Inthe article “Ancestry in a Drop of Blood” by Karen Kaplan pointsout factors that relate to individuals with correlating Indianbackground. Marilyn Vann, who is an engineer from Oklahoma city wasrejected by tribal officials who arguably claimed that Marilyn Vannis black, not Indian. On the other hand, Vann indicates that she hascredible evidence from her birth certificates, land deeds, and tribalenrollment cards.
After being rejected by tribe officials, Vannturned to DNA testing, which is a technology that is agitating Indiantribes all around the United States. From California to Connecticut,tribes and potential tribe members are dealing with the developmentof technology that is able to break down an individual’s genes forupwards of $200 to $400. In Tama, Iowa the Meskwaki Nation requiresDNA testing in order to detect any fake members that are looking tobenefit off from casino profits that tribe’s might hold. In 2001,after Vann applied to join the tribe she received a letter backstating that her father, George Musgrove Vann, was filed on the 1907tribal roll, but not as a Cherokee, as Freedmen. A Freedmen isdefined as a descendant of previous slaves who accompanied the tribewhen traveling to Oklahoma.
When Marilyn Vann received her DNAtesting results, the data unveiled that 58% or her genes came fromAfrica, 39% came from Europeans, and 3% are Native American genes.Although, rules of the Cherokee Nation state that Marilyn Vann canbecome a member of the tribe if she was a direct descendant ofsomeone officially documented on the 1907 rolls. With a total of 562federally recorded tribes, rules for tribal initiations differ witheach tribe. In other words, having a parent who is a member of thetribe is what matters the most when accepting individuals applyingfor tribal membership. Although, some tribes only grant fathers ormothers to provide enrollment to their offspring’s. In 1995, theFederal Bureau of Indian Affairs started recording the number oftribal members, which documented that tribes had 1.4 million memberslisted.
With casino money at hands, this progressive growth has urgedsome tribes to narrow their membership enrollments and tribal rules. Thequestion of defining who is Indian is most argued between Indianpeople. DNA testing has become a unique feature when enrolling newapplicants in some tribes. Genetic DNA can be tested in numerous ofways, but most DNA testing uses both the DNA of a child and parent inorder to support evidence for any biological link between oneanother.
Blood quantum is used to determine the total percentage ofan individuals bloodline relating to past descendants. As KarenKaplan stated that “For some, the idea of analyzing blood todistinguish some Indians from others threatens to undermine thefabric of the community. ‘To define someone by blood quantum is thevery definition of racism,’ said David Cornsilk, a member of theCherokee Nation”.
Blood quantum correlates with racism because”mixed-bloods,” “half-bloods,” or “quarter bloods” werecategorized within specific treaty rights to certain individuals.According to Oxford Dictionaries, the definition of racism is”Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someoneof a different race based on the belief that one’s own race issuperior”. These acts of racism are considered unfair treatment andno individual should have to endure this kind of abuse. Although,some Indians become offended when labeled with terms that might soundslanderous to them, while others might not feel as offensive whenbeing labeled an Indian.
In some cases, the tribe itself determineswhether or not if the enrollment member is to be welcome to thetribe. Theuse of DNA testing can help determine which relating genes you mighthave. DNA testing has help tribe leaders in deciding which tribalenrollment member is most appropriate for the tribe. These testingshave benefited tribal leaders with additional information about thepossible enrollment memberships.
Although, DNA testing might imply tobe very beneficial when testing genes it also has its drawbacks. Forinstance, DNA testing can cause controversy about which individual isallowed to apply or continue to stay in their tribe. These DNAtesting could possibly unveil falsification told to members of thefamily a long time ago and this could bring separation between familymembers. For a tribal member to be adopted, a cultural heritage ismost important because adopted members learn from the people thatraised them by teaching them manners, health habits, communications,and how to deal with possible obstacles that might happen in life. Inthe end, each tribe has their own decision and authority to proceedwith who their tribe members are and which ones are grantedenrollment into the tribe. These decisions are implemented with thehelp of genetic testing, which mean that tribes now require bloodquantum.
Analyzing blood from enrollment memberships has help tribeleaders figure out the percentage of that individuals bloodline whichconsists of a certain status of past descendants. Overall, I thoughtthe article by Karen Kaplan was quite intriguing to read. Thisarticle has helped me understand the true process of enrolling newapplicants into becoming potential tribe members.