April 02, 2007

"Indian blood" is a fiction

Cheyfitz:  The case of the Cherokee freedmenThe fact is that “Indian blood,” particularly in its manifestation as blood quantum, is a colonial construct of the U.S. government, a legal fiction that came into its own in the Dawes era (1887 - 1934), where it was used both to construct the Dawes Rolls to decide who was an Indian and who wasn't for the purpose of determining who was eligible to receive parcels of tribal lands, and later to determine or aid in determining which Indians were “competent” to hold their lands in fee. The figure used in the latter case was a fraction of one-half Indian blood, those with less than one-half typically being deemed competent to be freeholders.

The model of competency here was clearly racist: the less Indian blood the federal government decided one had, that is, the more white blood one was deemed to have, the more competent one was judged to be by the government. And we might as well ask: What evidence of blood quantum was the government using in making its determinations? Genealogical documents? Anecdotes? Assessments of phenotype, which could only be based in a kind of stereotyping? Whether used to determine the competency of those Indians on the rolls or to construct the Dawes Rolls themselves, the colonial legal fiction of blood quantum, ultimately adopted by the tribes in varying fractions in order to determine tribal enrollments, was and is today clearly divisive, pitting Indian against Indian in a class structure of those privileged to be tribally enrolled and those beyond the tribal pale.
Comment:  If "Indian blood" is a fiction, then so is a "genetic racial memory" or an "awareness granted by heredity."


Rob said...

Nothing in this excerpt justifies your comical response: "That would mean that almost all things defining aboriginal existence for the Native peoples who held these continents before the arrival of EuroMan also are fictions." You're rambling about things unrelated to this posting.

When you find me saying Indian cultures and histories are fictions, you can quote me on it. Until then, don't waste your time trying to discern my meaning. As you've shown time and again, you can't refute or even grasp my postings on the definition of "Indian."

Haven't you yourself said that "blood quantum" is an artificial distinction imposed by the US government? When I post something that agrees with this viewpoint, you fabricate a reason to criticize it. How very typical of you.

Clearly you don't understand the political relationship between the United States and its Indian nations. Perhaps another quote from Cheyfitz will enlighten you:


In Morton v. Mancari (1974), the case that affirmed the Indian-preference-in-hiring clause of the Indian Reorganization Act (1934), the Supreme Court noted: “The preference, as applied, is granted to Indians not as a discrete racial group, but, rather, as members of quasi-sovereign tribal entities whose lives and activities are governed by the BIA in unique fashion.” The definition of “Indian” supported here is political rather than racial and implies the treaty relationship between the tribes and the U.S. government, which is at the heart of Indian claims for sovereignty, ever since the Cherokees claimed and were unjustly denied their rights as an independent foreign nation before the Supreme Court in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831).

Rob said...

Wow. Sometimes your writing is as convoluted as that of the academic writers you frequently criticize.

You really haven't touched my arguments, so I'll continue with my dissection of yours. Let's look at some of your past statements.

Russ in this posting: The idea that Indian blood is a fiction "would mean that almost all things defining aboriginal existence ... also are fictions."

Russ, 3/6/07 posting: Native identity "is not a matter of 'blood quanta' set by law nor is it a matter of heredity set by human interactions."

Russ, another 3/6/07 posting: "There is another group in New Jersey that has been seeking recognition as a tribe for the past 35 years. There is no Native blood in them, either (hence no awareness granted by heredity)."

Russ, 10/14/06 posting: "The best I can do in expository terms is to say it is an almost-instinctive ability, sort of a genetic racial memory."

With this in mind, does Russ believe someone must have "Indian blood" to be an Indian? Does he believe someone must have some genetic or hereditary trait besides blood to be an Indian? Who knows?

Russ himself doesn't know, since he's contradicted himself egregiously in these comments. Nor can we expect him to straighten himself out, since he isn't brave or clever enough to disentangle his tangled views. We're left to conclude that Russ the Kiowa Indian doesn't know what an Indian is.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Because there were no arguments capable of being so touched. If there is as much that is 'fictional' about the original Native cultures, then there must be even more that is 'fictional' about the culture that replaced them. You do not so much win or lose, as you by your logic find little that can be argued at all toward winning or losing. Once having crossed that threshold, then a subject such as 'blood quanta' most definitely was set into place by EuroMan because the 'fictional Indian blood' wasn't there so to be quantified.
One of these times, Rob Schmidt will learn that obfuscation for its own sake only is rewarded in government or bureaucratic environs, but then again, that's where he is!
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

"No arguments" that you could comprehend, you mean. I'm confident the arguments were clear to everyone else.

How ironic that you accuse me of obfuscation with a clumsily written sentence that obfuscates your point. Namely,

"One of these times, Rob Schmidt will learn that obfuscation for its own sake only is rewarded in government or bureaucratic environs, but then again, that's where he is!"

FYI, I'm still a freelance writer with no ties to any government or bureaucracy, thank you very much.