. And that's difficult sometimes, especially when they're adopted away and they're taught these different types of...different ways of doing things.

And so when I was in school there was people who were sympathetic, these non-tribal people who were sympathetic, but they wanted this and they always said, "˜Well, how do you...' -- I used to joke with them and tease them because there's some things you don't share with people you don't know -- I said, "˜Well, if you want to know who's Indian, go ask them what happened to their grandparents,' because almost always you can find a story about the boarding schools. My tribe and my relatives all have the same stories about where our grandmothers went and grandfathers and how we can't stop in...when we travel back and forth and Janesville with my grandma.

And so one of the things that I'm proud of as Ojibwe and as Anishinaabe is the treaties that we have going back to American or Federal Indian Law 101 is the four purposes of why treaties are made. Well, there's a fifth treaty, too, that helps define the contents or your...you reserve the rights of your own identity. And for us, for the Ojibwes and among the Lake Superior Band, our 1847 treaty -- one of them gets overshadowed because that was Bugonaghezhisk's allotment that he got over by Wadena -- but the other part of that 1847 treaty is a separate one, which was the recognition...forcing the United States to recognize that Ojibwes did not recognize mixed blood or half breeds or whatever they called us back then and that all of the people who were among our communities from wherever they came from were considered part of our family. And that's a teaching that we have that...we have these cultural bonds that go across there and so a lot of my [Anishinaabe language] are non-tribal. And for those who don't know what [Anishinaabe language] are, it kind of translates to like 'godmother' or 'godfather' or 'god-relative' that is supposed to help you take the place or help assist your parents in raising you or your family in raising you. And then as we include them as our [Anishinaabe language], we also name them so that the Creator can understand them in the Ojibwe that is the predominate method on how we're conducting ourselves. And so even though we use this more dominant language or English to kind of define our interactions and to articulate these views, I still from the time I was born until the time I pass and I sit there with my grandmothers again and my grandfathers and tell the story of my life as part of our teaching. Ojibwe is the means that identifies us because it doesn't set parameters, it gives you the method to teach you how to come back home. And so that is...the prevalent thing that comes through this is the language. We call that...that's the gift from the Creator. Our work is the land that was given to us or the responsibilities that attach us to the land.

But there's still, I guess, and I'll finish this real quick I guess, but the other part that kind of makes our blood boil and all of that is when we have the people who create these manufactured senses of identity of what it is to be Indian and then they come back and they bring these different concepts. Even though I'm a lawyer and trained just as Professor Fletcher is in speaking English in terms of interpreting our laws, the constitution that we have is probably one of the most detrimental and damaging things that we've done as a tribe because it tries to codify what the idea of a good government is or how to run your people...how to organize your people to do certain things and that gives a tool then for those who disagree with our ways of life. Our grandmothers have prominent places in our society, but it's not recognized in the constitution or when people identify their laws and say, "˜Well, you're not a member because the constitution doesn't say that,' even though my [Anishinaabe language] grew up on the reservation and has done as much for me as anybody else, she's not from Lac Courte Oreilles.

It's a dangerous double[-edged] sword that I think that -- and I'm going to get slapped by Robert here if I'm not careful how I say this -- there's people who take this idea of spreading democracy as President [George W.] Bush had said when he was justifying these incursions and sending among others some of our Native youth into Iran and...or I mean Iraq -- whew, there's a Freudian slip -- in Afghanistan and to these different countries is they're trying to spread democracy back to the tribes in that they want to change their constitutions so that they have these things that are not...don't necessarily arise from us, but they come from this idea that we're going to have participation, that we want representation from different areas and the model that they use is the United States, but yet how can that be a positive model when we have something like the Tea Party that's disrupting the government or we have the idea of democracy and we've got the idea that corporate citizens are now or corporations are now people. And so that just...it makes me nervous and I think it's the responsibility of those who really want to be part of that community to be diligent, to hold true to what your ideas are and to not...if you're going to bring something else in there, bring in also with the open mind of coming into the community and listening to what that is.

I know that there's criticisms split between on reservation and off reservation and it shouldn't be that way because the reservations were something that was given...that was forced on us by the American government because we're actually in the area -- and this is going to get me probably slapped by the Dakota in the room -- this used to be Ojibwe country and there was an 1825 treaty that kind of demarcated this line. It wasn't ours like in exclusion of other people. It was our shared responsibility to take care of this land and take care of these resources. And so this idea of possession is something that got forced into us so that the dominant society could figure out a way to kind of [figure out] who to talk to instead of having to talk to everybody, they picked who they wanted to speak with. And so when they come back with these people with these ideas of changing the constitution so that it incorporates more people, I think that's such a dangerous topic because you're incorporating it under the wrong premise. There's other ways that could be done and that needs to be incorporated into that. If we're really going to have binding, logical extensions of ourselves codified in the constitution, it should be in the language, it should be in the way that those words were intended and it should be representative of the practices of who we are.

My grandma told me -- and my grandma told me a lot so I could go all day -- she told me, she says, "˜When you pass, one quarter of you doesn't go somewhere else, one quarter doesn't go to this other spot. It goes to where you think your family is because that's the teaching that the Creator gave to you. And so when you go up and you say your name, your name is like one slice of your life over the time that you've been given this time on this earth. And so when you hear that and they ask for you, you know where to go to.' And I don't mean to disparage people with different beliefs because I've seen people who are strong in their beliefs and I believe them. The major tenet of me and my lodge is you respect all ways and it just...sometimes though when we respect all ways the first way that seems to get diminished or get erased is the Anishinaabe way and we just...I can't allow that. [Anishinaabe language]."

Robert Durant:

"I won't hit you. I want to shake your hand. Again, my name is Robert and I just want to talk a little bit...no disrespect to all the efforts that White Earth is going through and I'm on the council in White Earth. I too, I have always been afraid of this. The new constitution that's been written, I feel there's so many things that take away from the future and also removing the past on where we're at and what was done and closing the door on so many other issues. And then when there's issues that are talked about, how are we going to deal with this here with programs -- whether it be housing, whatever -- and all the other issues that comes along with that and maybe being censored from working one way or working another way if this thing passes? Then it's said that, "˜Well, we'll tweak it out.' Well, tell you what, that's not what people are kind of voting for. I'm not going to say 'yes' to where you're going to change it anyway so what good is it? Things like that, it really gets to my heart. And then when we talk about to opening these doors to rewrite a constitution that's taken decades of interpretations and decisions and ordinances and then to me it's really sad, because to me it's like the modern day of being fleeced by using enrollment. I get afraid of that. I'm afraid of that. Remember the stories of our tribal nations being fleeced? And then sometimes when we talk about the enrollment laws...I remember listening to some old men talking about [Anishinaabe name] or 'Hole in the Day.' He only would...during the removals come to White Earth, he talked about only the half breeds could come with him. We all know he was killed, but there's a lot of other histories, I read about other leaders they wanted, for reasons, whatever that was. And that's what I think about, but they disappeared in life and who was always behind it, it was always the government. So it's really difficult for me...when I think about this, I'm doing it right now, I'm shedding a tear because what are we doing to ourselves and what are we allowing to happen to us? It's not easy, but everybody is not being taught.

We sent out as a lesson for everybody, White Earth sent out...there's 18,700-and-some members under the last roll that we took. That list was used to mail out a constitution. I asked, "˜Well, if you're going to mail that out, at least have some fairness and mail out the one that we've been dealing with that was revised in the "˜60s.' Well, no it wasn't done because I was intercepted and it wasn't done, so it wasn't fair because people on both sides ain't getting a chance. So when you go for this here in other nations, realize that because we're stepping into something that we do not know and it's scary. I can say that because my children, they're tribal. But I can understand they may make a choice not to be with another tribal or their children, but the thing is I need to have that responsibility to show them who they are too. But I made that choice. Why am I tribal? There's a lot of teachings.

I want to tell you a little story, too, before I quit here because it really gives me an insight. I got a gift, again, there's a lot of gifts. I received a packet of writings done by tribal members; I'm going to share that with you Jim. They wrote manuscripts of...100 years ago they wrote this. I had my administrative assistants type it all out because the paper was frail and it was written beautifully. And they told the stories of what it was. They told stories. Imagine 120 years ago someone 84 years old saying...writing the story of the modern Indian. It makes me angry when I read that, but it was the truth. This topic is really tough and I'm not the only one that feels that way. These are lessons we listen, lessons from our elders, real lessons. Not just a story, but this time as being told...these were handwritten. [Anishinaabe language]."

Sarah Deer:

"I think we have time if you want to respond unless someone else in the audience wants to make sure we get you on record. There we go."

Sam Strong:

"It's not really a response. [Anishinaabe language]. I think for me it wasn't actually in any response to Terry's comments there, but basically when I think about being Anishinaabe, when I think about being Ojibwe, when I think about being from Red Lake, what does that mean to me? It means a way of life. It means living that [Anishinaabe language]. It means being a part of a community that has been centuries in the making so it's understanding that you're a part of that history. That's something for me that I'm very proud of. I'm an enrolled member. I'm very proud of that. I'm very proud of my heritage. I'm also proud of...I'm mixed. I'm proud of everything that made me and that's part of being Anishinaabe, that's part of being Ojibwe is understanding who you are and being comfortable with that and then living that lifestyle in all facets of your life.

I think about the past, I think about Red Lake and one of our first leaders, once we started with treat making and all that, his name was Peter Graves and he actually wasn't a Red Lake member. Our first real leader wasn't even a member. He was an Ojibwe person that had moved there. He was mixed, he was half, and you think about the contributions that he made to Red Lake. We consider ourselves unique. I'm sure all tribes consider themselves unique. But we're a closed reservation. We're the only tribe that never ceded control of their land. We're proud of those aspects of who we are, but at the same time you look at today what people are...how they're living and what's going on in the communities and we're disconnected from who we are. So I think it's important to identify that in looking at citizenship. Your community is going to look at where you're at today. What does it mean to be a Red Laker today?

Our chairman always tells this story as kind of a fearful indication of where the community is at. He was at a meeting and one of the guys...it was a forum for an election or something like that and one of the kids stood up and he took his card out. He said, "˜This ID card, what does it mean for me?' And everyone's like, "˜Well, what do you mean?' And he said, "˜Where's my check? Where's our per capita? We have all these casinos. Where's my money? What does this card mean for me?' I don't think that's the prevailing thinking that most of the community members have, but it's out there. That's kind of how the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] would want it. They would want to see us as dependents. They would want to see us as people that our identity is putting our hand out, but that's not who we are and I think understanding that there is...there's that divide. What we have created and who we are are so different from one another.

You think about the teachings and the people that I listen to and that I learn about myself and my culture and some of these people, if you met them on the street, you might think they were Caucasian, but the reality is these people are carrying on the culture and the language. They're not all enrolled members, but these people have dedicated their life to understanding our culture, our language, our traditions and they're carrying that on for our tribal members. And you think about all these people that have helped us get to where we're at today and all these community members that have contributed and it has nothing to do with the percentage of blood that you had. It never has and it never will, but the reality is our communities have become dependent upon the resources from the BIA, from the federal government, so on and so forth and people have started to look at membership as what's going to be put in my hand for free?

And I think the only way to change that -- we're looking at constitutional reform right now -- and you pose this question to Red Lakers, you're going to get a lot of angry people. We're a closed reservation. We've maintained control of our land, so what happens when we open up to lineal descendancy and we have people that are totally disconnected from our land base? Would they potentially put us in a position where we would lose ownership of the land, where the tribe would make a decision to sell it? I don't think so, but at the end of the day, these are the fears that the tribal members bring up when we talk about changing our enrollment criteria. How do we address those?

And to me, it's one of those things...it's obviously mathematical genocide. I think all of us can agree that the current system doesn't work, but how do we move forward in a responsible way, in a way that allows for the people to also grow and the only way to really do that is through teaching your people about your culture, your language, doing all the things that we're talking about here, but it's not a one-day change. Even if you were to make the change from lineal...to lineal descent or whatever it may be, that's not the important piece. It doesn't matter what the criteria are if your community isn't carrying on the values and the traditions of who you are. That's the way it was always taught to me is that the way you live is who you are.

Another teaching that I always was told is, coming into today's world you see the troubles of today with the environmental degradation and all the social ills of the communities and our elders say that our ways are the ways that are going to bring this world back into a better place. That's been our teachings. And how can we do that if we can't even include people that are living in our communities in our traditional ways? You have to think that...what's the long term? The long term is obviously that we need to be inclusive and teach our ways and share those values, but in the short term we have to focus on ourselves. We have to get to a point where our own people understand who they are and their lifestyles. Without that, it doesn't matter how you identify yourself. In 100 years what will our communities be? So to me it's...without the identity the rest is...it's almost impossible to even solve that so it's not to make the...and we're going through the same process so I ask this of all the members of our community when we go out. We have a constitutional reform committee and so they're asking these same questions as well. But the reality is, I don't think it's a one-year thing, I don't think it's just change the criteria, it's what are we doing as a nation to hold onto our identity, to create a better quality of life in our communities and to create for...something that everyone can buy into, not only our people but all Ojibwe people.

I always brag about Ojibwe people because I consider us to be the largest tribal nation. I think from a land base perspective you could make that case pretty easily. But today you see tribal nations that are 100 miles away from one another that are fighting with each other. You have racist communities in between that we just ignore and then we have what you would think would be supportive nations down the road and we're not even on the same page. So who are we as a nation even? Have we forgot who we are as Ojibwe people? Have we forgot who we are as Anishinaabe? When I say 'Anishinaabe,' I mean all Native people. I was hearing some of the speakers earlier and they were talking about what that word meant and for us in Red Lake it means free people, people that live in a good way and I think when you think about what we all...all of our ideals as Native people, it's very similar. So why haven't we come together? Why haven't we come together as a people, as a nation and even as Red Lake Nation? So you've got to start somewhere, but at the end of the day...I think sometimes we focus on all these issues and we forget about where the people are at today. For me, living in Red Lake and seeing it and seeing the suicide, the drug use, the...all the social ills of my community, you would just hope that we would focus on the things that would start to change that and create that pride in who we are and all the other stuff will fall into place. But without that, all the rest is for naught, in my eyes at least. [Anishinaabe language]."

Sarah Deer:

"Thank you. Thank you very much. This has been an incredibly rich and deep conversation, and I'm very grateful for all of the participants." 

Jill Doerfler: Defining Citizenship: Blood Quantum vs. Descendancy

Producer
William Mitchell College of Law
Year

Scholar Jill Doerfler (Anishinaabe) talks about the colonial origins of blood quantum as a criterion for determining "Indian" and tribal identity, and explains how the federal government imposed that criterion upon the White Earth people in order to divest them of their land. She also stresses the need for a return to citizenship criteria that protect, enact and strengthen Indigenous cultural core values, and details White Earth's recent effort to abandon blood quantum in favor of lineal descent as the primary criterion for determing citizenship.

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Bush Foundation.

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Doerfler, Jill. "Defining Citizenship: Blood Quantum vs. Descendancy." Tribal Citizenship Conference, Indian Law Program, William Mitchell College of Law, in conjunction with the Bush Foundation. St. Paul, Minnesota. November 13, 2013. Presentation.

"[Anishinaabe language]. Thank you so much to the Bush Foundation and also to Sarah and Collette for helping with the organizing today. I'm really honored to be part of the program. As Sarah mentioned, I did grow up at White Earth, that's where I'm from. I'll just make a note that I'm not a White Earth citizen. I'm what we call a first-degree descendant, which is that my mother is enrolled at White Earth and I am not enrolled due to the current blood quantum system. So that's part of my legal political identity, my personal identity as Anishinaabe transcends political boundaries I think in many ways.

We've heard some wonderful presentations so far today and today what I'm going to do is talk a little bit more about blood quantum, a little bit about the history of blood quantum and what's been kind of happening at White Earth the past few years. My research is on citizenship and identity and I've been working on it for a number of years. Ultimately what we know and I think what we'll come to talk about in our discussions is that there's no perfect system. All of these systems have pros and cons and we have to think about what can we work with that works best for each individual tribal nation and that is your decision to make so we're just here to share some information.

I always like to start out with, what is blood quantum because even though it's something that we're all familiar with and probably everybody here could sort of go around the room and tell us your blood quantum, what it is officially and then maybe what you think it is correctly, what the Bureau's [of Indian Affairs] gotten wrong. Ultimately, blood quantum is this western concept. Initially it was a literal concept at the turn of the 20th century where scientists thought that they could literally measure blood. Today we're sort of slipping into maybe a little bit more metaphoric understanding of blood quantum. We understand that blood can't literally be measured in that ancestral sense, but that it's a metaphor for affiliations that our ancestors had historically that then parcel themselves out through time and genealogy. So it's literal, it's metaphoric, it's a measure of race, maybe politics, maybe nation, maybe Anishinaabe blood, maybe White Earth blood, maybe...so there's that slippery concept as well between Indian blood, Anishinaabe blood, or White Earth blood. How is all of that measured out? How does culture fit in there historically? It was thought that that was part of the measurement that those kind of cultural affiliations and loyalties were literally in the blood. Today we don't believe that so much, but it's part of the history of blood quantum.

So originally, it's a scientific calculation of degree of percentage of an individual's either racial and/or national ancestry. It assumes that cultural beliefs, language, intelligence, political loyalties, all types of certain behaviors, all of that was thought to be transmitted biologically and to be held in blood quantum, and so blood quantum assumes that those things are transmitted literally or metaphorically in the blood. And as we've talked a little bit about, it's an attempt to racialize American Indian identity. It's an attempt to kind of undermine political status and turn the tables and say, ‘Oh, you're really a racial group. This is really about race versus about political identity.' So how is and how was blood quantum calculated, how have we seen this change over time to some extent? I'm going to share here a little bit of the history of White Earth and I would encourage each tribe to think about their own history of blood quantum, how they got their initial blood rolls and to look at how that happened.

This is a photograph of Ransom Powell, who was an attorney and hired as a special investigator by the United States government to look at blood quantum at White Earth and figure out the genealogy and the blood quantum of 200 families, about 5,000 people at White Earth at the turn of the century in the 1910s. And so here he is posing with three ladies at White Earth. And he came to do this investigation, to figure out White Earth blood quantums because at that time it was tied to land and so that's what it was about: figuring out who was a 'mixed blood' and who was a 'full blood.' The legal definition at the time was a mixed blood meant any drop...one drop of white blood meant mixed blood and so that's the definition that Powell was working with and he's sent to do this investigation and figure out who's a mixed blood and who's not. And so what he does is he starts by asking a variety of questions to people at White Earth, asking them about their blood quantum or the blood quantum of people that they know. Was Person X a full blood? Was so-and-so a mixed blood? And the answers that people gave at White Earth I always say are better than any answers I could ever even make up. So the historical record on this is very rich. So Powell asked these questions, he and his little team of investigators, and what people would do at White Earth is basically avoid his questions or refute them time and time again. So I'm just going to share a few quotes from the investigation.

One person said -- in response to these questions about blood quantum -- she said, ‘There was never no question about blood in them days, no sir.' Not just within recent years talking about blood, so here the lady who is on the stand is saying, ‘This is something totally new, we haven't really talked about that before. It's only come up within recent years, only within allotment years when blood quantum is coming to matter for land sale.'

Here's a nice quote where we see the investigator being quite accusatory saying, ‘Many of those...isn't it true that many of those who are known to have White fathers were living as Indians and considered in the tribe as Indians just as though they had no White father?' So you see here the investigator trying to get somebody to admit that there are people at White Earth who have White fathers and they're just like other Indians at White Earth and one person says, ‘Yes, sir.' And we see this time and again in the record. In fact, there are many people in 1910s at White Earth who had white fathers who were living in the tribe as Indians and they weren't excluded for that fact.

Another person asserted that there was no mixed bloods, that there's no such thing. That wasn't a concept or category. Part of this is also translation that's going on here between people who may be speaking Anishinaabemowin and English speakers and translating. It may also be refuting the category, that that's a U.S. government kind of category and we're not willing to use that category here. There's no such thing. That's something the U.S. made up. So there are different possibilities for interpretation on those.

Other people talked about how Anishinaabe people created their identity, they made themselves who they were through their actions and so a woman was being asked about her husband in this case and she says, ‘He was a full blood. He made himself a full blood.' And the investigator goes on to ask, ‘Oh, you mean by living like an Indian.' And she says, ‘Yes,' and they go on and she explains that through his actions he creates his identity. It's not something that he's born with, that he's locked into, that he has no control over. He has the control to create who he is by what he does.

Then those questions aren't going that well for Powell, right? This is like not helping him create his blood roll so he's like, ‘Let's move on. Let's also think about phenotype. Let's start asking some questions about skin color, complexion, hair, that type of thing.' And he gets an equally array of colorful answers. Here's an example. The person was asked, ‘Is so-and-so light skinned?' The person from White Earth says, ‘Yes, she was light. Some Indians are light, but she was an Indian.' And so here again, not using a category of mixed blood or full blood, just using the term 'Indian' and just saying that skin color doesn't necessarily determine identity.

This one is similar, but the person does choose to use the term 'full-blooded.' So in this case the man says, ‘Yes, he was light but he was a full-blood Indian.' And then there are an array of answers where people say, ‘I never took particular notice,' ‘I can't remember,' ‘I can't recall,' ‘I can't say what they were,' ‘Who knows,' ‘They were a medium shade,' and so there's all kinds of evasive answers going on and Powell is not getting anywhere really with these questions either. And so ultimately what has to happen is we need some anthropologists, right? We need somebody to come in with some scientific knowledge and help.

So Powell brings in Dr. Ales Hrdlicka and Dr. Jenks and they come and they do physical examinations. They measure heads, they scratch skin, they do hair analysis. Hair analysis samples were sent down to the University of Minnesota to the College of Ag [Agriculture] and Animal Sciences to be analyzed and they start working on their blood roll using that because they're not going to get the answers they want from the Anishinaabe people at White Earth. So ultimately we get our base roll via that process and then once you have your base roll you are free to calculate your blood quantum...here's a handy chart created by the Bureau if anyone wants to utilize this, it's available to them. So you have your base blood quantum and then you take both of your parents and you calculate on down the line and that's how we've gotten our blood quantums. I know other tribes have similar stories. You got a base roll somehow and then you calculate from there.

So, what meaning does blood quantum have? That's a big question for tribes to think about. Is this a good system? What does it tell us? How can it...is it useful in citizenship? What meaning does it have? We can think about people with an array of different blood quantums, maybe they have Oneida blood, maybe they have English blood, Ojibwe blood. What does it tell us about that person or Person B who has a little more variety of ancestry here? What does it really tell us about Person B? Do we know where they live? Do we know what their belief system is? Do we know what language they speak? Do we know how they were raised? No, it gives us this ancestral kind of picture, which may be useful to some tribes, but it doesn't really give us a whole lot of information.

What does blood quantum do? How has it functioned? Practically, it's functioned in a variety of ways. It's ultimately designed to erase and eliminate American Indians. The feds used blood quantum to try to reduce the numbers of people that legally are native. A couple of quick quotes. Scholars have done lots of work on how blood quantum has functioned and what it's done. Eva Garut has said that the ‘ultimate and explicit federal intention was to use blood quantum standard as a means to liquidate tribal lands.' Definitely the case at White Earth. ‘And eliminate government trust responsibility to tribes.' Dr. David Wilkins and Dr. Heidi Stark have said that ‘blood quantum is a new form of federal termination of Indians who are eligible for federal aid and services.' We also heard some comments about that earlier today.

So, nations are faced with those questions about blood quantum. What is it, what does it do, how does it work? And in looking at citizenship requirements, we've been, as was mentioned, we've been going through a process at constitutional reform at White Earth. The current effort started in 2007 although there were other efforts in the late ‘90s and also previously in the ‘70s and ‘80s as well at constitutional reform. But the effort I was involved in got started in 2007 and when we talked about citizenship, we talked about the history, we talked about how the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe came and White Earth came to use blood quantum in the ‘60s, what happened before that, look at that history, think about our values. And we asked many, many questions and here's just a few things that we talked about in our discussions. And citizenship was something that we probably spent the most time on during our constitutional convention process. Delegates found this was an emotional issue, it's an issue that impacts everyone and it really sets the foundation for the nation: who are we, who do we want to be, that type of thing.

So we asked questions like, ‘What kind of citizenship requirement will put our beliefs, values and culture into motion?' ‘How can we enact those values?' The things that John was talking about today, those big picture things, love...we talked about love as one of our primary values. How can we put that into action? How might our values of love and family be expressed in citizenship regulations? Which citizenship requirement will strengthen our nation? At that time we had a variety of options in front of delegates to take a look at, but these are the types of questions that some of you are thinking about changing citizenship requirements, replace your values in there and think about what can we do, how can we best express these things. Ultimately, the constitutional delegates at White Earth felt that lineal descent was the best option, that it allowed people choice where people create their identity, they have the choice to apply for citizenship provided they can bring the documentation necessary, but it puts that back on families, it puts a focus back on relationships in families. Is it by any means perfect? No, but that was the route that was decided to go with.

Sometimes we get this question when it comes to lineal descent. Won't there be too many of us if we kind of go with lineal descent? And here's a round dance event with lots of Indians. ‘Isn't this too many Indians here?' That's something for tribes to think about. How do we think about citizens? Are they assets to the nation? In what ways can a larger population be a positive thing?

What about resources? This is the other thing that comes with lineal descent. What are we going to do? We can't...we don't have enough for everyone as it is now, we're not going to have enough for more people. Citizenship and resources, entitlements, programs have to be to some extent divorced and they are already in tribes now. All these programs and services generally have requirements, an income requirement, a residency requirement, why not do a nice reciprocal requirement where if you're going to get a scholarship you have to volunteer a number of hours at the tribal pre-school in the summer? Why not require learning the language? Why not require taking courses on history? So I would encourage tribes to think about how qualifications for programs can be a little bit different than citizenship and how those can be parceled out, because not everyone is entitled to something and the chairman shared earlier the entitlement issues and that came up at White Earth as well. ‘Well, how are we going to have enough houses for everyone?' Well, the tribe isn't responsible for providing everyone a house. As Anishinaabe people, we have the responsibility to take care of ourselves and we have the responsibility to care for our families and so you end up bringing back some of those traditional values as well about our own responsibilities that we have. How can we keep our culture alive is something that we also talked about. We have to do that, speaking of responsibilities and actions and making our identity. It's not passed down in blood, it's not literal in that sense. That's our responsibility with our families and our communities to do that sharing and that teaching.

A few bits of information: how to move forward with your decision. Ultimately, I think what helped us was an inclusive and open process. All of our meetings were open; people could say and share anything they wanted. We looked at the history of citizenship in quite a bit of detail and then we looked carefully at how we could practice values within governance. And then ultimately patience and perseverance, right? This isn't an easy decision; you're not going to figure it out in one day. We worked on the initial constitution for two years, even though we had drafts from efforts previous to that and then of course now the decision is in the hands of White Earth citizens who are voting as we speak. It's a by-mail voting process that's going on right now and we'll be counting our votes next Tuesday to find out if we will move forward with a new constitution or if we will continue under our current structure. [Anishinaabe language]."

Constitutions and Constitutional Reform - Day 1 (Q&A)

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Native Nations Institute
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Presenters and moderators from the first day of NNI's "Tribal Constitutions" seminar gather to field questions from seminar participants on a variety of topics ranging from dual citizenship to the relationship between a nation's constitution and its economic development environment.

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Citation

Cornell, Stephen, Jill Doerfler, Robert Hershey and Miriam Jorgensen. "Constitutions and Constitutional Reform - Day 1 (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Managment and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 3, 2013. Q&A Session.

Justin Beaulieu:

"Okay, I have a question. It's kind of three parts. So the first part is citizenship. This is important to me personally because my kids and myself are involved. Citizenship, is there any tribes that have identified dual citizenship with another tribe where, like historically where, I can be a citizen or a member of like Mille Lacs, White Earth, Red Lake, etc., and then what impact does that have on federal status? If I'm federally recognized from one tribe, can I not get...I don't understand that. So the second part of the question is, are we putting the cart before the horse when we talk about putting this in our constitution not knowing if that's going to pass or not because how do we consider the next generations when we haven't defined really who they are yet? And then the third part is, has any tribes faltered with their constitutional reform because citizenship was included in there?"

Robert Hershey:

"What was the third part again?"

Justin Beaulieu:

"Has any tribes faltered with constitutional reform, like not passed it because there was a citizenship clause in their constitution, was it not ratified and what not?"

Stephen Cornell:

"So, who's going after that?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Well, I can say a couple things, I guess, probably with regard to White Earth. We don't have a clause that says anything regarding...that precludes dual citizenship, but we didn't really address it specifically like citizenship among multiple tribes and we felt...there was a question at White Earth if citizenship should be considered separately and that was sort of considered separately in the late "˜90s' efforts for reform where we kind of talked about those different options. And at that time, in the late "˜90s, the plan was to put up the new constitution and then put up citizenship sort of at the same time, but then have citizens vote on all those options. And as we worked on our effort more recently in the 21st century, we felt that it was better to put it up as a whole because then you can see the scope of the government because if you have a different type of citizenship that might impact other parts of the constitution and we felt that it would actually be better to put it up as a whole than to separate it out. So that's what we kind of came to."

Stephen Cornell:

"The only thing I'd add -- and this comes to a portion of your question -- there's nothing out there that says you have to redo a constitution all at once. And there's sometimes issues that people find particularly difficult to deal with, and as Jill was saying, this was an issue for them and they decided to put it altogether in a single package, but you can imagine a situation where a nation might say, "˜We need to make some critical changes; it's being held up by one issue over which we have real concerns. We're having trouble resolving that issue. We're going to set that issue aside and deal with it later.' Now that gets complicated for exactly the kinds of reasons Jill talked about, but there's nothing that says you've got to do it all at once and that's what most tribes seem to try to do, but this is your constitution and you're the ones who know whether some issue is going to derail the entire effort and whether one option should be to hold off on that until you can get some consensus over what it should look like. But in the meantime, let's do what we can do because we need to make these changes. So I just wanted to point that out."

Robert Hershey:

"Let me add one other little point to that. The majority of constitutions that we've looked at -- and we did a study of about 200 membership ordinances in different constitutions -- and the majority, the vast majority prohibited dual membership. And I think you'll see that more common than not. One of the tribes we were asked to assist, the question of membership was not even a part of the proposed amendments, but there was a suspicion that it was somehow part of the proposed amendments when it was not at all and that derailed the entire constitutional process. And I agree with what Steve said too, it's probably the trickiest part in there. It may be better to develop some sort of a consensus on the things that seem...like removing the Secretary of the Interior approval language at least initially on some of the ordinances to get that forum going. We have a tremendous amount of constitutional conventions that took place with White Earth to go ahead and inform the public and yet your turnout was a fraction of the people that were involved in the community so I think really it's about the process of education to where it becomes familiar because you're asking people to try and adopt something different than what they know what the status quo has been."

Miriam Jorgensen:

"I don't know of a tribe that has dual membership, although I heard that it was possible in Oklahoma. So I was glad to hear from Mike Burgess that is the case and I think one of the things that's important to think about is to go back to the fundamental idea of what matters to the nation in terms of its citizenship. If it's valuable to them because that's the way that many people see themselves or that there is a segment of the population for which dual citizenship is really important about what the definition of that community is, it might make sense to include it and I wouldn't be surprised if that's part of the reason in Oklahoma where because the Oklahoma Indian history and what, 45 nations relocated to Oklahoma, something like that..."

Herminia Frias (moderator):

"...Thank you. Marcelino?"

Marcelino Flores:

"Thank you to all our presenters, and what I'm understanding so far is that each tribal nation needs to come to an understanding of who they are and how they will govern themselves, but none of this happens in isolation. And I can appreciate Jill beginning to mention that where we're going is one of those questions and Stephen Cornell mentioning perhaps firewood issues and probably appropriate at the council meetings, but the question that I have is there are some things that just cannot be ignored and I think they need more clarification and understanding and that is the role of economic development, health care and housing, particularly for health care. We're largely dependent on the federal system and it's changing, it's very different now. We really don't know what it means to be under Obama Care, especially within the State of Arizona. So how do you address these larger issues in the context of constitutional reform?"

Stephen Cornell:

"I think that's a great question and I'll take a first shot at it. In some ways, I think in the areas you're talking about and I'm going to circle around and come back to your point. We had a tribal chair who said to us once, "˜We get a lot of money from the federal government for programs, a lot of that is treaty-based obligation and our attitude is, 'They owe that to us.'' But he said, "˜I pursue economic development because in my experience every one of those federal dollars is a leash around my neck and it restricts my freedom.' He wasn't talking about himself when he said "˜my,' he meant "˜my people.' 'It restricts our freedom because in order to get that money we've got to agree to year evaluation criteria, we've got to get your permission on how to spend it, we've got to spend it in the way that you think is best for us, not the way we might think is best for us.' And he said, "˜So economic development to me is a freedom program. It's how do I create the resources that allow me to escape that federal leash?' And he said, "˜Don't get me wrong. They owe us the money. They'll never pay us enough money to pay for the land they took, but I don't want to be sitting here having to ask their permission to do the things we think are important for our people.' Now you imagine getting, let's say he reached the point where he could afford health care for his people and where he could provide the housing and there are some nations that are doing that right now, that are pursuing tribally managed health care, for example. The real question is, if he got to that point, has he got the governing tools he needs to deliver on that responsibility? If you say to the U.S. government, "˜Treaty says you're responsible for health care, but you don't do a very good job of it. And I could sit here and wait for you to do a better job of it, but the chances are I might die waiting. So instead, we're going to take responsibility for that because I've got people whose lives are at stake and now we're getting the money to do it.' And now the question is, "˜Can I do it well?' That's going to depend on your constitution. That's going to depend on whether you've got the governing tools in hand that allow you to deliver the things you want to deliver to your people. Now you can get bogged down in the treaty argument and who should pay for it argument and all of that, but at some point you have to say, "˜There are things we want to do for our people and we've got to show that we can deliver.' So that to me is where all these things come back to constitutional questions. They come back to, what do you want to govern and do you have the tools to do it well."

Robert Hershey:

"This is where the Secretarial approval clause comes in too. If you're an IRA [Indian Reorganization Act] tribe, does that say something about your ability to get bank loans and foster economic development? You have the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, the United States government behind you. Some lenders might look at the fact that you're an IRA tribe and they may go ahead and say, "˜Well, you're legitimate,' as opposed to another form of government, too. So that's something that...I said I wasn't going to give you a preview of tomorrow, but that's something I'm going to bring up."

Miriam Jorgensen:

"So now we know everybody's going to come back, Robert, because we're all excited about what you're going to talk about. I just want to say one thing and it's kind of to back up what Steve was saying and I will say that this comes from sort of thinking about what governments are structured to do. If your government is structured to provide health care to citizens and to seek funds to do that from the federal government, to provide housing to citizens and to seek funds from the federal government to do that and to provide streams of income to citizens and to use...rely on particular federal structures to do that, you have a government that's structured to do those things. But if you have a government that is structured to provide greater freedom and opportunity to your people and greater freedom and opportunity for the nation itself to be a self-governing, self-determined, sovereign entity, all those other things are likely to come, but you're going to have the government capacity to do it. So you have to think, "˜Have I built a government that's just about service provision or have I built a government that's capable of doing lots of other things and in the process, is therefore able to underwrite economic development, to underwrite the freedom of individual Native citizens of my nation to be able to access more streams of capital, to be able to have more opportunities and at the same time, yes, maybe I as a government am providing those things to them, but I'm structured to do much more.' So I think that's really the question that nations have to wrestle with -- are you going to limit yourself at the outset by saying, "˜I care so much about service provision that that's the only way I'm going to structure my government,' or, "˜I know that governments have lots of things that they need to do and if it does all those things well, it's going to be able to do service provision well as well.'

Herminia Frias:

"Thank you. We have a question in the back here from Nimrod? Oh, one more response from Jill."

Jill Doerfler:

"I'll just make one quick comment relating to that about services and citizenship and sometimes a concern that comes up is if we increase citizenship then what about services, what about putting strain on that and in a lot of ways our goals are to create strong nations with strong citizens who don't necessarily need housing assistance, but who, because there's good job opportunities and economic development within the nation, don't need to access those, but instead are maybe pumping resources back into the nation rather than extracting them. And so we talked about that quite a bit at White Earth as well. We want strong citizens who contribute and in some ways that don't need certain services maybe."

Mohammed Fardous:

"Hello, my name is Mohammad Fardous, and actually you already answered part of my question, but the question is that is it important to address the economic development in the constitution? If so, what factors should be addressed? Thank you."

Herminia Frias:

"What was the question?"

Mohammed Fardous:

"That economic development, is that important to be addressed in the constitution?"

Herminia Frias:

"Oh, is economic development important to be addressed in the constitution?"

Stephen Cornell:

"To me, that's something for an individual nation to decide. You may be in a nation where you feel the culture of dependency that has been forced on you by subordination and so forth is so deeply entrenched that you want to say -- and one of the things that you may state in a preamble or somewhere in a constitution -- one of the things you value as a people is to be able to support yourselves, to have control over your life, which in this modern time and in this country is going to require dollars. They speak. If that's important to you, you may want to say, "˜One of the things we want this constitution to do is to support prosperity, economic growth for our people so that we can be truly independent of some other government and their control of the purse strings.' I don't know, but to me that's up to an individual nation. It depends what you're most concerned with, and I don't think there's one answer, just as on so many of these issues we've been talking about there's no one answer. The answer is, what resonates with your sense of who you're trying to be and of what needs to change and of what you're trying to protect? That's what a constitution's about. Who are we, what do we need to change, what are we trying to protect? How do we do that? So it's really up to you."

Miriam Jorgensen:

"I think at the same time, though, every constitution is about economic development, but not explicitly. This goes back to the notion that we know that regardless if you're a tribal community, you're a state or provincial government, you're an international nation state, there are fundamentals that support economic progress. One of them is the fair resolution of disputes, and if your constitution sets up that process, it is fundamentally saying something about economic development. You have to have laws like I was talking about that people will abide by so that you can be a society that is a rule-of-law society, and that's not in an oppressive kind of way of, "˜Here's the law and you have to follow it and I said so,' but rather, "˜Do we have laws that we together as a nation agree on that these are the highest expression of ourselves and the way we want to live our lives and to some extent this is how we want to do business?' So does the constitution put in place processes that allow for rule of law to exist? And those are not necessarily saying anything directly about economic development, but they're structuring a governing authority that can support economic development."

Robert Hershey:

"I just want to reiterate the thing that you said about having a dispute-resolution mechanism. That's having a tribal court that has an independent judiciary because you're going to have to have people, if you're going to have investors coming from off the reservation, you're going to try to raise money for economic development projects, they're going to have to have confidence in that dispute resolution forum."

Stephen Cornell:

"And we're going to talk about that tomorrow."

Herminia Frias:

"Jill, did you want to add anything?"

Jill Doerfler:

"No."

Herminia Frias:

"Okay. We have another question in the back."

Jamie Henio:

"Hello. My name is Jamie Henio with the Navajo Nation and my background is primarily in housing and criminal prosecution, but the idea of government reform and constitutions is new to me right now. And I've started working for the Speaker's office about seven, eight months ago and this is...the idea of government reform is pretty much a hot topic on the Navajo Nation right now. So I'm thinking here, listening to everybody and the term 'IRA tribe,' what is an IRA tribe is my first question, what's that? And then the other thing is Navajo Nation, they're looking at...well, there've been attempts in the past, 1930, 1955 and 1960 to develop a constitution, adopt a constitution, but it failed every time. So right now that's where the movement's at again, too, is to develop a document that will govern the Navajo Nation. So if the Navajo Nation should adopt a constitution at this time, would they be considered an IRA tribe and under the control of the Secretary of the Interior? That's my other question."

Robert Hershey:

"Okay. An IRA tribe...well, first of all, after the terrible policies, after the terrible schizophrenic policies of how non-Native society has intruded upon and committed acts of aggression and genocide against Native peoples and then through the allotment period in the late 1800s to the 1920s, in 1934 some of the Solicitors and some of the people in Washington felt that they could go ahead and foster a restructuring of that terrible allotment period where Native peoples lost about two-thirds of their lands. They created what was called the Wheeler-Howard Act in 1934 and that was the Indian Reorganization Act and that basically then from that the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] went out and issued pattern constitutions for the tribes to adopt. I think...it was nothing that the tribes or the nations asked for at that time. What it was, I think it was a convenience mechanism for the United States government also to go ahead and foster its relationship and its so-called trust responsibility with Native nations at that time. So that's the genesis of the IRA. Navajo came about in...and I know that you've had three attempts at constitutional conventions and reformations and that has not passed and I have a historical document written by a Navajo student of mine that I can get you too that talks about that. I think it may have been lost somewhere from...that was given to the nation, but I have a copy of that for you. The fact that you would adopt a constitution does not necessarily make it so that you would be adopting it under the terms of the Indian Reorganization Act. You can adopt a constitution in another way, by yourself. The way Navajo came through the Navajo Business Committee in the 1920s was by virtue of Standard Oil coming to the Secretary of the Interior and basically saying, "˜We want your oil and your shale,' and therefore they established a series of business agreements that then became the councils, which then became the series of concessions and agreements with the Secretary of the Interior and a lot of mismanagement. But it was motivationally driven by non-Native people trying to seek Navajo mineral royalties at that time, out of which then your statutes and laws have evolved keeping in mind the fundamental laws of the Diné. So it does not mean that you have to become an IRA tribe."

Herminia Frias:

"Thank you. Kevin? Which mic is that? Six."

Kevin:

"The gentleman that was talking about economic development, I think every one of the constitutions that are in place in one form or another discuss it in a manner and you were talking about disputes. Well, the issue is if self-determination is applied through a lot of federal programs, that's also under that principle of economic development and the right to govern ourselves. But we have to remember that it's not an act that gives us that right, it's our birthright. So as we can all understand that it's our right as human beings to go in that direction, it's already applied. We just have to apply it. It's already there, written in probably everybody's constitution in one form or another, in the programs that we receive, the ones that do receive them, the monies are there for that principle. Thank you."

Herminia Frias:

"Thank you. We have a question, yes."

Audience member:

"I kind of...I have a question, but I don't know if I'm asking to you guys or maybe to the tribes, because in 2000 we went and passed our new constitution, 2000, the year 2000. So we had an IRA and we made changes. We made it to fit us as Yavapai people, to fit how we're going to do economic development, how we make laws, how we interpret and how all these things happen. But today I think our constitution, when you look back, we're having problems with membership, and I think that's one of the things as tribal people and leaders that you need to look at, what's going to affect you in 50 years. Because me as a leader, I try to look out for 50 years ahead of time or the babies that aren't even born yet. I don't look for today or tomorrow, that's what...that's how I was raised and one of the things, I know that's what we're struggling with is membership and we're working at it but I know like you...one of you speakers presented today that the U.S. Constitution hasn't been changed and it's hard to change and sometimes you don't want to always change your constitution, but as Native people we change every so many centuries and we don't know how many people are actually of our descendance or have just came in and moved in our territory. So I think really the question goes...I don't know if it goes to you guys or us as people. We're the ones that identify ourselves and define ourselves. How many years do you let go by...because here we're...this is year 13 for us with our constitutional change from 1934 and it's been working, but the membership part has been hurting us because we...like this lady here, she's a teacher and she sees all the children that she knows are going to always live within our reservation and their parents are tribal members, their grandparents were tribal members, but we can't enroll them. And I sit there and I argue with my council because I will say, "˜Let's just enroll them. We know who we are. I know that baby's never going to...or that baby's going to live here or that baby may be doing something good in the future and we're not even going to be a part of it,' but it's because our constitutional change that binds our hands and that's why it's so important like what the...like what you did with your community when you had all your forums and meetings and...our committee is doing that now and this is learning for them and I'm glad that they're here, they're learning from you that this is what we need to do is to identify, do everything you can with your community, involve them because in 2000 our community was not involved in this change of constitution. And it is a good constitution and we're tweaking it now. So like I said, I don't know if it's up to...I know it's up to us, but because you guys are the professors and you guys know the rule of thumb or you know the U.S. Constitution, how do we go as citizens of changing them? Do we look every 10, 15 years or do we just not do it and just say, "˜Hey,' cause we do have some elders that say, "˜Just leave it. Just leave it. Don't change it.' So how...what do tribes do that you guys have worked with, I guess is what I'm asking."

Stephen Cornell:

"Well, I was going to ask Miriam because I can't remember whether it's Cherokee or Osage who built into their --Cherokee -- who built into their new constitution the provision that they would revisit it every 20 years I think."

Miriam Jorgensen:

"Actually, it was in the 1976 constitution, that's what motivated the..."

Stephen Cornell:

"...The change, yeah. So it's a...you'd have to think what the appropriate interval is for you, but it's certainly one thing to consider is to say, "˜The world changes and do we wait for a crisis to arise that forces us then into some quick forced constitutional reconsideration or do we say, no, we're going to revisit this document every 10, 15, whatever it might be years, and we'll prepare for that and we'll know it's coming. And therefore it won't be this process that happens in crisis conditions where you don't have time to think about what you're doing adequately because you've got to respond to something that happened. Instead, this will be part of our deliberate, continuing growth of our government.' The world changes; your nation's changed. We sometimes have...I think the anthropologists are probably to blame, but probably all of us are, this notion of these unchanging forever communities that lived in North America. Well, heck, there were trade relations, people had new ideas, people tried new things, people discovered that the climate changed or that you moved because you were following a resource and you had to do things in new ways and the rules changed because you said, "˜Ah, we've got to come up with a new solution for this, deal with the situation we're in now.' Why shouldn't that be part of your new tradition of how you govern, that we're ready to change when the world demands that we respond to new conditions."

Herminia Frias:

"If I can add to that, I think that sometimes we get fixated on that this is done and we forget that this is really a living document, this is really something that we need to adhere to and pay attention to as our society changes. So thinking about it, how is it that we do things today, how is it that we do things tomorrow, and how is it that we're going to do things 25 years from now? It changes."

Miriam Jorgensen:

"So I don't think Jill's going to necessarily blow her own horn on this, but I think that their experience at White Earth is probably real similar to what could go on for you guys at Hualapai. Jill's presentations about historically where their blood quantum rules came from, where their membership and citizenship rules came from, and really telling the history of that. I had read things that Jill had written before meeting her and I encourage you, if you never read any kind of an academic article in your life, to read her 2009 piece in American Indian Quarterly. It's beautiful, it works from the point of storytelling and it puts you in the position as if you were community members in 1910, '13 when the Indian agents came around and assigned blood quantum and you get the understanding that it's an entirely constructed idea. And I think that a lot of citizens today in tribal communities don't understand a lot of that history and they think that it's something that's been...that's definite as opposed to something that's more or less made up and you gave that, a version of that kind of talk multiple times, and it really starts to break down on people's understanding of where these rules come from and opens them up to a greater acceptance that there could be different rules and it can be more inclusive of children and grandchildren and great grandchildren and who's going to be in that community."

Jill Doerfler:

"Well, thank you very much, Miriam, for noting that. Yeah, I didn't get a chance to talk at length about it in my presentation today, but as I said, my research has been on Anishinaabeg identity historically, and so part of that was how people were talking about identity and citizenship in the 19-teens and the historical record on it is amazingly rich. And so we have people at White Earth talking about identity and blood quantum and I was able to use lots of quotes from them extensively to say...what they said time and again was A, "˜we don't know what you're talking about when you try to say blood quantum,' and B, "˜that doesn't really matter to us. What matters is our families, what matters is how we live our lives.' I'll just give two quick examples because I can't help myself. One, what happened is they're asking people at White Earth, "˜is so and so a mixed blood,' and they want to know because of land sale. That's what they're really looking at, but I was interested in the identity. So they asked a woman, "˜Isn't it true...is your husband a mixed blood?' and she says, "˜No, my husband is a full blood. He made himself a full blood.' And so we see there her answer being surprising...I don't know how many people would say that today, they make themselves, but at that time Anishinaabeg people created their own identity by their actions, what they did made them who they were and they were really in control versus this idea of blood quantum, which is sort of pseudo science and it's something that we don't have control over, that's just some kind of number assigned to us at birth by our tribe or the Bureau of Indian Affairs or something like that. And the other fabulous quote that I'll mention, as a person was being asked time and again about another person's blood quantum and he finally said, "˜I don't know. That person has been dead a long time. If you really want to know, you should go ahead and just go dig him up.' So Anishinaabeg people always have some good humor and that's one of my favorites because they're like...there's no answering these questions about blood quantum. And so I think I'll leave it with that."

Herminia Frias:

"Thank you. Justin?"

Justin Beaulieu:

"One of the things that I was going to touch on with her question is that I did a research paper about blood quantum too because it was important to me. And one of the things that I identified was that the only people or the only things that are really identified by how much of something they are is some animals and Native Americans. That's the only thing. So if we're going to categorize ourselves into a category with animals because that...it's always kind of been about resources. The federal government didn't want to be babysitting a bunch of Indians so they said, "˜We're going to make...if you have a kid with a white person, they're half,' and then eventually we're going to be extinct before we're dead. So that was good to them. That was good for them and if that's what we want to continue, that's going to be our legacy, I guess that's our choice."

Herminia Frias:

"Thank you, Justin."

Mike Burgess:

"Mike Burgess again. Not to answer the blood quantum issue, but this young lady, you had a question that you made a statement that how often or how many...when should you change your constitution? My response to that would be and a suggestion is, when your leaders no longer honor it. And so when your leadership doesn't follow through with what that constitution abides by, because I was struck by one statement here that was up on the screen that the law must be followed, rightly or wrongly, be followed. So a constitution that does not define how leadership should be held up, it should be a constitution that has generally your bylaws or your rules of behavior or your ordinance for conducting themselves. So on the reverse side of that, leadership that wants to be in office that can't honor those rules doesn't need to be there in the first place. I bring this up because of my own people again. One constitution, it was [Three] Affiliated Tribes, we broke apart in '65, new constitution in '67, been amended 14 times. We've attempted to change the constitution three times in the last ten years, but my people...put it in political rhetoric, you live with the devil you know. So people who are afraid of change have to be instructed, taught and shown that change is good and beneficial. And so the few of us in my people that want to make these changes, we can't get heard and that voice has been squelched. Well, thankfully the internet is there and even that is misinterpreted at times. But there are these things that can be put in place and for one, we are discussing among ourselves not anymore lowering blood quantum, but raising it. And someone asked me, "˜Well, when and where would you have the cut off line to raise it?' So in 1976, every Comanche enrolled at that time received a per cap and I explained to them, "˜When we first got started with this blood quantum stuff on the reservation days, everybody was a full blood and one-quarter of our tribe was not full-blood Comanche. So why don't we go back to that time frame to 1976 and everybody's a full blood and our children come up half or quarter or three-quarters.' So you're not faced with this reducing blood quantum to get more numbers, which hasn't benefited us in the long run precisely because of per cap, educational benefits, and half the people who don't live at home want their medical card, their education and their per cap and never come home. So some of us are discussing this idea of citizen responsibility, coming home to vote each year, being recognized in the community at specific events and times. So we are having to come back to what some of you have now, citizenship requirements and things of that nature. So I wanted to expand on your question of when to change the constitution. Thank you."

Herminia Frias:

"Thank you. Charissa, right down there."

Audience member:

"This is in regards to the blood quantum. I was just...I teach my kids not to be...not to be prejudiced, but I'm also defending myself and my tribe when I say marry your own tribal members so we don't face these kind of issues. We have a lot of benefits, we have a lot of resources on our own land within our own tribe, we have our language, we have our traditions, we have our ceremony, we have our land. In our tribe, in our tradition, you have that umbilical cord when you're born, then it falls off. We bury it where we're from. We pray for it and we bury it and that's why it's important to teach your kids to marry within your tribe, marry within your tribe so we don't face these kind of problems. And it's important; if you start now when they're young, when they're older it goes on and on. And I tell my kids that. I don't want you to marry somebody that's not a non-member. "˜Why?' I said, "˜Because you're going to lose it, you're going to lose the identity of being a full-blooded Apache.' "˜Well, mom, what makes me Apache?' I said, "˜What makes you Apache? Look at all the hills around you, look at the horse you ride freely, look at everything you do; you hunt, you pray, you dance, you play. You do that because you're Apache. If you're out there, you won't do it. You'll be sitting on a city bus, you'll be doing these things. You'll be following the federal government and the state government. On our lands we have our own laws and we should keep our own blood quantum within our own tribe. Thank you."

Herminia Frias:

"A question in the back."

Jamie Henio:

"Thank you again for letting me speak. I just wanted to share a story regarding the constitution and the Navajo attempts at the constitution. Last year, I was fortunate enough to listen to a speech by a former Navajo leader at the Navajo Nation Bar Conference. And he explained the previous attempts to the constitution and he shared a story with the audience and it goes like this. Back in the early days, there was a big movement about adopting a constitution on the Navajo Nation and you have your pro-constitution people here running around trying to convince everybody saying, "˜This is good for you, this is life, this is life-sustaining.' Then you have your traditional people here who were sort of against it. So they had a big meeting and at that meeting the traditional leaders and the pro people met and the traditional leaders were saying, "˜Okay, you're saying this piece of paper, this document is life-sustaining. Okay, let's put it to a test then.' He goes, "˜We'll build two fires here. One here for you and then we'll build another fire here. On this fire, that's your fire. On our fire what we'll do is we'll go to our flock, get a sheep, we'll butcher, we'll make some bread, we'll fry some meat and cook it and stuff. On your fire, get a big tub of water, boil it and then what you'll do is we'll be cooking meat over here and we'll eat. On your fire take the piece of paper that you're touting around and put it in there and boil it and then we'll see which sustains life.' So you get it? He's telling people, "˜Take your constitution and boil it and eat it and see if it'll sustain your life for you.'"

Robert Hershey:

"And you think mutton sustains life? Ooh. No, I'm teasing. I'm teasing. I loved it. I ate it every day."

Jamie Henio:

"Well, the thing is then later on the guy says, "˜You know the reason why they rejected the constitutions? Because we still have that fear of the livestock reduction program.' And that's why they've been rejecting the constitution because they think that might happen again. So that was his point at the end after that."

Herminia Frias:

"Any other questions, comments? Okay, we have one more at least."

Audience member:

"Hello. I just wanted to make one point, something that Miriam said, which I think...I hadn't thought about before and that's when looking at sources of law to put into constitutions this recognition of international law. I hadn't thought about that, but Indigenous people are making progress all over the world when they're back against the wall and no one will listen and courts will not listen domestically that they're starting to make progress in international law with the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the declaration on rights and obligations of man. I think that the way for this progress to continue is for it to be recognized in tribal constitutions. For example, the gentleman spoke about the birthright and where are you going to find that in a body of law to cite? But in something like an international document where self-determination and the importance of land to Indigenous people is emphasized. I think that's a great point, something I hadn't thought about."

Robert Hershey:

"I'm going to talk about that tomorrow, too. Thank you -- one of my students, an attorney, bright guy."

Herminia Frias:

"Anyone else? Yes, sir."

Roger White Owl:

"Hi. Roger White Owl. Three Affiliated Tribes. One of the things I guess I wanted to ask the panel, one of the things is as we look at this concept of the social contract in constitutions and what they are really about how important is ambiguity in these documents that you have a living document that isn't just technically written because even the great Greek philosophers said that the worst government was run by lawyers. So that is..."

Miriam Jorgensen:

"And I think Shakespeare said it, too."

Roger White Owl:

"Just how important...because as we see...as we see...as we see, as Mr. Burgess said, pointed out is that your constitution should not be too technical to where your people can't understand it. It's the people's document and so that's the reason why that attorneys make the worst lawmakers according to even Greek philosophers and the very essence of what we know as Western jurisprudence. And so as we look at that, it needs to be...our constitutions need to have this bit of room to be interpreted as the concepts of the rule of law in government and everything else is expressed in implied powers. That's what we have within the constitution and in constitutional interpretation. So how do you guys feel, how ambiguous should a constitution be?"

Miriam Jorgensen:

"Well, I can't give you an amount, like it should be 60% ambiguous and 40% not, but I think it is true that a degree of ambiguity is important and exactly for those reasons that you say a living document, that it allows there to be interpretation of that document that moves with the times. I've written a little bit about this and we talk about it as breathing room in a sense in the document, that you don't have to resolve every single issue by going into great detail in the document. That's what I was kind of getting at when I said about the rules of procedure, a lot of those rules of procedure for legislatures are very loose, they're sort of like, "˜Well, we're going to assign it to the legislative body to establish its rules of procedure. We're going to tell them how representation should occur and what the quorum should be. We might even tell them the dates on which they should meet or how often they should meet or the actual way that they establish their rules are going to be a little bit looser, that we're not going to specify this necessarily in the constitution, we'll just give some direction.' And that allows things to change a little bit if they need to. I think however that in order to have one of those constitutions that has breathing room in it, your constitution absolutely needs to specify a body that's responsible for interpreting the constitution because if you don't assign somebody to interpret the constitution, you've got this somewhat ambiguous document without any ability to say, "˜Okay, at this point in time this is what it means.' Our interpretation may change a little bit, we may change and grow like Steve was talking about, we may change to adapt to the times or to changing circumstances or whatever but you still need somebody to do that... that constitutional interpretation. And if you go back and look at the Mohegan constitution, that council of elders, which I said has that funny role, it's both a legislative body with respect to custom and tradition and certain kinds of traditional law, it's also a constitutional interpretation and judicial review body for that tribe. And so it has very clearly assigned this role." 

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."

Jill Doerfler: Constitutional Reform at the White Earth Nation

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

In this in-depth interview with NNI's Ian Record, Anishinaabe scholar Jill Doerfler discusses the White Earth Nation's current constitutional reform effort, and specifically the extensive debate that White Earth constitutional delegates engaged in regarding changing the criteria for White Earth citizenship. She also stresses the importance of Native nations understanding their traditional governance systems and also documenting the origin stories of their current constitutions prior to engaging in reform so that they can deliberate constitutional change with the appropriate context in mind.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Doerfler, Jill. "Constitutional Reform at the White Earth Nation." "Leading Native Nations" interview series. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 2013. Interview.

Ian Record:

"Welcome to Leading Native Nations. I'm your host, Ian Record. On today's program we are honored to have with us Jill Doerfler. Jill grew up at White Earth and is a descendant of the White Earth Nation. She's been involved with White Earth's efforts for constitutional reform and served as a member of the constitutional proposal team. She also serves as Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota in Duluth. Jill, welcome, and good to have you with us today."

Jill Doerfler:

"Thank you so much. It's a pleasure to be here."

Ian Record:

"So I've shared a few highlights of your personal biography, but why don't you just start by telling us a little bit more about yourself. What did I leave out?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Sure. Well, as you mentioned I grew up at White Earth and then I did my undergraduate work at the Morris Campus of the University of Minnesota and then on for a Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus. And then had two years outside of Minnesota, one at Michigan State and one at the University of Illinois. Then I came back to Duluth for American Indian Studies, which has been really a great place for me to work."

Ian Record:

"And you're also a published author."

Jill Doerfler:

"I am. Thank you. I have had a couple of books come out recently, one co-authored with Gerald Vizenor called The White Earth Nation: Ratification of a Native Democratic Constitution, which we'll be talking more extensively about as we move on today, but Gerald was the lead writer during the constitutional proposal process and so we collaborated on a book. David Wilkins wrote an introduction for us. Gerald wrote a chapter and the constitution itself is in there and then I write newspaper articles for our tribe and so some of my newspaper articles examining the constitution and explaining different chapters are in the book. So that was exciting. And then just recently in February I had another book come out that's co-edited called Centering Anishinaabeg Studies: Understanding the World Through Stories. And so in that book, I collaborated with Heidi Stark and Niigaan Sinclair and we have 21 chapters. It's a much lengthier book than the first and it's a wide range of scholars working in Anishinaabeg studies and using story as a kind of framework to look at law, to look at environmental studies, language, education, so a wide range of disciplines and kind of centering around story as a framework. And my chapter, in that I examine Ignatia Broker's Night Flying Woman which is a White Earth author's text about basically it's very instructive about how to act as a Ojibwe or an Anishinaabe person, and I examine how that text might apply to constitutional reform."

Ian Record:

"That's great. I'll have to check it out. So we are here today to talk about constitutional reform, and I'm curious to learn about how you personally came to be involved in the recent constitutional reform effort at White Earth."

Jill Doerfler:

"Yeah. So I was just a Ph.D. student working on my dissertation, which was on Anishinaabeg identity and citizenship focused on White Earth starting around the turn of the 20th century and moving forward. And I was just wrapping up the dissertation in 2007 when Erna Vizenor, our chairwoman, gave her State of the Nation address stating that we were ready to move forward with a new effort for constitutional reform. There had been other efforts at White Earth previously, but she announced that and so I was very excited to think about how my research could come into play in a very sort of real concrete way. So I called up the office and asked how I could get involved and we started out using newspaper articles as the first way, using some of my dissertation research and rewriting it into newspaper articles to share with people the history of tribal citizenship and Anishinaabeg identity. And then as the reform process moved forward, I continued to give presentations on my research to the constitutional delegates and so I became involved in that way."

Ian Record:

"So in 2009, those delegates ratified a new constitution for the nation. What prompted...you mentioned that White Earth had looked at constitutional reform in the past and had never sort of gone through the whole process and this time they did. What prompted them to go down the reform road?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Well, I think there's a wide range of factors. Currently, White Earth is under the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe constitution, which hasn't been functioning very well for us and there are no separation of powers, for example, in that constitution and the provision for citizenship hasn't been working well for us and there are several things, the Secretary of the Interior I think is mentioned maybe 13 times, and so that constitution just basically hadn't been functioning. And so there had been a few other efforts for reform starting actually in the "˜70s and then a strong effort in the late "˜90s and then Chairwoman Vizenor had ran in part on the fact that she would engage in constitutional reform. It's something that the people at White Earth have wanted for some time. They feel that a new constitution could provide some checks and balances. We have had some issues with corruption and fraud at White Earth in the past that were really problematic and if we don't have a new constitution in place, we don't have a way to prevent that from happening again."

Ian Record:

"So can you briefly describe the process that your nation devised to develop a new constitution, because I can tell you from my own experience that there's a lot of nations talking about the need for constitutional change, but of that number, there's a minority among them that actually make it through to the ratification of a new constitution. So in that respect, process is absolutely critical, so can you share a little bit about the process that your nation took?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Sure. It was definitely a grassroots kind of process and we weren't as organized to have a full plan laid out with timelines and deadlines when we started. Mostly, Chairwoman Vizenor just wanted to start by holding a constitutional convention and see how things went. So in preparation for that, I was writing newspaper articles and then we had a process for constitutional delegates. It was advertised mostly in the tribal newspaper and then people could apply to be constitutional delegates and then Chairwoman Vizenor also sent word out to our community councils and asked those community councils to each send two delegates. And everybody who applied to be a delegate was accepted so it was really inclusive that way. At the first convention, we discussed a wide range of issues and Chairwoman Vizenor ended it by asking the delegates if they wanted to carry this process forward and they did and so we did. So it was really...even though she was in some ways leading the process, she was really letting the delegates make the decisions as far as what they wanted."

Ian Record:

"So your process went through to its fruition, but I would imagine along the way there were several issues or obstacles that emerged. Can you talk about some of those challenges and how you worked to overcome them?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Sure. I think one of the biggest challenges was keeping everyone engaged and keeping the attention of the people and of the delegates, 'cause it was a couple of years in the process. So we started with that first convention in 2007 and then wrapped up in April of '09, so it was that lengthy process. We didn't have a large amount of funding or anything like that. We didn't have a person in charge of doing all the organizing. There were myself and Joe LeGarde and a couple of other people helping get things done, but we didn't have a dedicated person, which I think would have been advantageous to have somebody really coordinating the effort who was in charge. And so we were kind of splitting the duties and kind of each contributing what we could. So that was a little bit of a challenge, but I think the delegates who really believed in the process stuck through with us because they cared so much about the issue they were willing to take the few bumps in the road and to keep moving forward knowing that the results would be worth it."

Ian Record:

"So you sort of touched on this issue of citizen education and engagement, and you mentioned you did a number of newspaper articles which I've had a chance to read, and I think unfortunately we don't see that level of education in many other tribes that are engaging reform so I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about the efforts that you and the delegates undertook to really I think first and foremost get the citizens to understand why this should matter to them and then get them sort of moving in and engaged in the actual deliberations around what do we need to change in our current constitution or do we need to in fact develop an entirely new one."

Jill Doerfler:

"Yeah, well, I think the delegates are the ones who really did a lot of the work going out. We would talk about issues at the conventions and we would always say, "˜Okay, go back to your families, go back to your community, whether you're on community council or whether it's informally at other gatherings, talk about these issues,' and then I would write the newspaper articles also to kind of keep things at the forefront and hopefully keep people thinking about it and talking about it whether it's over a coffee break at lunch or whether it's at a powwow or like I said, another formal meeting. So we really asked the delegates to kind of go out and keep those conversations going and then to come back and share with us what they had learned and what people were telling them."

Ian Record:

"So it wasn't just about what you were hearing in the actual meetings but it was what you were hearing second hand from people who were coming back with essentially field reporting on what they're hearing sort of on a one-on-one personal basis."

Jill Doerfler:

"Definitely, definitely, and I definitely also received quite a few emails. As technology improves and with my newspaper writing, definitely a lot of people emailed me to tell me their thoughts and ideas and so we took all of that into consideration."

Ian Record:

"How important is that to make sure that the education and engagement of citizens around everything from what a constitution is to what we're thinking about in a new constitution, how important is that to be ongoing versus intermittent? We've seen other tribes stumble where really the only time they're really educating and engaging is when they have a physical meeting and whoever shows up, you show up and you get the information you need and you maybe give the feedback you want to give, but everyone else is sort of left out in the cold."

Jill Doerfler:

"Yeah, I think it really has helped the process that we've tried to stay as engaged as possible throughout, because it gives people more of a commitment and they feel like they're more part of the process, they are more part of the process which is what we want. We don't want a document that just comes out of a few opinions. We need to have everyone's input, because a document like a constitution is a big compromise ultimately. We took in lots of ideas and I'm sure no one person got exactly everything they wanted in that document and so that's another part of the process is sharing the deliberations, sharing the different ideas, and then the outcome so that people can see that there's such a range of ideas that we compromised on certain aspects to try to do our best with what would be the best choices."

Ian Record:

"So you mentioned at the outset that Chairwoman Vizenor was sort of the spearhead for this effort. She made it part of her State of the Nation address and took a lead role sort of at the outset, but then from what I'm hearing, she sort of took a step back after that and played more of a supportive role. And we've seen that as critical in other places as well, where it's good that the leaders are supportive of the effort but not dominating the effort. Is that sort of how it unfolded there and how important was that in the overall success?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Yeah, absolutely. I think it helped take...politics is never going to be out of anything, it's definitely not going to be out of a constitutional process, but I think it helped remove that Erma was not a delegate, she did not vote on the document, she helped facilitate the meetings, she helped with the agenda, but she was not making any of the choices. When delegates had to vote for something, she helped make the motions and helped the process, but she didn't have a vote in the issue, and so it helped give voice to the people and helped the people realize that it's up to them, they're the ones in control and they have the power to make the choices and it's not going to be a process where tribal government just hands us a document and says, "˜This is what tribal leadership wants.' Instead, it's more coming from what the people want."

Ian Record:

"So you did a presentation earlier this week at the Native Nations Institute's constitutions seminar on this topic and one of the things you cited as a key to success in terms of getting the citizens engaged and keeping them engaged was the use of small-group discussions, sort of breakout groups. Can you talk a little bit about what led the nation to use that as an approach and just how critical it was?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Yeah. Boy, I'm not exactly sure how we came to the decision to do that now that I think of it, but in preparation for the first convention we talked about...I was talking with Chairwoman Vizenor and Joe LeGarde and others about how the convention might run and topics and I think it probably was maybe Joe LeGarde that said we should do the small-group breakout. We started out with 40 delegates, which is a large group to try to have a conversation with and then all of the conventions were open and public, so at all conventions there were also other people who attended who were not delegates, and so what we did then is we would have a presentation on a topic or introduce a topic and then give the delegates time to consider certain questions within their small groups. And I think that gave each individual, whether they were a delegate or not a delegate, time to discuss and time to discuss with delegates what was best and it helped people get a more personal viewpoint and also not to feel intimidated to talk in front of a group of 40 delegates plus other attendees. That can be intimidating for some people and as far as time constraints go it was also useful that way. People could say more and then report back as a group and also kind of start the compromise process within the groups hopefully hearing a diversity of ideas in the group, presenting back maybe one or two ideas, and then hearing from others. And so I think overall it helped people feel like they were heard."

Ian Record:

"That's great. So you mentioned that this process lasted over two years. You had four constitutional conventions sort of spaced out during that time and obviously from what you're saying a lot of work in between, ongoing work. Was there...at any point in the process were you at all concerned that or did you doubt that a new constitution would actually take shape and be ratified by the constitutional delegates?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Well, let's see. I don't think...there was going to be no guarantee at the end what the outcome was because we started out with a very loose process with delegates asking them if they even wanted to continue with the process. And there was probably not the clearest of roles from the outset, and it wasn't until Chairwoman Vizenor selected the constitutional proposal team to start the writing of the document...and I think we were very fortunate to have Gerald Vizenor be a constitutional delegate, and as some of the viewers probably know, Gerald Vizenor is a really accomplished scholar from White Earth -- having written I think at this point well over 40 books, everything from poetry to novels to short stories to theory to history -- and so that was lucky for us. We didn't engage a lot of legal consultation, we didn't have somebody sitting by the wayside doing that, and so we had our processes and I had detailed notes and we kind of used that to start the writing. So I think until we started writing the document, it was a little unclear how long the process was going to be and who was going to be in charge of the writing. And I think it actually helped that we didn't have that team designated from the outset, that we were kind of in a looser process because then it wasn't...nobody identified us early on and said, "˜I want to make sure I say this to Gerald or this to Jill because they're going to be part of writing it.' Instead it was...kept it more open and kept the power also more dispersed."

Ian Record:

"So you briefly referenced the role of lawyers in reform process, and I think you may be an exception to the rule at White Earth in that you're not a lawyer and Gerald's not a lawyer and you wrote the constitution. We've seen other instances where the lawyers get involved, even before the writing of the constitution they're heavily involved in the process. Was that ever at sort of the forefront of minds, "˜Let's keep the legal aspects to the side, the legal folks to the side because we want this to be an expression of the people's will and not the expression of any particular lawyer's will?'"

Jill Doerfler:

"Absolutely. I think it's really difficult to find sort of objective legal advice. Everybody has their opinions, even staff attorneys at White Earth have their interests, and so we really wanted it to be a document that people can read and understand. Sometimes...from a legal perspective, sometimes lawyers write in a certain way that's difficult to understand and so we definitely wanted it to come from the people and we did not really utilize lawyers, which some lawyers have critiqued since then. Sometimes I get a raised eyebrow from lawyers that we didn't really engage that in the process."

Ian Record:

"Time will tell I guess if it's going to be an issue."

Jill Doerfler:

"Right, right. We'll see how well that works out in the end."

Ian Record:

"So what would you say ultimately -- now that the process is done -- what would you say ultimately were the keys to the success of the nation in actually seeing this process through?"

Jill Doerfler:

"I think definitely we had a very open, inclusive process. As I mentioned, we had delegates -- who everyone who applied was accepted -- and then all of the constitutional conventions were announced in the newspaper, it was open, anyone could come who wanted to come. No one was ever asked to leave or turned away and so it was very...it was as transparent as we could be and I think that was really critical. We never had a closed door meeting. Never had a closed door meeting with lawyers, we never had a closed door meeting with delegates. Everything was open and so that was definitely one of the keys to our process. Maybe I'll also say that persistence was part of the key as well, because it did take a couple of years and in a way that seems like a long time for me, 'cause that's the timeline I was involved, but some of our constitutional delegates had been involved in different efforts for reform over the past 30 years and so some of them definitely get a lot of credit for seeing the different processes through. And I would say that none of those previous efforts were failed efforts which could be looked at as well. We tried in the late "˜90s, there was a draft constitution at that time, but no action was ever taken on it. True, but I think nonetheless that process still helped us build up to what we did in 2007 and the experience that those people had, they brought that to the table with them when they came in 2007 with those other efforts so that was really advantageous for us."

Ian Record:

"And perhaps some informed perspectives on what didn't work and what to avoid and that sort of thing."

Jill Doerfler:

"Absolutely, yes."

Ian Record:

"So I want to turn to the subject of citizenship, which is as you know one of the most controversial issues facing all Native nations -- who's going to be a part of us and how do we define the criteria that determines that? Citizenship was at the core of your nation's constitutional deliberations, and I'm curious before we get into sort of the mechanics of how you came to arrive at your new definition of citizenship or perhaps a returning to an old definition of citizenship, can you talk a bit about how the White Earth Anishinaabe defined citizenship traditionally and what criteria they used prior to colonization?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Sure. It varied over time, so there isn't just one answer to how things worked, but there's big changes over time. Anishinaabeg people have had contact with non-Indians for hundreds of years by this point and there have been changes, migrations and where my research really starts is starting in the early 20th century, right after the turn of the century. And in my research, I wanted to look at how Anishinaabeg people thinking about their identity, sort of pre-IRA, pre-organized government, and what I came to look at was a series of records that were based actually on land transactions at White Earth. In the 19-teens, allotment happened at White Earth as it did in many nations. And what happened at White Earth is there's legislation that says, "˜Mixed-blood people can sell their land, full-blood people cannot.' Land at White Earth is really gorgeous and spectacular. It was both good timber land and good farm land, lakes country. Lots of non-Indians said, "˜Hey, we'd like that land, we can either make a living there or make money there.' And after allotment happens at White Earth, then we get that legislation about mixed blood and full blood and then land transactions take place at an extraordinary rate. White Earth is often pointed to nationally as a case study because of how quickly land changed hands. And White Earth people complained that there was illegal activities, that people were being lied to or people who couldn't read were asked to sign papers that they were told was for their bill at the store and it was for a lease or it was for the sale. So lots of White Earth people complained and ultimately the federal government did a couple of investigations and one was conducted by Ransom Powell, who was a relatively well-known attorney in Minnesota because he represented some lumber company interests and he was selected to do the process at White Earth. There's a clear political choice there on the part of the U.S. government in choosing him, but he and his team went around and interviewed Anishinaabeg people asking them, "˜Is so and so mixed blood or a full blood?' and those records are extraordinarily rich with responses by people at White Earth saying, [a] "˜I have no idea what you're talking about when you say mixed blood and full blood. We don't define people like that.' 'I can't remember' was a big one. And then Powell and his associates would then also ask questions like about phenotype. "˜Well, did such and such have dark skin' and Anishinaabeg people would say, "˜I don't know, I don't remember,' or some people would say, "˜I don't know, they weren't really light but they weren't really dark, they were kind of medium,' and so Anishinaabeg people found all these inventive ways to kind of get around these definitions that the U.S. government was trying to push, which were these sort of fixed biological, unchanging definitions and for Anishinaabeg people identity wasn't something that was fixed. Identity was something that people created themselves through their actions, how they lived their lives, what choices they made and so they conveyed that time and again in the interviews. And so part of what I shared was some of my research on that, that identity was fluid and people were empowered to create their own identity, which I think is really interesting for us to think about today, that many of us have been really familiar with blood quantum and thinking of identity as this thing that is unchanging that you're born with versus a 100 years ago, Anishinaabeg people saying, "˜Well, you make yourself a full blood or you make your own identity.'"

Ian Record:

"So you brought up a good segue to the next question, which is about blood quantum, because in 1963 White Earth, the sole definition for...sole criterion for citizenship at White Earth became blood quantum. And I'm curious -- how did that come to pass? And it doesn't sound to me like the White Earth people certainly prior to that and I would imagine in 1963 probably didn't fully embrace that change, did they?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Right. Blood quantum I always think is used to disenfranchise people at White Earth in two ways and first it starts with those land transactions. Ultimately, what that investigation found is that about 90 percent of people at White Earth were mixed blood, i.e. 90 percent of those land transactions are legally valid and there's no legal recourse. And so people at White Earth were familiar with how the federal government could use identity to disenfranchise them, in that case to take land basically illegally. And so White Earth becomes part of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, which forms in 1936 with the IRA kind of style government and originally there isn't real firm criteria for citizenship. People basically apply to become citizens based on their parents and they're approved. There is no blood quantum requirement initially. And the Secretary of the Interior starts writing to the tribal executive committee, which is the governing body of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, saying, "˜You really need to think about your citizenship requirements and you really need to think about using either blood quantum or residency or some combination of these things.' And many members of the tribal executive committee including people from White Earth said, "˜No, we don't want to do that. That's going to become a problem for our children or our grandchildren and we need to think about future generations.' And so they passed several resolutions on citizenship that were lineal descent and sent them to the Secretary of the Interior who has, there's an approval clause in the constitution that the Secretary has to approve. The Secretary rejected all of those resolutions time and again and so over about a 20-year period, this would kind of ebb and flow. It would kind of come up and they would pass a resolution and the Secretary would reject it and then time would pass and the Secretary would say, Well, you really need to decide this.' And they would do the same thing and the Secretary would write back saying, "˜For all intents and purposes, this is the same legislation that you sent me last time. I rejected it last time, I'm going to reject it now.' And then finally we move into the later "˜50s and into the early "˜60s and this is termination time as people familiar with American Indian history are familiar. And basically there were some letters sent that weren't too veiled threats regarding termination saying, "˜If the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe doesn't decide this very soon it'll be made a matter of Congress and Congress will decide.' And so ultimately the tribe agrees to one-quarter Minnesota Chippewa Tribe as the sole requirement for citizenship. It gets voted on by the leaders in '61 and it goes into effect in '63 as a constitutional amendment."

Ian Record:

"So it sounds like this was at the beginning...it sounds like this was a main topic of conversation from the get-go when the new effort began."

Jill Doerfler:

"Yes, absolutely it was. People have felt the impact of blood quantum now. I myself am one of those people. As you mentioned, I'm a White Earth descendant, meaning my mother is a tribal citizen and I'm not and the reason is because of blood quantum. And so many, many families have been impacted, literally divided by blood quantum which is what leaders were talking about in the "˜30s and "˜40s and the record on their statements is very rich, very impassioned speeches about the importance of family and how this will affect the future. In a lot of ways, it was a delayed form of termination. The tribe in some ways was up against these threats of immediate termination, but blood quantum itself is designed to slowly make the population smaller and eventually designed to eliminate tribes. And the Secretary of the Interior was very, relatively frank about that in some of his communications to the tribe saying, "˜Every person that you add to the roll diminishes the share that each person has,' and so trying to use resources to try to get people to tighten up citizenship requirements, trying to limit population numbers. And so to some extent, it's working. And the tribe actually did a demographic study recently showing population and the demographer found that using trends over the last 100 years, if we kind of average things out, we anticipate that by about 2040, we'll just have an aging population, there won't really be anyone eligible for citizenship, and by about 2080, 2090, we anticipate that there may be few or no citizens meaning that as the U.S. government has hoped, the nation will cease to exist. If there are no citizens, there are no treaty obligations, no tribal government, and it's over."

Ian Record:

"So you said the resolutions were from about the 1930s and the 1950s from White Earth about this issue and they were all rebuffed?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Yep. Yeah, "˜30s, "˜40s and then they tried some other tactics sort of in the "˜50s because what was happening was some people were like being rejected from healthcare, other BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] programs and the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and White Earth as a part of that would write to the Secretary of the Interior or to the agent and say, "˜These people are our citizens and they don't have one-quarter blood quantum as the Bureau sometimes wants, but they're still our citizens and they still are entitled to these services.' And there was a big fight and as I said, the record is really rich, and I would imagine that the same is true for other tribes, and I would really encourage other tribes to take a look at their histories and kind of examine what was going on. If the tribe has blood quantum, how did that come to be, what was going on before that? Because I think for lots of people at White Earth, you know, we've had blood quantum since '63. A lot of people have grown up with that and not known anything different, and we need to look back at what our ancestors were saying, what people were doing historically, and think about, 'How can that guide us today? Can some of their wisdom still apply today?'"

Ian Record:

"I saw you when I was doing my presentation yesterday, I was making that exact point. You were nodding your head 'cause I was basically saying that it's absolutely vital for tribes when they begin the constitutional deliberation process that they need to first understand where they came from, where their constitution comes from, what's the oral history, what's the archival history, what's the documentation around what your own people were thinking back when these things were created and did they have any say in how these things were created? Or did they try to voice their opinion on how these things were created and were ignored, were refused, etc.?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Absolutely. I think that's very key. I think people sometimes assume that whatever document we have now or whatever document their tribe has been operating under was somehow sanctioned by elders or was the result of a lot of deliberation and thought and that's not necessarily the case. Sometimes these constitutions were passed with very little participation, sometimes the Secretary of the Interior or other bureaucrats from the BIA were heavily involved in writing these constitutions and it's important to look at that history. Before you're ready to move forward you have to think about the past, because really the way that we construct the past and what happened helps us understand our present and that's what helps us envision our future as well."

Ian Record:

"Isn't it really...at a fundamental level isn't it really an issue of ownership, that there are a lot of people in the community that -- because they don't know that back history, they don't know the origin story, if you will, of their current constitution and system of government -- that there is a sense that we do own this, that this is ours, that this is somehow our creation when in most instances, I won't say all, but in most instances, that's absolutely not the case."

Jill Doerfler:

"Yes, exactly. Yeah. There can be a loyalty to that document that maybe people would have a different opinion on if they had a little bit more historic information."

Ian Record:

"So I want to kind of dive now into how you guys deliberated citizenship, this issue of citizenship in the recent reform process. At the outset you developed some questions to help guide constitutional delegates in terms of evaluating the different options for redefining tribal citizenship. Can you talk about what those questions were and why you chose them?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Sure. It was actually a little bit more towards the end of the process. So we had had several deliberations on citizenship. I had given some presentations also on the history of blood quantum, which is important. It's important for tribes to know their own history, but then blood quantum as a concept has its own history. So we discussed those things, and then because of previous reform efforts at White Earth, there was a constitution created that had a list of citizenship options and so we utilized those during the current process. And so I asked delegates to take a look at those options and start going through them and based on the previous conventions I created a set of questions that wanted to ask which of these options best enacts our Anishinaabe values and beliefs because delegates had said time and again, "˜What we want is a constitution that's ours, that reflects our Anishinaabe culture and our values and how can we put that in the constitution? And so that was kind of an easy mark to say, "˜Then that's a question we want to ask as we look at our citizenship options.' One delegate had talked about how citizenship really is part of the question, who are we and who are we in our hearts,' which I thought was good so we utilized that. We also utilized a question relating to which of the citizenship options will be best for White Earth in the future, so not only looking at our current situation, not only thinking about ourselves or delegates thinking about themselves, but thinking about future generations as our ancestors had encouraged us to do then if we used that to look at the different options."

Ian Record:

"So tell me about one option which you've termed the "band-aid" option or maybe you didn't come up with it, but it's what you shared as the band-aid option. What did it propose and why was it ultimately discarded?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Sure. So we basically had several options that we were looking at. One was lineal descent, three were a variety of blood calculations of different types that were...some were relatively complex, and then delegates, White Earth delegates came up with another option during one of the conventions. One of the small groups said, "˜We have another option which is to make everyone who's currently enrolled, whoever is on the rolls right now, we'll make them a full blood. We'll make them four-fourths.' And ultimately that became termed the 'band-aid' approach. I think one of the delegates said that, that wasn't my term, but delegates considered that option a little bit and it was called the band-aid approach I think because it just put a temporary fix on the problem. What it would do would make it so that everyone who's a citizen now would guarantee that their grandchildren are enrolled no matter who they've had...who their children had children with, etc., that their grandchildren would be enrolled. But it doesn't guarantee anything beyond that. So we're looking into the future, but we're only looking into the future a little bit and there were probably definitely delegates with great-grandchildren who are part of the process who could already see that that probably wasn't forward looking enough. And delegates talked about the fact that this will fix the problem now, but what it will ultimately do is pass the exact same problem on to either our children or onto our grandchildren or some future generations, and so I think delegates ultimately felt like they came to be part of the process to make the hard choices. This isn't going to be an easy choice regarding citizenship, but they wanted to make it in a way that was more forward looking than just two generations in the future."

Ian Record:

"I think on Capitol Hill they call that the 'kicking the can down the road' approach."

Jill Doerfler:

"I think they do."

Ian Record:

"So what decision -- and I think you referenced this already -- but can you talk about the decision that the delegates finally arrived at regarding citizenship, and how did they arrive at that decision?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Sure. Ultimately lineal descent was selected as the option. We deliberated it, delegates deliberated it several times, I had given several presentations as I said evaluating options and sharing information and finally we were discussing different options for citizenship and finally one delegate just made a motion and said, "˜We would like to stop discussing options that deal with blood quantum.' It passed and therefore the only one option that doesn't deal with any type of blood quantum, that was lineal descent and then we moved forward from there. And I think it was probably a culmination of things. In some ways I think delegates who probably decided from the outside that they were in favor of lineal descent were maybe weary of talking about it because we had spent a lot of time on it and so I think for some of them they were like, "˜We are ready to make this decision' and I think for other people it was a little bit of a push that they needed to be like, "˜Okay, we're just going to...we're going to have to just make a choice here. We're never going to get a unanimous decision. There's going to be some people who are going to vote for and some people who are going to vote against and we have to accept that process and move forward.'"

Ian Record:

"So how do you...it seems to me that you're pretty certain that this will strengthen, this new criteria will strengthen the nation moving forward. Can you discuss in what ways?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Sure. Well, I think ultimately it is an enactment of our Anishinaabe values. It really places family and relationships at the center of the nation which is historically appropriate, which is things that we know that our ancestors wanted, and so that's advantageous 'cause it's putting those values into action. If we say family and love and respect is at the heart of the nation, how can we do that? Well, using lineal descent, using family then is one way to do that. It also strengthens the nation from the perspective that potentially we have the option to exist in perpetuity. We don't have a graph with a line that shows when the population will end like we do with blood quantum. We have the idea that as long as families are passing on their values and traditions and political loyalties exist, people will choose to become citizens of the nation and that leaves that option open. A strong citizen base I think is critical for any nation. It gives them a diversity of resources regarding people, what citizens can contribute to the nation, which is something we also talked about at White Earth quite a bit. Sometimes there's a perception that citizens will just drain resources and people will just want to become citizens in order to get certain benefits. We also talked about the fact that becoming a citizen is a responsibility and that when you make that choice to become a citizen, A, you're in some ways acknowledging the jurisdiction of the White Earth Nation, B, you're submitting yourself to those laws and codes and you have obligations to carry out. You're not necessarily going to get anything. We don't have per capita payments at White Earth. I don't see that happening in the future, and I think we want to think of citizens as assets and think about how can more citizens provide more resources. How can having somebody who's a citizen who has expertise in environmental like change, climate change be an advantage? How can we bring more people in and be more inclusive and what could that mean both for the nation politically and economically as well?"

Ian Record:

"So it's interesting you mention this issue of obligations. We talk with a lot of nations about that issue, that somewhere it was lost in the colonization process the obligations of citizenship, that a lot of folks in Native communities, because of the legacies of colonialism, view their relationship with the government as 'what do I get out of it?', not so much what the government and the nation should be expecting of them and what they should be obligated to do. Can you be a little bit more specific on what sort of obligations I guess are expected of citizens under the new constitution and system of government?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Sure. And I'll also say that I think in some ways, because of colonialism, that the relationship with tribal government and the relationship with federal government has sometimes been a little bit confused and I think there is this obligation and what the federal government owes especially via treaty obligations to tribal nations and tribal citizens. But tribal governments don't necessarily owe tribal citizens anything. They may choose to provide services, again enacting our values or choosing to do certain things, but that's not an entitlement necessarily that somebody has. So part of being a citizen is contributing and everyone...as Anishinaabe people we always say, "˜Everyone has a gift,' and the range and diversity of gifts is important to us. We don't want everyone to have the same gift. We want a diversity of people which also relates to increased population. But everyone will contribute in their own way. They will contribute maybe working in tribal government, maybe working for a certain program or service. They may contribute by raising healthy children, they may contribute by helping other family members, they may contribute in a wide range of ways, but focusing on that instead of focusing on what a single person might get."

Ian Record:

"I want to move now onto the other aspects of the new constitution, and I'll ask you in a second for your thoughts on what you think stands ou,t but I'm curious, there's one change that I forgot to write on the list of questions and that is, you're no longer the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, you're now the White Earth Nation. Why was that change made?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Well, we use that sometimes now anyway and we do feel it's a little bit more appropriate for us. It's a little bit stronger assertion of our sovereignty. That's been a preferential name that we've used internally for a while and so this was an opportunity to make that change officially in the constitution."

Ian Record:

"So what other things stand out in terms of the new constitution? Can you give us a brief overview of some of the concrete, fundamental differences between the new constitution and how you govern yourselves under the old arrangement?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Absolutely. I think the separation of powers is one of the biggest things. When Chairwoman Vizenor first announced the fact that she wanted to start constitutional reform, she mentioned two things: citizenship and separation of powers. Currently, there is no separation of powers and the court system is basically established via statute not in the constitution, which gives it a little bit more precarious of a position. And so the new constitution, the ratified constitution of the White Earth Nation, separates out a president, a legislative council, and the judiciary, and each has separate roles and responsibilities. Also the legislative council is not enumerated in a fixed way, because we know that White Earth population will change over time and we don't want to lock ourselves in to having three representatives or three districts or five districts and so that is left open, that will change over time. One part that is fixed is off-reservation representation -- which is something that doesn't exist now -- in a very concrete way. Right now, everyone votes for the chairperson and the secretary-treasurer. They're elected, as we say, at-large. But there are three districts on the reservation right now. So the constitution has sort of open number of districts on the reservation and then two representatives for off-reservation but within Minnesota. And so that's a guarantee that off-reservation [citizens] will have at least two representatives, which is important because we have a large portion of the population, White Earth citizens living off the reservation, so that was a major change. And as I said, having the judiciary separate and established within the constitution, that's really critical because things like the new Tribal Law and Order Act and the Violence Against Women Act, which is hopefully going to allow Native nations to extend their jurisdictional reach a little bit, part of that is having that separate judiciary helps guarantee for everyone that there will be some independence there. I think most of us in Indian Country are in favor of increased jurisdiction, but increased jurisdiction without a separation of powers can be a little bit scary and so that's also..."

Ian Record:

"It essentially raises the stakes and if you maintain a politicized court system, it's just going to make things even worse potentially."

Jill Doerfler:

"Correct. I'll also say a couple of other things about the new constitution. Currently at White Earth, we have community councils, which are operating in a relatively informal basis. They're not written into any governing document, but in the new constitution we have community councils established, we have an elders council and a youth council, and they all have real important roles within the community for people to gather to talk about political issues to also engage in cultural activities, to keep language and cultural practices ongoing and it allows people ways to engage the elected leadership and allows elected leadership maybe to choose to come to a youth council meeting or to come to an elders council meeting when they have a problem. And so that was really important to delegates, and I'm really proud that we have those different councils established and set within the constitution itself."

Ian Record:

"That's fascinating. One tribe I worked with for quite a long time, they, in a draft constitution, which has not yet been ratified, they actually gave constitutional authority to their elders council and their youth council to review legislation before it could be voted on which I thought was really cool."

Jill Doerfler:

"Wow!"

Ian Record:

"I'm really looking forward to that getting ratification at some point. So we talked about what's actually in the new document, some of the things you referenced. That's ultimately just a piece of paper. That leads me to the question: what's the new governance reality that that document seeks to create? How does it seek to improve the effectiveness of White Earth governance and make it more culturally appropriate, etc.?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Yeah, I think also trust is a big issue with government at White Earth and other nations as well. White Earth, as I said briefly, has had some issues with fraud and corruption in the past and that has really tainted peoples' view and their trust and their view of the tribal government as legitimate. And so we hope that the new governing document with the separation of powers, with the ways in which elections are structured, will help improve peoples' pride in the government, potentially their political loyalty, that would be improved."

Ian Record:

"If you were to explain to somebody that knows nothing about your tribe and knows nothing about the reform effort, what aspects of the new constitution and the new governance system are most culturally distinct to White Earth, what would you tell them?"

Jill Doerfler:

"I would say that our preamble is actually potentially most distinct. Preamble, as some people know, is a place in the constitution where there is sometimes a little bit more freedom rather than the articles and exact procedures that are laid out. But I think the preamble is really nicely written, acknowledges our broad range of relationships and cultural values historically and contemporary, and so I think that does a nice job. I do think that we have some processes for basically ethics, impeachment, citizens are allowed to petition. I think that kind of citizen involvement is very culturally appropriate and something that people will welcome having in the new constitution in a way that citizens haven't been able to be as engaged with the current governance structure. And I think historically, Anishinaabeg people and White Earth people had a lot more opportunity to engage leaders, to be a little bit more involved in the process than is currently available, so I think the new constitution also does that. And I think the balance of checks in power and balance of power is also culturally appropriate. Historically, Anishinaabeg people didn't have one or two leaders who were making all the decisions for the tribe. That power was disbursed, there were lots of lengthy council meetings where people could get out and participate, and so we see some of those things integrated in the new constitution as well."

Ian Record:

"So what cultural values would you say does the new constitution seek to protect, advance, to live, and what future do you feel it's designed to help create within the nation?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Sure. I think that one of the things that we talked about a little bit during the process was cultural values and core values. At ones point delegates were asked to identify some of their core values and write belief statements, and ultimately they came very close to intentionally or not intentionally mirroring our teachings, which are sometimes called the seven grandfather teachings, which is basically love, respect, honesty, humility, wisdom -- these types of really basic core values that transcend time, that transcend place that we can all be engaging in today. Sometimes culture for American Indians gets fixed a little bit historically in the past and fixed into certain actions, but if we think of love and respect as part of our cultural values then that opens us up to enacting them today."

Ian Record:

"So final wrap-up question. You guys have gone through the whole process. You're awaiting a secretarial election, is that correct?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Right."

Ian Record:

"But in terms of the actual process and the crafting of a new foundational governing document, you've gone through that process. What do you feel other nations can learn from the White Earth experience? What sort of lessons do you feel that you've learned that might be transferrable to the challenges that other tribes are facing?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Right. So I do hesitate to say we're through the process, 'cause we're gearing up for a really...hopefully what will be a really big citizen engagement and education effort, because things have been sitting at White Earth a little while. Delegates ratified the document in 2009, it's now 2013, and so we do need to work this summer and into the fall to reinvigorate and to educate about the document to make sure any questions that people have are answered. But as far as the writing process and the process that went into getting the document that we have now, I think that transparency was key. I think we did a relatively good job with that. I think since we've finished, social media has really taken off and I would say if we were doing...the nation who's doing it now I would say need more presence on the web. We primarily used newspaper articles which was great, but things on the web can happen a little bit more in real time and I think that would be something that tribes could utilize. I think the fact that we were inclusive as far as delegates went is also good. It also provided some trust I think to people who were maybe skeptical of the process. We can say that everyone who wanted to be included was included but there was that application process and there was a deadline and that was it. There were later some people who wanted to become delegates after the process started and we were unable to do that because we had to stick with our original plan. But I think that that was good as well. I think if we would have added new delegates later we would have almost had to start over and re-educate, so I think it was good that we had that open process, but then once the delegates were selected we stuck with it and we didn't make changes. So I think it's easy to say, "˜Oh, yes, we'll add you,' because there were definitely great people who came along that would have been great additions. Instead we said, "˜Please continue to come to the conventions and you can still share your thoughts and ideas and talk with the delegates and be involved that way.'"

Ian Record:

"Well, we really appreciate you taking some time out of your busy schedule to share your thoughts and experience and wisdom with us, and I'm very eager to see how things unfold there. I definitely think that other nations that are talking about reform, embarking on reform, struggling with reform can certainly learn a lot from the White Earth experience."

Jill Doerfler:

"Thank you. It's been a pleasure to be here and I'm definitely looking forward to our referendum, which will hopefully happen soon."

Ian Record:

"Well, thank you, Jill. That's all the time we have on today's program of Leading Native Nations. To learn more about Leading Native Nations and the Native Nations Institute's website, please visit nni.arizona.edu. Thank you for joining us. Copyright 2013, Arizona Board of Regents."

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)

An Anishinaabe Tribalography: Investigating and Interweaving Conceptions of Identity During the 1910s on the White Earth Reservation

Author
Year

This article explores the varied ways in which the Anishinaabeg of White Earth defined themselves during the early twentieth century. It consists of two primary parts. In part 1 I go beyond the artifacts in order to enliven the history, to offer an alternative way of remembering the past.  In this section I have created several characters and collapsed events, but I draw heavily on historical interviews. I use many direct quotes in the interview section; all the statements that I have copied word for word from a document in the Ransom Judd Powell Papers have been italicized. It is my goal to immerse the reader in a story that extends beyond history. This section also includes historical photographs that provide an additional element of framework for the construction of the tribalography. The subheadings in part 1 are taken from A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe by John D. Nichols and Earl Nyholm. In part 2 I provide a traditional academic presentation of the “facts,” including details about federal and state legislation as well as an academic analysis of the interviews. The two parts of this story create a weaving;  by pulling together a wide variety of sources, including primary documents, secondary sources, and the works of other storytellers, I have tried to create something new...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Doerfler, Jill. "An Anishinaabe Tribalography: Investigating and Interweaving Conceptions of Identity During the 1910s on the White Earth Reservation." American Indian Quarterly. Volume 33:3. Summer 2009. Article. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/40388467, accessed March 1, 2023)