Thursday, May 04, 2006

Blood Quantum in Federal Indian Policy

The South Dakota Law Review just published "A Legal History of Blood Quantum in Federal Indian Law to 1935" by Paul Spruhan.

An excerpt from the intro:

In Part III the article concludes that blood quantum in federal Indian policy to 1935 is more striking for its lack of use than its application. Though early federal officials were aware of blood quantum and used it in scattered situations for specific purposes, they generally preferred definitions that applied matrilineal or patrilineal descent or tribal membership. Blood quantum became an important method of defining Indian and tribal membership only in the early twentieth century. By the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act, blood quantum was firmly entrenched in federal Indian policy, though it existed alongside political definitions of Indian status. The shift from the almost exclusive use of political definitions to the selective use of biological ones tracks the changing perception of the federal government's relationship to Indian tribes. Ultimately, the lack of consistency in applications of blood quantum reflects the failure of the United States to reconcile the foundational contradictions of federal Indian law.


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