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Tips for Moving Beyond Blood Quantum

We know blood quantum, or “how much Native blood you have,” isn’t a good way of determining how Indigenous someone is. The truth is though that this racist concept has been with us for a long time. So how do we move beyond blood quantum? Here are some ideas:

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Some people believe that rejecting blood quantum as a way of determining tribal membership is a way of decolonizing our tribal governments. Decolonizing your tribal government means incorporating your peoples’ traditional ways of thinking and behaving into the way your government works. This also means rejecting the ideals and values imposed by White settler society.

If you do not already know, consider learning about the traditional ways in which your people defined tribal membership. It might help to speak with an Elder, contact your tribe’s cultural affairs department, or talk with others from your community.

Embrace your Nativeness
Look inside yourself and consider what you believe makes you Native. Is it your jingle dress dancing? Is it your passion to help your people? Is it your ability to speak your language or your connection with your Elders? Whatever being Native is to you, embrace that. Then, the next time someone asks you “How much Native are you?” you can tell them that this is not how you define yourself. Rather, you can tell them the things that make you proud of who you are and your people.

Practice self-love
Be proud of who you are and where you come from. No matter what others say no one can take the rich history of your people away from you. No one can take away or diminish the resilience passed down to you from your ancestors. No one can take away your Indigeneity. Practice self-love.

Learn about lateral violence
You may encounter others within your own tribal community who treat you unkindly due to your blood quantum. This type of bullying is called lateral violence. Take a moment to educate yourself about lateral violence and learn how to cope.

Petition your tribal council
Your tribe and its leadership have the authority to determine the requirements of your community’s tribal membership. You can advocate to your tribal council about changing membership requirements based on blood quantum. In many communities, petitioning your tribal council involves attending a council meeting and contributing your thoughts, or speaking with your relatives and relations who are on council outside of council sessions. Being an effective advocate often involves doing research, learning about the history of why certain decisions were made, making a case for why something is not working, and proposing a possible path forward.

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Author: Tamee Livermont is a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation. Her passion and interests lie in advocacy to create healthier, safer communities for generations to come. She is pursuing a career in medicine and policy. In her free time she is an advocate for equity and justice, hikes, and quilts.

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