What if I told you that a microscopic bomb has been placed in
your blood stream, and that some time in the future it will go off?  
When this happens, you and all of your relatives will be gone
forever.  Sound like science fiction?  Unfortunately, it is not, and if
you are Native American, the bomb is ticking.  The bomb I am
describing is called “Blood Quantum”, and it infests everyone with
a Native American heritage.
   Before we get too far, let me define “Blood Quantum”. The U.S.
Government uses a system whereby they recognize the amount of
Indian blood a person can prove, as a way of defining who is an
“Indian”.  The amount of Indian blood must be from descendants of
an U.S. Government recognized tribe, and the standard for most
tribes is you must have at least one-quarter to be recognized.
Blood quantum is an idea that dates back long before the United
States ever existed.  In 1705, a law adopted by the Virginia colony
defines “mulatto”, as anyone who was at least one-half Indian or
one-eighth black. (Forbes)  Later, the government used blood
quantum in relation to treaties, as a means of regulating the
distribution of resources.  The standard used was one-quarter
blood quantum, and to be fair to the Government officials, it is
understandable that they had to draw the line somewhere, or else
they would have been distributing resources to anyone who
wanted them.
That brings up a valid point.  Are blood quanta a necessary evil of
the U.S. and Indian relationship?  It is a fact that most tribes set
their own blood quantum limits for recognition, but the tribe’s
requirements are driven by the U.S. requirements, and if you get
right down to it, it is all driven by economics.
The resources and services provided to Indian Tribes by the U.S.
Government are very lean in most cases, and after they are
dispersed among the recognized members, there is nothing left
over.  I think most people would agree the majority of Indians living
on Reservations exist at or below a government recognized
poverty level.  If a tribe recognizes more people, then there are
more mouths to feed, but the government pie does not increase as
populations increase, unless the population meets the blood
quantum guidelines.  Basically, the tribes must obey the blood
quantum rule; or else the people will starve to death, or die due to
lack of basic services such as health care.  
As you can see, blood quantum is the line between life and death
for many Native Americans.  Because of this, many tribes
encourage persons with the required blood quantum’s to marry
within their own tribe.  This is a sell out of the culture for many
tribes however, because for many tribes, such as the Ojibwe, it is
against their belief to marry within your own clan. (Horwich)  In
fact, in the past it was common that tribes mixed, and assimilated
on a regular basis.  Not only in regards to marriage, but also in the
form of adoption and replacement of loved ones.  Most tribes have
very sacred rituals for making a person a relative, and after the
ceremony, that person is a tribal member in every regard.  Under
today’s rule that person could not be recognized as a tribal
member, and although they may live on the reservation as an
“Indian”, the government will not recognize them.  Actually, the way
the blood quantum rule is written, it is possible to have 100%
Indian blood, and not be recognized.
This is most prevalent in regards to Indians from non- recognized
tribes.  Not all Indians were corralled onto reservations, and this
was especially true in Texas.  As the western world expanded
across the frontier, many tribes migrated into new territories, and
some assimilated into other tribes as a means of survival.  During
the time of Manifest Destiny, most Indians were shot on sight, or
hunted down for a bounty.  In response to this many Indians
assimilated into the surrounding communities and blended into a
new culture.  In Texas, it was common for Indians to adopt a
Mexican name, change their language and attire, and claim to be
Mexican to avoid being killed.  In a sense, their Indianess died at
that moment and they became Mexicans, although they had no
Mexican blood.  
Another way that a 100% Indian is not Indian is if the Indian blood
is a mix of several different tribes.  In order to be recognized by the
U.S. Government, you must have at least one-quarter blood
quantum from the same tribe.  In other words, Indian blood is not
all-Indian blood; it cannot cross tribal boundaries.  To maintain
enrolment status for your family, you have to do more than just
marry an Indian; you must marry someone from your own tribe.
Being 100% Indian means nothing if you cannot meet the
Government guidelines for blood quantum, and without it, you
cannot receive your membership card into the exclusive ethnic
club called Native Americans.
Of all the cultures that exist in the United States, Indians are the
only ones who have to have membership cards to prove their
ethnicity.  Can you think of any other Culture that is required to
prove membership?  If a person has one Hispanic parent and one
white parent, what is their ethnicity?  Does it matter whether the
mother or the father is the Hispanic?  Can you be considered
White if you have a last name of Garcia?  In today’s culture, it
seems that there are many different ways to achieve your ethnic
status.  When my children were born, I was never asked what
ethnicity I wanted put on the hospital records, so I wonder who
made this decision.  Some hospitals base a baby’s ethnicity on the
perceived ethnicity of the Father, and others base it on the
Mother.  In addition, I am sure that in some cases the skin color of
the baby plays a part in what ethnicity they are assigned on the
hospital records. In no case does anyone consider blood quantum
when assigning a baby to be a member of a particular ethnic
group.  This only becomes an issue if the parents want the child
listed as Native American.    
Although it seems that the blood quantum rule is detrimental to
“Indians”, there are those within the tribal community that think it
has merit.  It is the belief of some Indians that the only way to
preserve the culture of their tribe is through maintaining a pure
bloodline.  I have never found a strong argument for this theory
however, because the culture of a group is not based on blood
type, or even on looks, but rather on learned customs and
behaviors.  Culture is a state of mind that is shared, and taught by
a group of individuals.  In this regard, most people consider their
cultural beliefs, and their ethnicity to be inter-related.  However, if
an individual has differences in appearance from the rest of the
group, these same people apply a whole new set of rules for some
Should a person’s ethnicity be based upon their cultural beliefs?  If
a black skinned individual is raised in a white culture, and has
never been exposed to the African American culture, can they be
considered white?  Likewise, if a white child is adopted by an
African American couple, and raised in that culture, is the child an
African American?  Even for Indians, the answer to this question is
usually based on economic gain.  Whatever ethnicity is most
beneficial to an individual is usually the ethnicity they want to
claim.      This is a likely explanation for a lot of the increase in
people claiming to be Native American in today’s society.  
For many tribes, Bingo and Casinos have created a situation
where huge sums of money are coming into the hands of Native
Americans.  Also, as Tribes fight for lost resources and treaty
rights, some Tribes are acquiring a degree of wealth and dignity
that has been denied them for a long time.  This new wealth and
acquired resources are very attractive to outside people, and as
usual, everyone wants a piece of the action.  Now it has become
popular to claim Indian relations, because it may have financial
rewards.  The one thing that keeps these “want to be” Indians from
including themselves in the Native American gravy train, is a little
thing called blood quantum.  In this context, the blood Quantum is
protecting the Indian’s from outsiders cutting into their economic
gains, so is this a good thing?  Not necessarily, the reason that the
tribes can have and operate the Bingo and Casinos has to do with
a little thing called sovereignty.
Sovereignty is based on the Tribes ability to function
independently, and to govern themselves.  This requires Tribal
members, and that means U.S. recognized blood quantum
guidelines are imposed.  As Tribal members marry outside the
tribe, and as tribal membership decreases, eventually the Tribal
sovereignty will be lost, and with it the Bingo and Casino
businesses.  Not only that, but who will own the Reservation land
and resources when the Tribe is no more?  
On the reservation, the idea of who is an enrolled Indian, and who
is not, goes unnoticed in most cases.  That is until it involves the
allocation of resources.  In most cases, Tribal governments are
made up of enrolled tribal members, and as such, non-enrolled
members have no representation or voice in the government.  
Imagine the frustration of being 100% Indian, born and raised on
the reservation, and you have no control over what decisions are
made for you by the government.  In addition, to make matters
worse, the government has no motivation to act in your best
interest, because that means sharing their resources with you.  
Blood quantum in this sense is denying certain people their “Civil
Rights”, and it is causing Tribes to alienate and discriminate
amongst themselves, further breaking down the unity of the tribe.
As the unity of the tribe breaks down, and individuals feel they
have no control over their situation, in my opinion, many of them
will begin to leave the reservations and assimilate into the Western
world.  On the Reservation, a non-Indian is not entitled to
government-sponsored social services and benefits.  Off the
Reservation, government and private social services, due to strict
U.S. Laws, are afraid of discrimination against anyone. This makes
it less likely they will be denied services.  If life is made greener on
the other side of the Reservation fence, I believe many people will
cross over.  Since family is a strong part of Indian culture, it makes
sense that as people move off the Reservation, their families will
begin to move with them in some cases, and in others, the family
will be broken up.  The blood quantum line will divide families,
tribally and physically at that point.  
It appears to me that the U.S. Government had a plan in the
beginning, and it was the idea of Assimilation and Termination of
Native Americans.  Many critics’ state that this idea was a failure,
and that the programs meant to assimilate and allow termination
were short sighted and ill conceived. I agree on those points, but I
believe that the proponents of the idea planted a hidden trap as a
safety net.  Blood quantum is that hidden safety net for
assimilation and termination, it was placed into the very fabric of
the treaties and agreements from the very beginning.  Blood
quantum guaranteed that in spite of everything else, at some point
in the future, Native Americans would lose their status and
recognition by the U.S. Government.  Assimilation would take
place, and termination of Treaty Rights, and Government
guaranteed benefits would be terminated.
In conclusion, I think that categorizing someone according to
“Blood Quantum”, is a violation of that person’s civil rights.  The
idea has forced a corruption of the modern Indian, and it is a
purely hegemonic idea, that has no place in Indian culture.  Blood
quantum is government-sanctioned racism, and what makes
someone an Indian is only for the Indians themselves to decide.  It
is the belief of many native peoples that cultural values, religious
practices, and whether the person makes a contribution to the
reservation community, that determines whether someone is an
Indian or not.  If the idea of the blood quantum is not disarmed, the
damage that will result in the next 20 to 30 years may be nothing
short of genocide for the Native Americans of the United States.