Blood Will Tell: Native Americans and Assimilation Policy

Blood Will Tell: Native Americans and Assimilation Policy

Blood Will Tell: Native Americans and Assimilation Policy

Blood Will Tell: Native Americans and Assimilation Policy

Synopsis

Blood Will Tell reveals the underlying centrality of "blood" that shaped official ideas about who was eligible to be defined as Indian by the General Allotment Act in the United States. Katherine Ellinghaus traces the idea of blood quantum and how the concept came to dominate Native identity and national status between 1887 and 1934 and how related exclusionary policies functioned to dispossess Native people of their land. The U.S. government's unspoken assumption at the time was that Natives of mixed descent were undeserving of tribal status and benefits, notwithstanding that Native Americans of mixed descent played crucial roles in the national implementation of allotment policy.

Ellinghaus explores on-the-ground case studies of Anishinaabeg, Arapahos, Cherokees, Eastern Cherokees, Cheyennes, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, Lakotas, Lumbees, Ojibwes, Seminoles, and Virginia tribes. Documented in these cases, the history of blood quantum as a policy reveals assimilation's implications and legacy. The role of blood quantum is integral to understanding how Native Americans came to be one of the most disadvantaged groups in the United States, and it remains a significant part of present-day debates about Indian identity and tribal membership . Blood Will Tell is an important and timely contribution to current political and scholarly debates.

Excerpt

The archives generated by Native American assimilation policies are stained with blood. the terms “full-blood,” “half-blood,” “mixed-blood” and other fractions making up “blood quantum” pervade these records and the depictions of Native American people therein. the use of such terms was not confined to one statute, one reservation, one agency, or one direction of Indian policy. Blood quantum was an integral means by which white Americans took cognizance of Native American people. It was omnipresent, referred to in almost every document, recorded carefully against names in tribal rolls, used in descriptions of Indian communities and invoked in the complaints of Indigenous resistance from one end of the country to the other. Blood was and is also a term sometimes used by Native Americans in talking and writing of themselves, and in defining tribal membership.

Blood was not, however, specifically mentioned in the General Allotment Act of 1887, the federal legislation that provided the statutory framework for the assimilation period. Nor did the 1887 act define who was or who was not an “Indian.” “Oddly enough,” Steve Russell has noted, “blood quantum appeared in Indian rolls … before it appeared in law books.” the section of the Code of Federal Regulations that implemented the General Allotment Act allowed Indian nations themselves to decide who was eligible for allotment according to their own . . .

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