Blood Quantum Earrings

When Dr. Metcalfe of the witty and intelligent Blog Beyond Buckskin asked me to create an earring design based off of my works “Are you on the Dawes Rolls?” and “Blood Bling” for my Beyond Buckskin Boutique Feature Week, I have to say I was super excited. As a blonde, blue-eyed enrolled Chickasaw citizen, I have never been a moment without an inner debate about my personal blood quantum fraction. These issues began early on when I was a small child who knew that she was Chickasaw but was afraid that she wouldn’t be if she got a cut and bled out all of her “indian blood.” Yes, unfortunately for many a Native American identity gets rather complicated and confusing. I believe that this is in-part caused by specific events in the history of colonization by the American government. After southeastern tribes survived the horrific ordeal of the Trail of Tears, they had to face further tactics of colonization and assimilation. These included land ownership and blood quantum (among others). After each removal, the Dawes commission wrote in their “official” books, the Dawes Rolls, documentation of each family in each tribe, detailing who was “full blood”, “half blood”, who was a non-Indian married to and Indian, and who was a “freedman”. Based upon what was recorded, each family was assigned a plot of land to live on and develop in Indian territory, now the state of Oklahoma. Not only was the concept of land ownership foreign to the southeastern cultures, but the concept of blood quantum was as well. Blood Quantum was a euro-centric concept which was based upon the beleif that culture follows blood and that European bloodlines are stronger than Indian bloodlines so that eventually Indian cultures will cease to be passed down from generation to generation. Add in boarding schools, language loss, and Christianity and soon Native identities became more and more challenged and complex. Today many tribal nations use blood quantum or Dawes Rolls lineage to determine their membership requirements. For Nations that have seen recent economic success, it is necessary for them to have a system in place to weed out non-tribal descendants who are seeking benefits. Unfortunately there is no perfect way and because many people were purposefully left off of the Dawes Rolls (can’t give out too much land to the tribes), their descendants can-not be tribal citizens today. Blood Quantum and the emotionally charged topic of Native American identities have made recent headlines, (Elizabeth Warren being one of them). With my Blood Quantum earrings I am diving right into the debate to challenge the public’s notion of blood quantum and to ask the question of where this concept came from and how it affects our own cultural identities. Now you can buy and wear your “fraction” adorned with a barcode, no CDIB card necessary.