American Indian Identity and Blood Quantum in the 21st Century: A Critical Review

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2012-04-21 19:17Z by Steven

American Indian Identity and Blood Quantum in the 21st Century: A Critical Review

Journal of Anthropology
Volume 2011 (2011)
Article ID 549521
9 pages
DOI: 10.1155/2011/549521

Ryan W. Schmidt
Department of Anthropology
University of Montana

Identity in American Indian communities has continually been a subject of contentious debate among legal scholars, federal policy-makers, anthropologists, historians, and even within Native American society itself. As American Indians have a unique relationship with the United States, their identity has continually been redefined and reconstructed over the last century and a half. This has placed a substantial burden on definitions for legal purposes and tribal affiliation and on American Indians trying to self-identify within multiple cultural contexts. Is there an appropriate means to recognize and define just who is an American Indian? One approach has been to define identity through the use of blood quantum, a metaphorical construction for tracing individual and group ancestry. This paper will review the utility of blood quantum by examining the cultural, social, biological, and legal implications inherent in using such group membership and, further, how American Indian identity is being affected.

1. Introduction

Identity in American Indian communities and the ability to define tribal membership has continually been a subject of contentious debate. To obtain federal recognition and protection, American Indians, unlike any other American ethnic group, must constantly prove their identity, which in turn, forces them to adopt whatever Indian histories or identities are needed to convince themselves and others of their Indian identity, and thus their unique cultural heritage. Is there an appropriate means to recognize and define just what and who is an Indian? Should it be necessary for federal officials and tribes to continually reconstruct definitions to suit the present sociopolitical climate for American Indian identity? These questions need to be answered in light of American Indian identity politics, including how race serves as a basis for the exclusion or inclusion of “mixed bloods” within tribal communities and the United States society as a whole. In this context, identity has become one of the great issues of contestation in an increasingly multicultural and “multiracial” society.

One approach to answer these complex questions since initial contact between Native American tribes and European Americans has been to define identity through the use of blood quantum, a metaphorical, and increasingly physiological construction for tracing individual and group ancestry. Initially used by the federal government to classify “Indianness” during the late 1800s in the United States, many American Indian tribes have adopted the use of blood quantum to define membership in the group. This paper will explore the utility of blood quantum by examining the cultural, biological, political, and legal implications inherent through such a restricted use of group membership. In addition, blood quantum (and other genetic methods) as a way of tracing descent will be critiqued in favor of adopting a cultural-specific approach that allows inclusive membership and criteria not based upon one’s genetic and biophysical makeup. By reducing the reliance on blood quantum to define membership, American Indians can start moving away from an imposed racial past which was artificially created in the first place…

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The Indians and the Metis: genealogical sources on Minnesota’s earliest settlers

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive, United States on 2012-04-21 18:51Z by Steven

The Indians and the Metis: genealogical sources on Minnesota’s earliest settlers

Minnesota History Magazine
Volume 46, Number 7 (Fall 1979)
pages 286-296

Virginia Rogers

Editors Preface

GENEALOGISTS have long hesitated to do research on Minnesota’s Indian and mĂ©tis or mixed-blood population. The fact that Indian and related mĂ©tis peoples participated in a largely ond culture may have convinced them that few sources were available. Even historians, although aware of the existing sources, have shunned a study which appeared to them to have little value for the writing of general history. In spite of such common prejudices, institutions like the Minnesota Historical Society for a long time have been accumulating resources of real value in genealogical studies of Indians and mĂ©tis.

What written records are available on people who left few written records of their own? What are the specific problems involved in doing genealogical research on Indian and métis families? How can research on individual members of the Indian and métis communities aid in understanding the culture to which they belonged? We hope that in examining the pages that follow, readers of Minnesota History, whatever their ethnic, cutural, or professional background, will be stimulated to take an increasing interest in an area of genealogical research that has been ignored too long. In the process, perhaps they will become aware of the special value of genealogical research for all students of history.

THE STUDY of ordinary individuals of the past is a fairly new interest in the United States. Generalizations about how the individual farmer or farmwife or worker lived centuries ago may have long interested people, but the facts of the individual’s life and the specifics of his familyy relationships, except in the case of the great or famous, was until recent years the province of the genealogist and the local historian…

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A Seminole Warrior Cloaked in Defiance

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2012-04-21 16:31Z by Steven

A Seminole Warrior Cloaked in Defiance

Smithsonian Magazine
October 2010

Owen Edwards

A pair of woven, beaded garters reflects the spirit of Seminole warrior Osceola

Infinity of nations,” a new permanent exhibition encompassing nearly 700 works of indigenous art from North, Central and South America, opens October 23 at the George Gustav Heye Center in New York City, part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). The objects include a pair of woven, beaded garters worn by Billy Powell of the Florida Seminole tribe.
 
Billy Powell is hardly a household name. But his Seminole designation—Osceola—resonates in the annals of Native American history and the nation’s folklore. Celebrated by writers, studied by scholars, he was a charismatic war leader who staunchly resisted the uprooting of the Seminoles by the U.S. government; the garters testify to his sartorial style.
 
Born in Tallassee, Alabama, in 1804, Powell (hereafter Osceola) was of mixed blood. His father is thought to have been an English trader named William Powell, though his­torian Patricia R. Wickman, author of Osceola’s Legacy, believes he may have been a Creek Indian who died soon after Osceola was born. His mother was part Muscogee and part Caucasian. At some point, likely around 1814, when he and his mother moved to Florida to live among Creeks and Seminoles, Osceola began to insist he was a pure-blood Indian.
 
“He identified himself as an Indian,” says CĂ©cile Ganteaume, an NMAI curator and organizer of the “Infinity of Nations” exhibition…

…“He was a bit flamboyant,” says historian Donald L. Fixico of Arizona State University, who is working on a book about Osceola. “Someone in his situation—a man of mixed blood living among pure-blood Seminoles—would have to try hard to prove himself as a leader and a warrior. He wanted to draw attention to himself by dressing in a finer way.”…

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