Part 1 of 5
By Carol Berry
It began to matter even more when his grandmother tried to give him land and he couldn’t have it because he was not enrolled. He lived in Harlem, Mont. on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, home of the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre, where he lacked the blood quantum for membership at that time.
Upham, a long-time resident of tribal neverland, was only recently enrolled in the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, although his Dakota, Assiniboine, Gros Ventre, Salish and Pend d’Oreilles ancestry brings his Native descent to well over half at this point and his genealogy is still not complete.
Things changed at Fort Belknap, he said, because the quantum was dropped from one-fourth to one-eighth, “but I didn’t want to enroll, now. I didn’t want to be a one-eighth Indian.” Instead, he joined other family members in enrolling in the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, although he had never lived there.
“But since I’ve started saying that, the more time I spend talking to others, it’s turned into opportunities to have conversations about issues, history, with lots of different people.
“People ask, ‘How much are you?’ (she declines to respond) but we are Citizen Band Potawatomi because of history, legacy, culture and common values – these are the things that make us Potawatomi. We reject blood quantum as being the determining factor of whether we’re Native American.”
Although Langston does not live in Oklahoma, she knows her tribe’s history in detail, she visits relatives, attends a powwow more attuned to tribal members than to big-money contests, and summarizes, “We are definitely trying to understand and establish more of what it is to be Potawatomi today. It’s not the same thing it was 50 years ago, let alone 500 years ago.”