Navajo Bloodline - Who Is A Navajo?
The proposal to lower the minimum from one-quarter to one-eighth was debated this week in the Navajo Nation Council of the largest tribe in the U.S. If approved, membership would have doubled to more than 600,000 from 310,000 but the proposal was rejected by the Council, according to another story in Sunday’s (April 25th) Republic, bylined Nichols, the consensus being that it was a double-edged sword.
The bill proposed, by Ervin Keeswood of Hogback N.M. who declined to answer phone calls after the ruling, had told the delegates it concerned recognition of all of the tribe’s offspring. Karen Francis, spokeswoman for the Council, said, “He (Keeswood)was considering how ancestors felt about the future. What it they only have one-eighth blood, they are still our grand children.”
Keeswood pointed out that Navajos who have one-eighth blood quantum can’t get home sites, grazing permits or Navajo preference for jobs.
He also told council delegates he has seen those with less than one-quarter who can speak fluent Navajo and participate fully in Navajo ceremonies while some who are full-blooded can’t speak the language and don’t participate.
Navajo President Joe Shirley said the issue is so momentous it should go before the entire tribe as a referendum. Shirley said,“It affects the whole Navajo Nation so the people should get the vote.”
Peterson Zah, former chairman and president of the Navajo Nation stated that for those highly successful tribes with new riches of casino gaming, people want to enroll to get in on per capita casino payments, but the tribe has no casino, no individual payments so Zah feels the proposal was more about recognizing successive generations who have married outside the tribe and making sure all community voices are counted in votes.
Zah and others worry that reducing the bloodline could dilute tribal purity what makes our nation and tribe so different, a distinct group, so there is a need to maintain that concept.
Some Navajos don’t oppose lowering the blood quantum or additional membership as long as people have proof of their lineage. While others state a bigger membership means more benefits, more money form the federal government, still others question if the tribe is competing with the Cherokee Tribal enrollment which has no blood requirement.
To support his bill, Keeswood told the delegates he would like to see a Navajo congressional district one day with Navajos running for office.
One delegate, Lorenzo Bates, made a motion to table the proposal to study how it would affect the government but the motion failed.
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Alyssa Burhans, Organizing Director for Native America and Young Voters at National Voice.