November 06, 2009

Sunset for tribes in 21st century?

Oregon family at heart of sticky issue:  Does intermarriage threaten Native American culture?

By Richard CockleFor both individuals and tribes, questions surrounding intermarriage strike at the heart of what it means to be a Native American. Just how much "blood quantum"--a term U.S. officials coined in the 19th century--does it take to be considered a Native American?

And where do tribes set the bar for enrollment? If they set it too high, they risk shutting out members and dwindling into oblivion; too low, and they spread resources too thin or render their identity meaningless. The proliferation of casinos has raised the financial stakes.

Gary Garrison, a U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs spokesman in Washington, D.C., envisions a day within a century when "marrying out" leaves tribal members with little resemblance to their forebears and little reason to call themselves Natives.

Brooklyn D. Baptiste, vice chairman of the tribal government at Idaho's Nez Perce Reservation, agrees.

"We do need to let the people know, 'If you continue on this way, there will be a sunset to our tribe, maybe in 70 or 80 years,'" he says. "What is the point of fighting for all these treaty rights if there is nobody left to exercise them?"
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Indians Doomed to Die Out?

Below:  "Marcus Luke (right) married his college sweetheart, Rachel (left), but is encouraging their son, Aaron, to seek a Native American spouse when he grows up. Luke fears that continued assimilation will relegate Native American culture to history books. 'We are not just like everybody else,' he says. 'My blood comes from this land; my religion comes from this land.'" (Torsten Kjellstrand/The Oregonian)

1 comment:

dmarks said...

"but is encouraging their son, Aaron, to seek a Native American spouse when he grows up"

Seems a bit Archie Bunkerish, the more you think about it.