So, I started dating someone. Weird to admit to a bunch of people I don’t know, but we’re just going to roll with it. When we started dating, I asked to look at his tribal ID; he’s an enrolled member of the Blackfeet tribe (sorry, Mom). I looked first at his ID picture (awful like anyone else’s)and then looked at his blood quantum. I wanted to know how much Indian he was and if it was enough for his kids to become enrolled members of the Blackfeet Nation.
As our relationship has progressed, we’ve come to know each other really well and confide in one another about our struggles, our hopes, our dreams and all the other things that connect one person to another. But with this progression comes the ever-burning question of, “What about our kids?”
Now, before my mother freaks out, he and I do not have kids, nor are we really planning that right now. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking about it. I’m not saying I’m ready to procreate with this guy, but children are something I think about ... a lot.
I think about my future children pretty regularly and what their lives are going to be like. I think about this because my children’s lives and experiences are really going to depend on who the dad might be.
You see, I’m an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe (Crow), but according to my tribe, I do not have enough "Indian blood" within myself to pass onto my children. This means that if the father of my future children is not an enrolled member of my same tribe, my children will not be considered Crow.
The concept of blood quantum comes from government “influence” over tribes to establish citizenship requirements. The point was to prove that someone was Native American in order to allocate benefits like health care, land allotments and other treaty rights. Because of this, however, we have come to an exclusionary system that will eventually be the end of many tribes.
So this leads to existential questions when it comes to dating and marriage.
Dating someone within my same tribe is the obvious option but is difficult to do, especially if you come from a large family in a small community. You’re related to everyone. Not only is that a barrier when it comes to relationships, but it also limits people who are interested in the same things you are, with the same goals and passions.
So I’ve opened my options up to dating people outside my tribe and occasionally, outside my racial/ethnic group. However, this leads me to the earlier dilemma of enrollment.
Now, you might ask, “Jordynn, why does enrollment even matter? Just date who you wanna date and love who you love.”
And you’re right. It shouldn’t matter. But it does.
Being an enrolled member, despite being a colonial imposition on our communities, has become incredibly intertwined with Indigenous identity. Your Indian blood has become integral to your "legitimacy" as an Indian.
Within my community, I’ve seen too many individuals ostracized because they are of mixed race. While we as Indigenous people are discriminated against in white societies, our communities also discriminate against those of different racial backgrounds.
I have a certain level of privilege in my community for being brown and I do not want my children to ever feel like they do not belong.
Not only does enrollment play a part in identity, it also gives you access to treaty rights such as healthcare and education, and allows you to participate in certain tribal activities, such as elections and, within some communities, participation in ceremonies.
When it comes to my future children, they will be Apsaalooke (Crow) people no matter what because I am Apsaalooke. But I don’t want my children to face exclusion or discrimination because of a piece of paper.
To boil that down, I want my children to be enrolled somewhere, which leads me to date other Indigenous people of federally recognized tribes who have enough Indian blood to pass on to our future children. A real shitstorm if you ask me, but still something that’ll be very much be on my mind as I eat my romantic dinner with my new guy this weekend.