June 28, 2011

"Minimal bloods" = greedy white people?

Someone named Wambli Sina Win published this editorial on Indianz.com a couple weeks ago:

Tribes should protect their Indian bloodlineIf the buffalo have sense enough to stay with its own kind, why is it so difficult for our young Lakota men and women to marry and have children with other Lakota to protect our cultural integrity and to preserve our bloodline from being bred out of us?

Today it’s easy to laugh at tribes who enroll those with ridiculously low blood quantum and it seems that everything is being done to be “accommodating” and to make our tribes non-Indian. It takes courage and leadership to take steps to protect our bloodline. Enrollment based on ancestry or descendancy has to be eliminated to keep us from extinction.

It is only right that economic benefits reflect the blood quantum with full bloods receiving the maximum benefits. One who is 1/100th should receive benefits in accordance with this minimal blood. This was a choice by the minimum blood’s ancestors to breed the Indian blood out and to diminish the bloodline.

Accordingly, these descendents should live with the consequences. Instead of “banishing” tribal members, why not raise the blood quantum? As a sovereign, a tribe is within its authority to increase the blood quantum requirements for enrollment. Any real Indian tribe would seriously consider this to preserve the economic resources of the tribe for Indians and it would also encourage tribal members to marry other Indians.
I shared it on Facebook and got a lot of negative feedback, as I expected. I was going to ignore it, but then Wambli Sina Win doubled down with another column defending the first one:

Pretendians--the hostile takeover of tribesAs I have said in the past, “the truth hurts.” Why aren’t the minimal bloods proud of their majority European ancestry? Economics, of course! After all, there is gold in the Black Hills.

Since the turn of the century and most recently because of the profitability of gaming, it has been economically beneficial for the white man to trace Indian ancestry back a hundred years or so ago to some lone Indian. It’s called “genealogy” research. As I have said before, if a person is 1/100th Indian, they are 99% something other than Indian. Who are they trying to fool? What part of the person is the tribe giving benefits to? The 1% Indian or the 99% non-Indian?

A leader personifies who and what their people are. If a so called “Chief” or “Governor” is 1/100th Indian, who is he or she representing? Will his or her loyalty be to the majority of his or her ancestry? Think very carefully about who you elect and the requirements for leadership positions. Do you have an Indian Chief or Custer representing you?

I recall my Grandfather’s words of caution, “Never trust a white man. He’ll choose frog skins over redskins every time.” As a lawyer, I know this to be true. When tribes contract with non-Indian lawyers to represent them in court, the Indian always seems to come up on the losing or the “settlement” side.
And:Recently I took my Native American grandchild to an IHS clinic and I saw that it was overrun by white people. How much do these people of minimal blood contribute culturally or financially to any tribe? The Indian has been bred out of them and all that remains is a greedy disgruntled white person with their hands out. Haven’t they taken enough?

It is a great injustice when a person can go back 100 years to find the “Indian in the cupboard” or use DNA testing to push their way onto tribal rolls. This will eventually be the undoing of tribes who allow this. Mark my words.
And:One may call a person who is interested in protecting their identity, racial integrity and culture a “supremacist.” And if that is the case, I am a supremacist. I believe in the perpetuation and continuation of my race, language and culture.Wow. It's not that often you hear someone admit she's a racist. A supremacist is a kind of racist, of course.

Taking Wambli to task

Someone named James responded on Facebook:[S]he's confusing two very separate issues. One is cultural (mis)appropriation with a misguided notion of racial purity. While it's true that many people of dubious lineage have tried to coop American Indian culture, many mixed bloods have either legitimate cultural ties or just want to know more about their ancestral culture. If you apply her criteria, Sequoyah himself would pass the muster being of mixed blood parentage himself. While those that are looking to somehow cash in on having indigenous American ancestry and rightfully deserve scorn (though, trust me, I've never found that particular cash cow and seriously doubt most other mixed bloods have either) most others have as much a right to their own cultural heritage as they do to their, say, Irish, English, German, Mexican, or whatever heritages.

While I'll agree that being 1/100th anything is pretty dubious, not every mixed blood of substantially more ancestry is out for nefarious purposes. The whole idea of "Indian" is really just a agglomeration of literally hundreds, if not thousands of separate cultures in the same way that say, Italians and Swedes are "white." Mixing of different cultures is not just the American way, but the human way. If prehistoric people's of the Americas had never mixed, we would not have the tribes we have today. Similarly, the cultures of Europe and Asia were largely formed by the mixing of various peoples. I'm surprised that her son, a Lakota, is making a Shawnee lodge. Does she not see the irony? The truth is that we are all the human race.
Another way of putting this is that tribal membership has always been cultural, not racial. Tribes freely adopted Indians from other tribes, blacks, and whites. These people became full members with all the rights and responsibilities that entailed. They were Indian by culture even if they weren't by blood.

John Ross vs. Major Ridge

Possibly the best example of this was Cherokee chief John Ross:John Ross (October 3, 1790–August 1, 1866), also known as Guwisguwi (a mythological or rare migratory bird), was Principal Chief of the Cherokee Native American Nation from 1828–1866. Described as the Moses of his people, Ross led the Nation through tumultuous years of development, relocation to Oklahoma, and the American Civil War.Mike Kohr adds:John Ross was the principle leader of the Cherokee Nation during Andrew Jackson's "removal" policy. He was 1/8th Cherokee by blood. Major Ridge who signed the treaty that was used by Jackson to force this death march, hoped in good faith it would lead to the survival of his people and culture. Ridge, a full blooded Cherokee, was killed by his own people for what they regarded as a betrayal. John Ross died in exile from his people in Washington DC still fighting for their rights and interests. Who was the true "Indian" here? They both were. Both connected and active in their culture. Both died with the best interests of their people foremost in their minds.John Ross presumably proved himself to the Cherokee over time. As some have said, tribes could require such proof today. Require people to know the culture and language before granting them membership. Make them live on the rez and help with government and religious functions.

Apply these standards to everyone whether they have the "blood" or not. Americans have to pay taxes, sit on juries, serve in the military if drafted, etc. This would be the tribal equivalent of that.

For a couple of people who seconded Wambli's conclusions, I wrote:It's easy to cheer full-blooded Indians and denounce 1/100th blooded Indians. But if you believe blood matters--which many Indians don't--where's the cutoff point? 3/4, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, or...? Tell us the dividing line where someone stops being an Indian "by blood."So far, no one has been brave enough to answer the question. 'Nuff said.

For more on the subject, see Thoughts on IndiVisible, WNBA Drafts 1st "Full-Blooded" Native, and Indian Identity Matters to Indians.

Below:  John Ross, Cherokee principal chief and 7/8 white by blood.


dmarks said...

Ugh. Just what we need, more 'miscegenation' laws, and people being harassed just because they happen to fall in love with someone of the 'wrong' color.

Anonymous said...

Her first rant more seems to be aimed at Mexicans and "anchor babies". Not surprisingly, this one came about when it was fairly obvious she was a racist teabagger.

Eagle Blanket Woman? That's a randomly generated name if I ever heard one.

Anonymous said...

Bloodlines are important, but even more important are the preservation of your culture and traditions that make you native, otherwise, you are simply repeating the same arguments white supremacist have been barking for years about segregation and race preservation.

It is useless to measure native identity by skin color when so many Indians today are mixed by tribal affiliation and family heritage. In other words, full bloods are defined as one tribe and not mixed race or tribes, but I know there are many non-natives that are more concerned about the environment and human relations than some full bloods that ignore or work against the collective interests of us all.

I think the Freedmen issue stands as a good indication of how tribes are dealing with race and native identity in the denial or acceptance of tribal memberships, but my personal opinion is that if ties were not established, then the Cherokees made a just decision and if there exists even the slightest evidence of racial bigotry in that case, then the Cherokees will always live with that scrutiny.

dmarks said...

The whole "anchor baby" issue is an effort to strip US citizens of their citizenship and rights due to crimes committed by their parents.

Supposed libertarian Ron Paul strongly supports this.

And what is the crime? Coming to the USA and working for a living. Ron Paul, why not deport the children of drunk drivers? Drunk drivers are far more dangerous to the country than illegal aliens.

dmarks said...

Also, re "Eagle Blanket Woman"

It actually sounds rather authentic.

"Blanket Woman Wolf Eagle"... looks even more random, but actually an authentic 19th century Blackfeet name. As is "Cloth Woman".

"Walking Blanket Woman", another name for Moving Robe Woman, fought against Custer.

"Rattle Blanket Woman", mother of Crazy Horse.