University of Colorado professor Deward Walker produced a demographic study for the Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation that illustrates the trap of blood quantum. In connection with a referendum on changing citizenship requirements, the Tribal Council requested demographic projections based upon three scenarios: (1) changing enrollment to allow all lineal descendants of current citizens to enroll, (2) changing the blood quantum requirement to one fourth from any tribe for the descendants of current citizens, or (3) maintaining the current blood quantum requirement of one fourth Salish or Kootenai blood.
Using the current standard of one fourth Salish or Kootenai blood quantum, Walker found “the only possible projection is one of decrease.” Enrollment in the base year of 1999 was 6,953. The new enrollment and death rates converged in 2002 (65 new enrollments and 63 deaths) and the slide from zero population growth to population loss leads to a projected population of 6,400 in 2020.
Altering the blood quantum requirement to include all Indian blood in descendants of current citizens results in a short term spike up to 7,700 in 2010 followed by a steady decline thereafter.
The lineal descent from current citizens scenario naturally results in an exponential growth of the population eligible for enrollment. The number of eligible persons is projected at 21,524 in 2020 and the long-term trend continues upward. This raises a different set of questions. How many of those eligible would choose to enroll and why? Put another way, is there a reason rooted in tribal identity to choose between physical extinction and cultural extinction?