Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A History Lesson in Blood Quantum

Dan Waters is a snarky 22 year old queer biracial wonderment who is part White, Portuguese, and Native American (Wampanoag-Kiowa). He currently lives in Massachusetts, and plans to become a Lawyer. That is, if he can survive Algonquin language classes and polyamorous dating right now! He also identifies as Two Spirit, and prefers male pronouns, but cherishes his female body that he was given graciously by the Creator. He blogs at Identity Exposure.

I told myself I was not going to write anything about blood quantum, because I have such mixed views about it and whatnot. But when NPR decided to discuss about benefits, I couldn’t bite my tongue. Take the clue, NPR: THE GOVERNMENT WANTS THE BENFITS TO GO AWAY! And even if they do qualify, here’s the thing: many tribes, and individuals, do not even get those fucking benefits even if they meet the criteria. NPR also seems it relevant to just narrow the focus to strictly being about benefits (and thus ignoring that the government doesn’t want us to have benefits). No, being Native is not about culture, or community, it’s simply us wanting to bleed the taxpayers dry. I got pissed; no one was going to reduce my identity to a fucking number and some petty cash.

Here’s a history lesson as to how the Blood Quantum shit went down:

America wanted to give Indians a “New Deal”. Everyone finally found the Dawes Act a fucking mess, and way too many Boarding School graduates were returning to the Rez to get back to their roots.

“We thought we took care of the Indian problem with the schools!” exclaimed America. Apparently they did not.

Of course, the history of these “deals” notwithstanding, it was supposedly a GREAT deal. It was called the Indian Reorganization Act which wanted to put us back on reservations (thus reversing some of what the Dawes Act did), and it was up to a sympathetic white man named John Collier to draft this shitfest up. He had to decide the whole “fixing” of this situation. (see: Indian Problem)
I give John a lot of credit. He went back into the office with the new pitch, and conservatives told him he was giving Indians too much. He probably was mocked and called an Injun Lover, and he probably fell off the face of politics and government after this project. Conservatives wanted the blood quantum because it would do two things: 1) lessen the amount of people who were getting aid, and 2) eventually, through efforts of boarding schools, sterilization, etc, the blood would be so “diluted” that Indians would cease to (quantifiably) exist, and thus, no more money spent on them (the Indians). The government had an agenda to get rid of Indians, and still does.

I know haters are going to be throwing the Crazy Injun™ claim at me, but I must admit that sometimes I feel like a PTSD Black Panther worried that COINTELPRO is on their back. I don’t trust the census, I get very nervous when suits suddenly start going somewhere, and if I see a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) office I cringe. Indian laws are not discussed as much as Jim Crow laws are, probably because Jim Crow is still so new. Indian laws date back to the day the Pilgrims landed. They still are in effect. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, we Indians aren’t technically allowed in Boston without a guard. Detractors will claim it’s not enforced, but it was never redacted, was it? Legally, if they wanted to, the government can enforce this rule. I can the headlines now: Crazy Indian protests Beacon Hill, resists arrest. Content would be about how cops aren’t enforcing this rule, and if they were, this “horrible incident” could have been avoided. Analysts (a.k.a ignorant fucks) will discuss the benefits of this law, and wag the finger at Massachusetts for not keeping a stricter eye on enforcing this law. Hell, we weren’t allowed to practice our religion until recently!

However, many Natives use the blood quantum as a sort of hierarchy of who’s more legitimate. Admittedly, I have played that game with some people, mostly with my other Native friends in jest. Being 1/4th is like a fucking unicorn, it’s the silver medal next to the gold (being full-blood). Of course, does that make me more Indian? Personally, I feel that accepting the identity (and the baggage it comes with), is what makes someone justifiably Native. A white Hipster not understanding the religious and cultural implications of something, probably not going to get any Injun Credit from me.

To me, blood quantum laws suck. I am 1/4th and that qualifies me for aid and free education, but here’s the secret that America keeps doing: Government buildings like to “misplace” documents, like to “seal” records, provide caps on tribal enrollment, etc. Currently, I am seeking tribal enrollment in neighboring tribes that do not require blood quantum, and simply need proof (which I do have, an ancestor is on the rolls). My grandmother will not sign off her adoption records which are sealed, so I have to wait until she dies. My grandfather avoids calls from officials who want to confirm his birthplace and name so they can verify the tribal roll with his relative. Their internalized racism against themselves and indoctrination of accepting this belief has lead to their grandchild both struggling and feeling like there is a hole in his heart. I commend tribes that do not enforce a blood quantum, because it does two things: says fuck you to the government’s enforcement and interruption of tribal autonomy (because, adoption is legitimate, and an individual becomes part of the tribe regardless), and it also proves that Native American identity is about community, pride, responsibility, etc.

I am also going to say something fairly radical. I’ve been mulling it over for some time, even sought slight guidance from Renee and other dear friends. Finally, after reading Adrienne’s most recent post about blood quantum, I think I can say it publically. After my string of dating pretty much only white people and realizing it was a baggage the size of Mt. Vesuvius, I am no longer in the dating pool for white folks, for now. I’ll let that sink in, and folks are free to comment (and profess their undying love for me, as well).

As per usual, I include books and something extra! Real Indians: Identity and Survival of Native America by Eva Marie Garroutte. A great documentary called The Canary Effect can be found here on youtube, all five parts, that discusses the USA’s indigenous policies. However, I will provide a trigger warning for the documentary: I cried. A lot.