Genome Survivance

By Vizenor, Gerald | Cross / Cultures, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Genome Survivance


Vizenor, Gerald, Cross / Cultures


Reason was to be given priority as an instrument of knowledge, not as a motive for human conduct; it was opposed to faith, not to passions. The emancipation of knowledge paved the way for the development of science.1

CHARLES DARWIN, THE "GENTLEMAN GENIUS" OF NATURAL SELECTION, observed in The Descent of Man more than a century ago that "sympathy and cooperation" were factors of evolution. His original theories of evolution have survived the counter sentiments and refutations of pious monotheists and fundamentalists.

Native American Indians have likewise survived the churchy politics of monotheism, cultures of dubious science, phrenology, blood types, arithmetic levels, and the conquest caricatures and ideologies of natural selection, only to be measured and compared once more by recent genetic codes and haplotype signatures to determine, contest, and separate origins, names, identities, and cultures.

The US government established an arithmetic blood quantum, a pernicious racial computation to register and determine Native American Indian eligibility for federal reservation membership, or citizenship, and to determine and regulate federal health, education, and other services. This obscure arithmetic and bureaucratic system was named the Chart to Establish Degree of Indian Blood.

Recent genetic science and notions of race were considered in my preparation of a new constitution for the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota. I was appointed the principal writer of the Constitution of the White Earth Nation. I was also a sworn delegate to serve at four Constitutional Conventions. The forty delegates struggled over the appropriate language to define a citizen of the White Earth Nation. The federal scheme of blood quantum was favoured by many of the delegates who worried that they might lose certain federal entitlements that were based on arithmetic blood levels or quantification.

I wrote two specific articles in the new Constitution of the White Earth Nation that satisfied the serious interests of those delegates who favoured the blood-quantum concession, and those delegates who insisted that genealogy or direct family descent and identity determine the actual meaning of citizenship in the White Earth Nation.

Article 1

Citizens of the White Earth Nation shall be descendants of Anishinaabeg families and related by linear descent to enrolled members of the White Earth Reservation and Nation, according to genealogical documents, treaties and other agreements with the government of the United States.

Article 2

Services and entitlements provided by government agencies to citizens, otherwise designated members of the White Earth Nation, shall be defined according to treaties, trusts, and diplomatic agreements, state and federal laws, rules and regulations, and in policies and procedures established by the government of the White Earth Nation.

The Constitution of the White Earth Nation was duly ratified, after a detailed discussion of each article, by a secret vote of the official delegates on 4 April 2009, at the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, Minnesota.2

Genetic ancestry has never been the natural reason for native survivance but, rather, a scientific and systematic means to resolve and disconnect tribal, totemic associations, and the familiar histories of native families. Natives have mingled with adventurers, consorted with various colonial missionaries, and many settlers as a course of assurance, education, and survivance, and many woodland natives eagerly participated in that premier union of the fur trade for centuries. The French, English, Spanish, Russian, and many other nations are in the bloodline, reminiscence, and history of the Northern Hemisphere. In other words, diverse and determined native families trace their surnames and ancestry to these colony settlements, dynamic continental unions of culture and chance, the natural traces of a sense of presence, history, hard done by, and survivance. …

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