All My Relations Podcast

Ep #10: Beyond Blood Quantum

October 08, 2019 Season 1 Episode 10
All My Relations Podcast
Ep #10: Beyond Blood Quantum
Chapters
All My Relations Podcast
Ep #10: Beyond Blood Quantum
Oct 08, 2019 Season 1 Episode 10
Matika Wilbur & Adrienne Keene
Matika and Adrienne discuss the complicated intersections of blood quantum, tribal enrollment, genetics, and belonging with Charlotte Logan, Tommy Miller, Gabe Galanda, and David Wilkins.
Show Notes Transcript

Blood quantum. The percentage of Native “blood” one possesses, the fraction listed on Certificates of Degree of Indian Blood, and a fraught concept that has its defenders and dissenters in our communities. Despite its colonial origins, many tribes still use blood quantum as a requirement for tribal enrollment, and these fictional fractions carry huge weight in the lives of Indigenous Peoples. In this episode we hope to parse out some of these complications around the topic of blood quantum—legally and interpersonally, as well as the ways these metaphors of blood have moved into genetic science. Many of our Native nations are at a crisis point when it comes to thinking about enrollment, and notions of blood and belonging are at the center of that. Knowing all of this, where do we go from here? 

Join Matika and Adrienne as they discuss blood, enrollment, law, genetics and belonging with Charlotte Logan (Akwesasne Mohawk) a genetic researcher debunking blood quantum theory, Gabe Galanda (Round Valley Indian Tribes of California, descending from the Nomlaki and Concow Tribes), a prolific Seattle attorney fighting disenrollment cases, Tommy Miller (Colville), attorney and author of law review article “Beyond Blood Quantum: The legal and political implications of expanding tribal enrollment”, and Professor David Wilkins (Lumbee), legal scholar and co-author of “Dismembered: Native Disenrollement and the Battle for Human Rights”.

Guest Bios:

Charlotte Logan is Akwesasne Mohawk and a molecular biologist working in upstate new york.  Charlotte has a Masters in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Brandeis University and has spent a decade specializing in the field of small RNA and mRNA Processing. She recently made a life altering choice by stepping away from her career and enrolling in the Onondaga Language  Program, where she spent two years studying the Onandoga language. Then returned to biochemistry and molecular biology as a senior research support specialist, and now is a graduate student in linguistics.

Gabe Galanda belongs to the Round Valley Indian Tribes of California, descending from the Nomlaki and Concow Tribes. As a partner at Galanda Broadman, Gabe is an attorney whose legal practice represents tribal governments, businesses and citizens often working on complex, multi-party litigation and crisis management. Gabe is a prolific writer on  tribal litigation and sovereignty and Indian civil rights issues, having been published over 100 times in national periodicals like The National Law Journal, and Business Law Today. 

Tommy Miller is a Citizen of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and his Seattle law practice focuses on litigation, Indian Law, government contracts and procurement, which touch on a wide variety of issues including treaty rights.  He received his JD and bachelor’s degrees from Harvard University.  In 2014, he published in the American Indian Law Journal: “Beyond Blood Quantum: The Legal and Political Implications of Expanding Tribal Enrollment.” 

David E. Wilkins is a citizen of the Lumbee Nation of North Carolina and a Professor at the University of Richmond. He earned his Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Professor Wilkins research and teaching interests include Indigenous politics and governance, federal Indian policy and law, comparative politics, and diplomacy and constitutional development. He is the author or editor of a number of books, including "Dismembered: Native Disenrollment and the Battle for Basic Human Rights.”

Special thanks for the incredible episode art by Ciara Sana (instagram.com/artbyciara) and editing and sound production by Teo Shantz



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Speaker 1:
0:01
Welcome back to another episode of all my relations. Oh, we hope you're all doing well. We're so grateful that you have joined us on this journey and are back for another episode. Folks. Today we're discussing
Speaker 2:
0:16
blood.
Speaker 3:
0:21
We both did it.
Speaker 4:
0:27
Um, one time Adrian, I was at Pepperdine giving a talk and one of the very important people, the president said to me, how do I enroll the full blooded Indians? Where do I find them? In front of a large group of people enroll them in college? Yeah. Oh God. Yeah. He said, well, you know, like we really want to increase our native population, but you know, when we are looking for native students, we, we can't ever get the full bloods. Geez. I was like,
Speaker 2:
1:09
uh,
Speaker 3:
1:11
so
Speaker 1:
1:12
yeah, today we're going to be talking about blood quantum, which is something that is a topic that comes up almost every time I interact with any people, but also a really big and important issue facing our communities because blood quantum is often used for the ways that we enroll in our tribal nations. It's used to determine citizenship. And I don't think a lot of folks, because it becomes so normalized, like stopped to really think about where this concept even comes from and like what it actually means and the implications of it because it's become so normalized and just a part of our everyday existence as native people.
Speaker 4:
1:57
Yeah. It's, it's so deeply ingrained in our colonial history that w w some of us don't even know like the very origin of how this began, but we know for sure that notions of blood quantum were not our fundamental ways of understanding our sense of belonging and kinship and most of our communities, I know for me for sure, uh, you know, our clans systems, our long house systems where the ways that we identified who belonged and most of that had to do with who our parents are. And we have somehow fallen away from this, from this belief system and well, it's not, somehow it was done very systemically. And we're going to talk about that today with a group of folks that specialize in this field and have litigated in this field but also scientists. And it's something we'll talk about
Speaker 1:
2:54
about on this episode, but we do want to make sure that we start out by saying that this is not something that has any roots in actual science or biology. You can't actually quantify the amount of native blood that someone has and it definitely is not something that can be done through genetics or DNA either. And it's a concept that came from outside of our communities. It's not something that came from within native communities. It was designed by colonizers to erase us, to breed us out, to have less resources that they had to provide for native communities even. So it's something that has deep roots and a lot of defenders in Indian country. So we'll talk about that as well with our guests. And we should probably even take a step back because I know that we have a fair amount of non-native listeners who might not even know what we mean when we say blood quantum.
Speaker 1:
3:49
This idea of blood quantum is the notion that you can somehow quantify the amount of quote unquote native blood that a person possesses. And the idea is that you start with a, again, quote unquote full blood ancestor. And then with each passing generation, depending on who that ancestor has, children with a, if it's a non native person, then it becomes a subtractive identity. So then the next generation is half-blood and then quarter and then eighth and then 16th and then 32nd and on and on and on. It's something that is written on our certificate of degree of Indian blood that we all have, um, that I think non-natives sometimes don't know that we all literally have a certificate of degree of Indian blood that comes from the federal government that has our blood percentage on it. Isn't that strange? People will say, yeah, I'm a card carrying Indian. Meaning I can prove that I have this degree of Indian blood and it's very ferry. Well, it's exhausting and
Speaker 5:
5:09
okay.
Speaker 1:
5:10
Demeaning to, to think about showing your pedigree.
Speaker 5:
5:16
Okay.
Speaker 1:
5:17
Yeah, exactly.
Speaker 5:
5:25
[inaudible] [inaudible]
Speaker 6:
5:27
sorry. [inaudible]
Speaker 1:
5:39
Oh, my relationships.
Speaker 1:
5:42
Yeah. So we have on the show today, Charlotte Logan, who is Akwasauciny Mohawk and a molecular biologist working in upstate New York. Charlotte has a master's in molecular and cellular biology from Brandice university and has spent a decade specializing in the field of small RNA and am RNA processing. She recently made a life altering choice by stepping away from her career and enrolling in the Onondaga leggins program where she spent two years studying the Onondaga language. She recently returned to biochemistry and molecular biology is the senior research support specialist. Also joining us on this episode is Gabe the Landa gay belongs to the round Valley Indian tribes of California descending from the known wacky and Concow tribes as a partner at Golinda Broadman. Gabe is an attorney whose legal practice represents tribal governments, businesses, and citizens often working on complex, multi-party litigation and crisis management. Gabe is a prolific writer on tribal litigation and sovereignty and Indian civil rights issues.
Speaker 1:
6:44
Having been published over 100 times in national periodicals like the national law journal and business law today and Skyping in with us is professor David E. Wilkins who is Lumby and holds the McKnight presidential professorship in American Indian studies at the university of Minnesota. Professor Wilkins research and teaching interests include indigenous politics and governance, federal Indian policy and law, comparative politics and diplomacy and constitutional development. He most recently coauthored with Heidi stark, a book titled American Indian politics and the American political system third edition. Lastly, we have Tommy Miller who is a citizen of the Confederated tribes of the Colville reservation and as Seattle law practice focuses on litigation, Indian law, government contracts and procurement which touch on a wide variety of issues including treaty rights. He received his JD and bachelor's degrees from Harvard university in 2014 he published the American Indian law journal beyond blood quantum, the legal and political implications of expanding tribal enrollment.
Speaker 1:
7:47
As we get rolling on this episode, we're going to take you back to the conversations with our guests in our studio space in Tacoma and bring together the different perspectives on this. Really complex and complicated issue of blood quantum. As a faculty member, I teach courses on critical race theory and indigenous methodologies. And I have to teach a lot of times about the origins of racial formations in our country as it relates to native communities specifically. And one of the things that I often point out to students is the ways that the U S court system has really played a huge role in making blood quantum quote unquote real. And one of the things that I point to is, ah, the very first line of justice Alito is opinion in the baby Veronica case. And he says, quote, this case is about a little girl, parentheses baby girl who was classified as an Indian because she is 1.2% parentheses three 256th Cherokee. So to me, I think that that line is really important in pointing out how the court system uses blood quantum, uh, to their advantage in these court cases. We ask about these origins in the court and what are the ways that the court system in the U S has made blood quantum into this quote unquote real thing in the conversation that follows, you're going to hear Tommy's voice first followed by Gabe and also professor Wilkins?
Speaker 7:
9:17
Sure. So there are some, some examples of it being used at various points throughout the 18 hundreds by the federal government, certain contexts. But the way as I understand it that it really came to especially impact native communities was with the allotment period in Indian law where the goal was to subdivide reservations into individual parcels and then sell off the quote unquote surplus to essentially break down the tribal system and break down native land ownership. As part of that, they realized that the land wasn't being distributed into white ownership at the same rate that they had expected. So they put into effect a system of blood quantum where someone who was full native blood would have their land held in trust for a certain period of time. Someone who was half made of blood would have their land held in trust for less time. And so on and so forth.
Speaker 7:
10:08
Based on the idea that the more Indian blood you had, the less competent you could possibly be in the less control you should have over your own land. Moving forward in the 1930s during what was, for the most part, a more positive period of Indian law, they had the Indian reorganization act under which tribes established the constitutions that most of them now have. But the Bureau of Indian affairs had kind of a boiler plate system that they want to tribes to adopt. And that included in it a system of blood quantum for tribal membership. And that's how, as I understand it, blood quantum came to be the standard across the country for tribal membership instead of the more traditional kinship based methods that most tribes employed before that it was replaced with a very pseudo-scientific clear distinction between who should belong and who shouldn't based on this idea of blood quantum.
Speaker 8:
11:09
So, uh, there's quite a lot there, but I would say the first racial formation as it relates to who we were then kinship societies and now who we are today, quote unquote citizens of quote unquote nations. Uh, w w was started in the 1820s and 1830s by then chief justice John Marshall and some of the language, um, as you all know, even referred to as said, he is he then. So if you carry forward that legacy all the way to the baby Veronica case, and now the Bracken case, um, the Supreme court has decimated, at least legally speaking, the notion that we were kinship societies, it was much more convenient for the United States government, including chief justice John Marshall to make us nations or even governments, which by treaty, uh, could cause us to seed millions and millions of indigenous homelands and then come allotment time, quote unquote, pulverize the remaining land base, thereby decimating our ancestral connection to our homelands.
Speaker 8:
12:07
Uh, and then over the course of the 19th, um, remaining of the 19th century of the entire 20th century, racialize us. And you now see that in the bracking decision that everybody is rightfully up in arms about, um, the entire notion of Indian identity has been to dispossess of, of our land and to extinguish our existence and blood quantum is a predominant way that that has happened to us since the late 18 hundreds certainly since 1934. And my biggest concern legally speaking is less to do with what the federal courts are doing to us by way of racialization or blood quantum analysis. It's what we're doing to ourselves by carrying out that legacy of blood quantum and now using blood quantum to decimate our own people in terms of those who have already belonged and to prevent those yet unborn from every belonging.
Speaker 9:
12:54
And what makes it particularly complicated. I just re-read a couple of articles by Paul Brewin who's an attorney for the novel nation and he's written quite a bit about, about the blood quantum issue as well. And, and Matthew snip who's at Stanford, who's done a lot of work in the area of census data. It wrote quite a bit about the blood quantum in the 80s and so on. But this is where I think things get mixed up between our racial status and our political and governmental status, um, because we know that kinship shit matters to us and therefore by definition, who we're related to logically in, you know, matters a great deal. Um, and we also know that we are, I've inherently always been governing bodies even though we didn't call ourselves governments necessarily because it's elegant. Gloria says in her book, speaking of Indians, you know, you know, we were related to one another and that was all the government we ever had.
Speaker 9:
13:50
The kinship system really provided that framework that linked us all. But it was a linkage that was based on both genealogy as well as on marriage as well as the people that you were, you know, that you just hung out with people. But who are your friends? So it was abroad in encompassing framework. Um, and, uh, but the element of blood as it has been laid onto us by the federal forces, uh, not so much during the allotment act per se, but it really kicks in according to my research in the early 19 hundreds though over educational provisions in which the federal government's trying to reduce the amount of expenditures that it was having to pay out for native students to go to school. Uh, and then in keto sales policy in 1917, he comes up with, uh, the, the competency commissions where you see blood quantum really begin to get, began to infiltrate federal policy and federal rules and regulations.
Speaker 9:
14:50
And then was the half blood provision. They just said, anybody who is not a member of a recognized tribe, you can still be identified as an Indian for federal purposes. If you have one head, you can prove one half or more native blood. And that's where my tribe, the Lumbees who were acquired by recognize the native nation. Uh, and yet in the 1930s, they got, uh, John Collier and Felix Cohen sent down a physical anthropologist to study our head size and our brain size and our eyebrow size or texture of our hair, uh, to try and determine whether or not we met the one half blood quantum criteria. And it was an insane, you know, ridiculous procedure in which, um, you know, some 22 Lumbees, uh, who were then not known as Lumbees were determined to be, uh, native, uh, individuals and the others were not. And yet they were all related to one another by the kinship system of the lumpy people. So it's a complicated, in a bizarre process and the children are less, as Gabe says, we find some way to get ahold of this Munster and move away from fractions because blood is simply, uh, you know, uh, a body part that keeps us alive, right? It doesn't determine our values or our identity. Somebody much more, uh, does that for our people's, which is our land and our languages and our, and our, and our cultures. So
Speaker 1:
16:17
absolutely. And I think it's important to point out along those lines, uh, how in early America, the racial systems that we have developed very differently for black folks and for native folks. So like in the early colonies it was the white settlers, it was enslaved Africans, it was native peoples, were the three groups. And it was advantageous for the settlers to have less native folks because native folks were useful for their land. So you wanted less native people because that meant that you had more access to the land and resources that those native people possessed. On the other hand, for enslaved Africans, you wanted more of them because they were able to work that land and to then develop capital and wealth and resources from that land. So because of this, you have these two opposite systems that have developed where it's blood quantum, which is subtractive.
Speaker 1:
17:16
So you're making less native people. And the one drop rule, which is expansive, it's the idea in black communities that if you have one drop of African ancestry, you are categorized as black. And that was a system that was created to create more enslaved Africans to be able to work that land. So you want less native folks, more black folks, and that's how you get these two systems of classification. And there are things that are still in place in many ways today and are things that did not come from either of our communities and weren't there to serve either of our communities. They were there
Speaker 10:
17:50
to serve white supremacy
Speaker 8:
17:52
and settler colonialism. And both of those notions, one drop or blood quantum are not only racial formations that are racial fictions. It's not as if in 1705 in Virginia, a mulatto was one drop, African and 99 drops Caucasian. It's not as if in 1934 that any native was one half in terms of the blood running through their Bay veins, Scandinavian and one half, no Malacky and Concow or one quarter normally Lakia in one quarter. Concow um, that, that's not the way, at least I understand our biology to work. It's a complete fiction.
Speaker 4:
18:29
This was a perfect time to transition to our conversation with Charlotte. We asked Charlotte if she could just take a moment to debunk these very unreal ideas around quantifiable blood or notions of blood purity and in Charlotte's way of being a scientist, she's going to tell us how to understand these notions.
Speaker 10:
18:56
It's kind of confusing to me how DNA was taken as something that could be quantified in into a race. Because race is is from what I understand is completely social construct. So I want to start with, let's just talk about the direct consumer testing business. What they've done thus far in American society has kind of jumped the gun. A lot of geneticists, actually, they're not even ready for this. What's happening? The ethics that come with the knowledge that comes from looking at a genome closely or comparing genomes if you were going to get a direct to consumer, is something that you can do at home and then you mail it off. The problem is that they're not really, really high definition, so they're kind of like a blurry picture of something. But because the American public is so scientifically illiterate, they will take, you know, whatever.
Speaker 10:
19:54
You know, these direct to consumer companies spin as truth. Now you've got companies spinning this idea of ethnicity and race in a way that is extremely misleading. They don't actually have the information to give you a very accurate definition of what area of the world you are from or most like. So I'm not sure when, uh, people decided to, uh, start saying that you could have this, you know, 20% European or 30% something else. Um, but I can tell you the, I can tell you about the human genome kind of give you a better understanding about what, what's in there. So let's say we have around 3.3 0.2 to 3.5 billion base pairs per genome. Of that 3.2 billion, only 1% of that is actually coding DNA, which means that it produces genes. So we have around 20,000 genes in the human genome and we actually have, depending on where you're from, we have ancient genome DNA as well.
Speaker 10:
21:15
So, um, we don't just have a genome in our nucleus of ourselves. We also have a mitochondrial genome, which is separately inherited. There's 37 genes on, on mitochondrial genome. So if only 1% of your genome is actually an actual gene, there's all this InBetween DNA and all the in between DNAs kind of, um, viral DNA. So we, if you want it to count by base pairs and makeup percentage, you every human is probably about 9% viral DNA. We also have bacterial DNA, um, which is the mitochondrial DNA, that's bacterial in origin, I think. I don't know if you can call it bacterial anymore. Um, and then we have these huge spans of DNA in our, um, in our genomes that are actually like viral graveyards. We call them transposons and they, what the transposons like to do is they, they jump out of the genome and switch places.
Speaker 10:
22:22
So they're kind of like constantly playing leap frog. And so the transposons are actually what drives our evolution because they like to jump in the middle of a gene and maybe the mutation will be positive or negative. We don't know. You know. So in terms of of genome and, and saying that race is something that can be divided up, it, it doesn't make sense to me because the functional part of the genome is, is, is all the actual genes. And if you want to compare, functional genomes were almost identical. You know, we have so many, that's where we, that's where we have the most homologies is within our genes, the 20,000 genes that we have. Um, we also carry genes from, from long ago. Um, we can't, well it's not all of us, but a lot of us carry Denise oven DNA as well as a Neanderthal DNA. So that's probably anywhere from two to highest. I've seen 10%. And that just means that how many megabases there are in the genome. So you can actually quantify that. The borders around race, those are more gray areas, maybe areas. How do you, what do what genes make up a race? Have we had that definition yet? You know,
Speaker 11:
23:46
[inaudible]
Speaker 5:
23:55
[inaudible]
Speaker 11:
24:01
[inaudible]
Speaker 10:
24:09
Charlotte, I'm wondering, um, so I know in a lot of our communities there's been this movement of these direct to consumer DNA tests kind of coming into communities and saying, uh, we would like you to participate and get your genome map. Um, because we need more native participation in our database. And is that a good thing? So right now because we don't have the ethics of DNA testing in our communities or even mainstream America, we don't have the ethics nailed down. And the implications for the future of what these, what giving over your genomic information will hold. We don't know what that looks like because of the way that direct to consumer testing or DNA testing is being used for dish enrollment or enrollment. I think it's safe to, to just not put our information out there. It's safer to, to be conservative about about who and how we let look at our genomes as native people just because we've been taken advantage of in the past.
Speaker 10:
25:25
So I would advise people to be very careful and I would actually advise people not to use the direct to consumer testing if there are, you know, native people just keep us out of the system because until we figure out and get things under control in our own communities in terms of enrollment and disenrollment, I don't think that that information should be out there to be used against us in certain ways. And because it's not necessarily just your DNA that you're putting in to the system. Um, there was a study recently that 80 I think it's 80% of white people in a what is now known as the United States can be identified based on their relatives who have taken direct to consumer DNA tests. Um, and so when you are opting into this system, you're also bringing your entire family with you in terms of then law enforcement and the government and all sorts of whoever having access to that information.
Speaker 10:
26:25
So it's not just a singular decision either. Yeah, that's true. That's very true. And very good point. The haplotypes that they found for native people, their original five or six mothers that they say that we came from, those are actually mined from data sets that were old. They actually use data sets as well. If you give yourself over to be used for medical research. I've actually seen studies where they're using those genomes to mine for a Neanderthal genomes so they can actually mind for ancient genomes through databases like, like the ones created with the a thousand genomes project and the direct to consumer data sets. So it's just better that we don't enter that, that arena until we're ready ethically for the repercussions because there are a lot, from my understanding, um, each of these companies also uses a different database. Um, they have kind of their own proprietary database of genomes that they use.
Speaker 10:
27:28
Um, and then on top of that, you were talking about the way that mitochondrial DNA decompose or decomposes is the wrong word. I know, but like breaks down mutates. Um, so we're not necessarily all inheriting it the same way, like from a single ancestor. So there could be tentatively be people in your family that have inherited that gene differently. Am I understanding that correctly? Yeah. So if they're using mitochondrial DNA, because there's only 15,000 base pairs, there's actually a, a very, very significant probability that you are going to have the same hablo haplogroup as other people. I think the difference between maybe two unrelated human beings is around 15 to 18, um, mutations. And that's it. So it's a small data set. That's why it's very, very general. And that's why the mitochondrial DNA haplogroup system is, is flawed. And it's also flawed because what they're learning is that there's pieces of that genome that mutate faster and there's pieces of that genome that mutate slower.
Speaker 10:
28:36
So in that case, the, the idea, the idea that we would have a lineage of certain number of mutations between generations, it's not empirically determined. That's theoretical. Also, they're finding out, which is, this is really cool to me, that what they thought was just a matrilineal passage of genomic, um, information isn't, so there's actually evidence of mitochondrial DNA contribution from the patrilineal side. So usually when, um, the S the sperm and the egg come together, the sperm gets in there, it has a lot of mitochondria because that's what keeps the tail moving. Um, and so when it gets into the ag, it gets completely destroyed by the system inside of the egg. And so there's no DNA, but that's not true because not every egg is equipped with what it needs to destroy that genomic DNA. And so there's leakage and then when a leakage occurs that DNA actually integrates or um, recombines with the maternal mitochondrial DNA.
Speaker 10:
29:44
So that's an, yeah. So the guy that actually discovered the recombinase for the mitochondrial DNA actually works at SUNY upstate, Dr. Chang. He's pretty cool. So what I as a non-scientist am understanding from all of this is basically that the ways the public has been sold, the science on this totally don't line up with the actual science. So those like ancestry.com commercials that show like a teepee and like old native folks in buckskin or whatever, and imply that you can use this to figure out your native ancestry. That's not what the science is telling us very lightly. It's a, it's a, it's a, it's a very messy quick sketch is the science is not complete to be able to give any kind of accurate picture of how much, and I'm not going to say percent native American, you are, how much genetic contribution you had to an ancestor.
Speaker 10:
30:44
That's completely different because you different questions. You also, we do not keep all genetic contributions. So the, the nature of evolution is that what, what works, sticks and what doesn't work. It gets, gets passed to the wayside. And to say that your, this percentage, your 10% versus your grandmother who was 50%, well what if there was some, you know, genetic loss that that was good for you that happened? Does that mean that you're less, you're less native because your body didn't keep whatever contribution that also blurs the nice lines that they're trying to draw around? The idea that you can quantify how much native American you are. And I know, um, dr tall bear who we also talked with, um, she has a consortium of native genetic researchers that she works with. Um, and I think that the conversations they're having a really powerful around how can we do it differently?
Speaker 10:
31:47
So how can we do genetic research that benefits native communities and we have control over the data and we know where it's going and what questions are being asked and how they're being asked and how the data's being used. Because there is a lot of power in this type of research if it's done correctly. And with the community in mind, right? Well, they're actually not even looking at any genes at all. They're looking at the pieces in between the spans between genes that are different. So because it's in between a gene, it can change and not be really detrimental. And so what they can do is look at, let's say someone from 10,000 years ago and they have this specific gene and then when it's inherited, it actually shrinks a little bit because, uh, every time that a human is created, the genomes shuffle a deck of cards.
Speaker 10:
32:42
And some shuffle in chunks, some shuffle, you know, whole decks will, you know, so if you're going to think about it, pieces get handed down, but they don't always get there, don't stay intact. And so what they're doing is they're saying, Oh, six to 10 generations ago, uh, that would, you know, they, you know, this how long it took for that gene to break apart. But the thing, the drawbacks to that are that they actually don't know what the, um, they don't know how the DNAs is splitting so they can't say exactly where it's happening or how long it takes to happen. So the, the time between mutations, is there a clock to figure out how many generations back something is and it's, it's not real. It's completely theoretical. And so they don't have any real, real data to back the up their mitochondrial, you know, clock or, you know, every time a paper is published on something, it's a different person's perspective of the molecular clock or, you know, this idea of, um, of anthropology anthropological perspective.
Speaker 10:
33:53
So some people are closer to the truth than others, but you don't know who those people are really until you see more than one data point. So they can, they can pinpoint where geographically they can put you. And that's compared to everybody else's genomes. But people move. And so those people who live like England now what their genomes look like present day versus what it looked like a hundred years ago. Um, it's different, drastically different. But those are still English people. Do you know what I mean? And so they can place you where you exist now. Who are your closest relatives are now. But that doesn't, that doesn't translate to race for me.
Speaker 11:
34:42
[inaudible]
Speaker 1:
34:44
so what we can take away from Charlotte's scientific expertise is the understanding that the scientific methods and understanding just doesn't really match what we as a society have come to think of this concept of blood quantum or even genetic ancestry. There's too little information, too many factors at play. And no matter what from the basis, there is no scientific foundation for us to be able to build this construction of blood quantum
Speaker 9:
35:21
DNA. I'm, I'm not a hard scientist, so I'm a social scientist, but we know that DNA can be useful for crime and it can be useful for determining paternity, but it's not going to tell us a damn thing about identity. It's just not going into that. We know that race is in fact social construct. And the best definition I heard of race was an article I've read with Yaga said that race is a pigment of our imagination. And I think that's absolutely, I think that's absolutely true because it really was based on kinship and it was the kinship that extended beyond our immediate, um, you know, um, geological geological families. Um, and so I think we've got to quickly harness these arguments to convince tribal governments to not keep going down that road because one tribe will pick up a DNA test procedure. Next thing you know, for more tribes to pick it up. And I think my finger 25 is probably younger numbers. I think they're probably more tribal governments that are employing DNA testing because they think that's the next wave. Um, and we need to get past that and we need to get past the cold concept of race as a scientific construct, uh, and returned back to the fundamental issues of determining identity based on concepts that we all know inherently in our, in our hearts.
Speaker 8:
36:45
Uh, well in my line of work, having defended a 600 or more relatives, uh, from up and down the West coast, out to the great lakes and beyond from a process of disenrollment, um, it epitomizes how far we have strayed from who we wore before 1492 or 1787 or the 1830s or 1934. Uh, as Dr. Wilkins has written, and as you said, we were kinship societies. There was nothing greater than us as our relationship to one another. There was no government or overlord dictating how we behaved. Um, we were societies, we were communities, we were religions, uh, and we were interrelated with one another very simply because of biology. You were who you were because of, to whom you were born and to where you were born. And two, they sent, it wasn't there. It was on a biological connection is Dr. Wilkins alluded, there was intermarriage, there was adoption, there were other modes of welcoming people into a kinship society who weren't even of, uh, uh, of that biology in the last few hundred years.
Speaker 8:
37:56
We have strayed, um, dramatically far away from that and we are now way more exclusive than we are, are inclusive because our governments are, uh, now dominated by, uh, colonial norms, uh, foreign constitutional norms and capitalism. Uh, and as a result, we are now getting rid of our own people at an unprecedented rate. Dr welcome scholarship suggests 80 tribes, which is about 15% of the federally recognized tribes in our country have gotten rid of anywhere between nine, 10, and 11,000 relatives predominantly over the last decade. And it's no coincidence of the, during that time, the Indian gaming industry has blossomed into a multibillion dollar industry. We are now treating each other in not just colonial ways, but capitalistic ways. Even to the point where we have people auditing, we have CPAs, auditing membership roles to then tell tribal pellets, politicians who belongs and who doesn't. That is how far we have strayed from where we were before, um, before 1492.
Speaker 9:
39:10
And that's where I'll put my man, I, uh, you Nate, the, you laid out the basic numbers. Um, I began tracking, um, first it was banishment, um, which first popped on the scene, um, in 1991, I think it was involving a case in Washington state where a couple of on native youth beat up a P T pizza delivery, uh, men and were banished to a reservation right off the coast of, uh, right outside of Seattle. Um, and I started in that there was another case of banishment involving the, the let the Pueblo down in, in Texas. And then a year or two later there was another banishment. And then there was a case involving that wound up in, in a federal district court in New York state involving Seneca five Seneca or bandage for having allegedly committed treason against the nation. And they were banished and escorted off the reservation.
Speaker 9:
40:08
And then all of a sudden I, and I began to keep a file then, uh, of these, of these, these, these banishments. And then all of a sudden I stopped thinking about managements and then it turned into disenrollment because by now, by the my, we're in the middle of the 1990s, a few tribes are beginning to accrue great economic wealth because of gaming revenue, predominantly, particularly in California. And then I began to see this spike and they weren't talking about the banishment, they were talking about disenrollment, which is a much more categorical termination of a native person's political and legal right to be identified as an indigenous person. Banishment is simply a social exclusion, right? And historically, we all have some familiarity with that concept related to the biblical notion of exile. But this enrollment, which is something that we rarely, uh, we did not do historically on the orders of this Roman I could find in the research was in 1950s involving in Northern Utah.
Speaker 9:
41:07
And again, that was over money as gay pointed out. Um, and so, but it's been that spike, uh, with the gaming wealth in 1990s, along with some, uh, some, some compensation from various judgement funds that led to the significant surge in banishment. I mean in different enrollment, um, Benjamin is typically associated with crime, uh, in, in, in, in, in gang activity and drug activity. Um, and, and violence against, um, members of the native community. Disenrollment almost invariably it's connected to family squabbles, gaming revenue, uh, personal vendettas and tribal tribal corruption. Um, and so I really want to applaud Gates sitting there with you all for the critically important work that he's doing in representing the disenroll leaves and those facing disenrollment, uh, from this, uh, scorch that, um, is leaving a real blemish on our, our indigenous cultural identities.
Speaker 8:
42:07
And the good thing is through conversations like this, there's been a reawakening or a reeducation about disenrollment. I have to confess that when I started this advocacy, I didn't think that this enrollment was anything other than just part of the process because I didn't stop to really think critically about it. And now I realized it was never part of our process. Historically speaking, it was introduced to us along with blood quantum and residential meaning residential reservation residential requirements in 1934. And it is now decimating us through our own devices and in our own hands. But when I ask my disenrolling clients, for example, if you know your language, can you tell me any word that comes remotely close to the word disenrollment? They'll say, no, we can't. There's no word other than maybe banishment which is distinct that uh, we can even articulate that, that captures the notion, let alone the word disenrollment.
Speaker 8:
43:03
It's Holy non-indigenous. But we through, uh, you know, the legacy of boarding school and reorganization and termination and even self-determination in some respects when you bootstrap that with capitalism gaming, we've sorta been brainwashed to believe that this was somehow our way and it's never been our way. It's completely foreign to us and it's now basically a killing the Indians in our own hands. Disenrollment and this is important, is never ever about the truth of who belongs in it is always in my experience for an altar ulterior motive such as sustaining power and wealth. And what they asked disenroll these to do and put yourself in those shoes for a minute, is to prove their ancestry or prove they belong. I've had, I've had different, always been asked to go find their great-grandma's birth certificate from the late 18 hundreds or to go find some a record of their great, great grandma proceeded to that.
Speaker 8:
44:00
I'll keep in mind we didn't count as citizens until the 1920s natives, especially native women in the late 18 hundreds didn't count for just about any reason so there aren't so called vital records like death certificates or birth certificates or even marriage records that you can go back to in the late 18 hundreds to prove that your great grandma is who you say she was now in now in 2018 that is the proverbial gun that has been placed at the head of my clients and disenroll East and it's a complete farce and it has nothing to do with the truth of who belongs
Speaker 12:
44:32
[inaudible].
Speaker 1:
44:32
Since our tribes have always had other ways of determining who belongs in our community, kinship wise, adoption wise, Klan wise, other ways potentially that means that we could incorporate folks into our nations that have no discernible tribal ancestry and Tommy actually wrote about that in his law review article.
Speaker 7:
44:58
There's really any variety of ways that that could look like or the form that that could take and kind of the central thrust of my paper was that tribes need to take a hard look at themselves and their past and where they are now and figure out what it is, how they wanted to find themselves going forward in the future. KB touched on this before about different ways, non-biological ways that people could become incorporated into a tribe through adoption or marriage or any number of other ways and so essentially as we start to think about the different ways that tribes could define membership outside of blood quantum, I thought that it was worth exploring the concept of opening up that membership to people that didn't have any native ancestry necessarily, but had some other specific connection to the tribe that reflected the kinds of values that we thought were important in tribal members.
Speaker 7:
45:53
That's sort of the internal component. I think there's also an external component that comes into play in and about the quote from Scalia where he highlighted the blood quantum of baby Veronica and that is that the way that the outside culture basically defines native is by blood quantum. That's become just the standard that everyone uses. I'm sure we've all gotten many times the question of how Indian are you and yeah, and by that they only ever mean what is your blood quantum that those two ideas are synonymous for the outside culture. The idea that we could define redefine membership or citizenship in a tribe to not have any necessary ancestry requirement could help to start to shift that conversation away from these are racial groups purely what it means to be Indian is how racial you are to, these are actual political entities that have real relationships and real sovereignty that needs to be respected outside of just their blood percentages and how native the outside culture thinks they look or are.
Speaker 8:
47:06
So I appreciate what you just said. I've been in some of my latest writings asking us to beg the question, are we even nations as John Marshall declared us to be in part to dispossess up of our lands? Or are we at our core still kinship societies before the United States put any term on us? If we are nations and citizens makes some sense, um, in terms of the sensibility of nationhood, but the United States came up with this idea that we're members and so now you have all these different sort of norms. But I do think we need to be more careful about the language. That's why I say I belong to round Valley. Um, I descend from no Malaki and Concow and I've sort of taught myself to do that lately rather than say I'm enrolled round Valley. Um, because enrollment like disenrollment meaning putting names on a role or taking them off or on a census or off is not the way we decided who belonged.
Speaker 8:
48:04
And again, there was, there was no tradition of telling somebody they didn't belong. So I think we should deconstruct nationhood on some level, at least in the form of the question that there was some government that was greater than the people in they're in a relationship. Um, not to say that we need to do away with nationhood because I think if we did it would be political suicide. Um, but in sort of like a post-colonial way, we need to embrace who we are, who we were, sort of what we become and try to figure out the best of all of those things. Uh, at round Valley we do operate by lineal descent and it, it's imperfect because I was enrolled because I directly descend from an original LA T, which my, which my great, great grandma, uh, in the late 18 hundreds, a lot meant of course was designed to exterminate us.
Speaker 8:
48:47
So the base role, if you would for, for me and my family is an allotment that corresponds to a trail of tears. And my great grandma, uh, being born unto land that was in a concentration camp, but from her was of course my grandma and my mother and now me and my children. And we all are enrolled based on the, the simple lineal descent from one to the next dating back to my great grandma. And I believe that is, although imperfect cause it still has this allotment legacy and this termination legacy. I'm grateful that it's not a matter of blood quantum. Um, and I think it's more consistent than, uh, with kinship than, than not.
Speaker 1:
49:30
If we don't have blood quantum, let's imagine something else. What does that look like? If we abolished blood quantum tomorrow, what alternatives could we have for determining tribal citizenship
Speaker 9:
49:41
that would, that would be up to each individual native community to, to, to dig into, uh, the residue of their own memories and see how historically they defined who belonged to their community. And that memory is still alive in, in tribes. I mean, in some tribes it's been punctuate, it's been punctuated and incorporated and shredded to a point. But we have ways to create new traditions, right? Traditions get debunked, develop, um, constantly by, by human societies. Uh, we're not just having, we don't have to just look at the past. We can look to the present and look ahead and come up with a new tradition that will determine our identity as a native people. And it just means that the entire community coming together and deciding what are the criteria, what are the values, what are the understandings that we should hold as a people that are going to guide us, that, that, that comport with our ancestors but also that deal with the reality of now and then. And that will prepare us well for, for the future for our children. And I think that that knowledge is, is inherent in every indigenous community. If they will just take the time to sit down and talk to one another.
Speaker 10:
50:53
I feel like I'm learning a lot about the rest of, you know, like great, greater mainstream native communities because I must be, you know, I mean, I think Oklahoma gave me a good understanding, but I hadn't realized how lucky I was that we have our clans system because we don't have to, you know, go through the difficult process of trying to figure out another way to define ourselves. But I think that that ultimately a clan system is a family system. Doesn't matter if it's, you know, whatever the name of that clan is. But family system seems, I seem to like make the most sense, but I might be biased.
Speaker 1:
51:39
I am curious, clearly we are a group of folks who does not buy into this idea of blood quantum that understands the context, that understands where it comes from, that understands the implications of it. But why is it that communities do hold on so tight to this idea. What are the arguments that you hear for blood quantum? Cause we can sit here and say our grandchildren will literally not be able to enroll in the tribe and there will definitely still be folks who say, no, we need to keep our one quarter blood quantum requirement. So why is that?
Speaker 9:
52:15
Go ahead. Go ahead.
Speaker 4:
52:18
I'll go first. I remember, well actually I just came from general counsel where this was discussed in our, in my community. And, um, I think that I think the impacts of colonization have to be understood and felt, you know, in, in the, the ways that the boarding school era so dramatically impacted our thinking that it's hard to say. I think in our own communities that these things that we're reiterating to each other even belong to us in the first place. And I think we say it over and over and over and over and over again. So many times it's in our blood that we be, we begin to believe these ideas. And so I, when I hear people fight it, stand up for blood quantum. Th the main argument that I hear is that if we don't have some way of identifying our children and who belongs, then what are we going to be?
Speaker 4:
53:08
You know, if, if we continuously marry non-Indians after six generations, you know, do, are we even going to look like ourselves or sound like ourselves or are any of our traditions even going to be alive? And I think what they're talking about is, um, kinship, right? And is the fact that people are marrying outside of our communities leaving. And not coming back and us assimilating themselves into a Western belief systems and not necessarily maintaining that traditional sta hopes way of life. But the way of understanding that is has been convoluted as, as something that's related to blood. And so that's what I think I hear over and over and over again when I hear people wanting to maintain blood quantum. I don't know. I can't think of anything else.
Speaker 7:
53:57
I've heard that. And I've also heard the more cynical kind of flip side of the disenrollment thing, which is that if we open it up and let everyone join, then tons of people are going to join just for benefits and not actually participate in the tribe or have any other relationship other than to collect a check or something. That's something that I've heard expressed as a concern before.
Speaker 4:
54:17
Well, for sure and it's complicated because we do have plenty of tribal members that participate in that way. I mean, I come from a per capita tribe. I come from a place where, um, you know, many people will have several babies just for the sake of getting more per capita and they don't, you know, like in there, they're not necessarily great citizens and they're not getting back to the community particularly. And maybe they're very draining on our economy in some ways. And, you know, like that's just the truth of what's going on in our rest that you can't say it any other way. And so that's, you know, I would have messy thing to say, but, um, but how do we then create a healthy whole nation where people have opportunities to participate and become whole people? You know, I don't know. Dr. Wilkins, you have to, doesn't the answer [inaudible]
Speaker 9:
55:04
I mean, this is, this is the real conundrum that I think all of our nations, uh, find themselves, at least those that have a blood quantum measurement in their, in their, uh, legal code or in their constitution or whatever governing mechanism that they have. Uh, because it was an outside, originally outside imposition thrust upon us for expedient economic expedient reasons by the federal government. Um, and yet we've taken it on and we've internalized it. And now we use it as a way to exclude, as Gates said earlier, people who we don't want to be a part of our community, right? As, as you just put it out. Uh, and, and we also think it as a, as a badge of honor, right? No one else gets to be defined by blood except us. Right? And so there, there's this, there's this weird sore toes, you know, thing that we hear the word.
Speaker 9:
55:57
I hear that we're unique, applied all the time to Indian law in any policy, any law was unique. Any treaties are unique, everything is unique. We're not that unique. We're just human societies trying to find a way to make it right. And yet that notion of uniqueness we bought, we have bought into that to the point where we perpetuate some of these misconceptions that are leading and calling great damage to our very souls and to our very identities. And unless we find some way to redefine that, to recalculate that. And I, I'm convinced, as you pointed out earlier, that it really should be and could be rooted into clan systems. Many tribes no longer have clans systems, but why not create a new clan system that's possible? I mean bind Delore talked about that all time in many of the books. He really strongly encouraged strives if the head cleanse to fortify them and if they didn't have them to create them, they called. That is ultimately linked to our kinship. And that is a way to socially ground us, uh, into, uh, into given landscape and really help guide us into the future. So I, I think it's a combination thing, but it's a conundrum and until we can identify as that and understand what's at stake, we're not going to be able to get our way out of it.
Speaker 4:
57:16
I just want to bring up one question for all of you. I, um, we did an episode called love in the time of blood quantum. So, you know, there's also this way that this plays out in our own lives. Do we marry native people? Do we make the conscious decision? Do I as a woman make a conscious decision to only date somebody from my own tribe, uh, given the current blood quantum policies and given the fact that I don't have voting rights in both of my nations, um, and or do I just hope that things will change. So what choices have you made in your own life? Are you, um, what did you do?
Speaker 7:
57:50
Hm,
Speaker 5:
57:50
go ahead. You can start telling me. [inaudible] I mean, I signed up for this thinking it was a dating thing, so [inaudible] there will be a buzzer. [inaudible]
Speaker 7:
58:01
I'm doing my best, but, uh, no, it's, it's definitely hard. I've, I mean, thinking about this kind of stuff is what started me thinking about the blood quantum problem generally. And I guess my real answer is B would be that I'm trying to get my tribe to move away from that system of blood quantum, um, for myself and for other people. I don't feel like in some of the S in a number of the stories that I've heard of people trying to find someone from their tribe and that being essentially their only qualification for dating someone. I feel like that's often worked out very poorly kind of for their families, um, in the long run. And that's something that is wearing to me and not something that I think necessarily it's beneficial for our tribe.
Speaker 10:
58:56
Oh. Um, so I'm lucky enough to be a, a woman does Shawnee Confederacy, which means that I will pass a Klan down no matter what, um, which allows me to choose whomever I please. But on that note, I would prefer someone of Hoda [inaudible] background if possible. Um, or [inaudible], which is just native background because I do feel like having, um, that family kinship on both sides is really beneficial, especially in this day and age when there's so much complexity to navigate about identity, about, um, you know, your connection to the land. Um, I don't feel like I'm harnessed by any kind of blood quantum because I don't get any benefits. So I don't think that my kid, I don't see anything in there. Like there's no motivation for me to get, to have them to have Mohawk status. They will if they need it. If they need to go back and live at home, they can, you know, petition the government to buy land.
Speaker 10:
60:07
I would still have to petition the Mohawk nation or the BIA government to be able to purchase land on my territory. But because I've been away at school and living in cities for so long, I just don't, I'm completely, you know, like not dependent on any kind of membership benefits. I don't feel like that's going to ever be a determining factor in who I choose. It's more about, um, having someone who's going to also put their, their uh, concentration on, um, wellness and from an indigenous perspective and I'm keeping that, that clinical here or keeping that good, that good mind going forward so that my grandkids will have whatever they need here instead of, you know, instead of having to worry about, you know, money or if they're going to have a territory to live on, there'll be fine. You know, we've been fine on the East coast for, you know, hundreds of years under colonial government systems. We'll, we'll, we'll still be here if, you know, I can pass down that, that mindset.
Speaker 8:
61:21
Yeah. To me love is love. And I fell in love with a non Indian woman who I married and like I said, is now my inspiration and we have two children who belong or are quote unquote enrolled to the round Valley Indian tribes. Um, but what's important for me and my wife is health and what's important for me is sobriety and, and living and having some ability to be a father to my children. Um, and so I found a partner who is, who is able to keep me healthy and vice versa, uh, to participate in my sobriety, to participate in kind of a spiritual wellbeing as a family so that I can just live and be a dad and sustain myself and my family for sake of my daughters coming from a family who's been out of like all of our families with drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, early onset of death, diabetes.
Speaker 4:
62:21
Um, for me, the value that I just cared about most was, or values or love, life, wellness and sobriety. And that's what I found in my wife and in my family. And I cherished those things.
Speaker 9:
62:33
My first wife, uh, with Navajo, I married when I was 26 and we raised three children. Um, and when each of them came of age, we asked them which nation they wanted to be enrolled in because we wanted him to have a choice. I married into the Navajo nation because they're matrilineal. And of course my kids are all abandoned my tribe and joined the Navajo nation, so they're all Navajos. Um, I was divorced several years ago. I remarried onto a beautiful non native woman and, um, uh, I married for love, like Gates said both times, but the second time was the real kicker for me. Um, and so it's all good. Um, and um, I don't have to worry about enrolling children now or anything like that, but knowing what I know now, um, it would be something that I would be thinking about much more if I would've known about it at the time I first got married because it's an important consideration for, for many people. Um, and um, because as we know, depending on who you get introduced to, some people want to know whether you're full blood or half bled or quarter blood, whether you belong to it readily recognized tribe or non recognized tribe, whether your tribe signed treaties or did not signed treaties. So there's all these dimensions that come into play when it comes to a question that people have when they're out on, on doing this nagging route. But I'm glad I'm past all that now.
Speaker 6:
64:06
Okay. They don't call it that anymore either.
Speaker 1:
64:14
The challenge with a lot of these conversations around notions of blood and belonging is that so many different things get conflated in the process. So we have conversations about DNA, ancestry, about blood fractions, about citizenship, about enrollment, about belonging. And all of them have come together in this big mess to be how we determine who we are as indigenous people. And that is super complicated and not something that there are easy answers for, but it becomes very clear when we're talking to all these folks how much all of these disparate pieces come together to make just a really complicated mess.
Speaker 4:
64:59
Absolutely. This is a very complicated conversation and it's a conversation that's worth having. It's important that we continue to look at our policies, our practices, and our procedures and ask ourselves if we're working towards inclusivity as a nation, are we nation building or are we nation detracting? And I think that we especially have to have this conversation about how this affects us in our everyday lives and how does it affect our health and our wellness and our sense of belonging, which is why this next episode that we're doing is a really critical part of this conversation. So tune in next week for the second part of this episode and final release for season one as we turn our conversation inward for a more intimate discussion on blood quantum and how it affects our love lives with our production team, Juanita Toledo from [inaudible] books, Sweeney from Blackfeet and Sailesh. I think you're going to like it.
Speaker 4:
66:08
It's juicy and spicy and all the good things. A special thanks to Charlotte Logan gave Belinda, Tommy Miller and professor David Wilkins for coming all the way out to the Tacoma art museum for Skyping in for joining this conversation. We really appreciate you and send our love and blessings to you wherever you are. And huge thanks to Tara Shantz for continuing to do the worker production. We love you and big T greets eat in Watteau to our home, Jay ALO and Bryant Moore for the killer music on this episode. As always, if you're loving the content, please, you know, head on over to iTunes, leave a comment, subscribe. You can also, uh, if you're really into it, you can go to our Patrion and send us some love there or you know, if you would like to get involved, we're planning the last couple episodes for season two right now and we would love to hear some of your thoughts and concerns. What would you like to hear us talk about? Send us a voicemail on our website, all my relations.com.
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