Asking a Native “Are you full blood” or “What percentage” is an extension of racism from early colonists. BIA blood percentage were created to take away land and break up tribes. Many natives didn’t feel the need to prove their percentages to the oppressive colonists, and many did not travel to register with BIA to have their blood analyzed for percentage and enrollment. Their punishment was more land being taken because they couldn’t get papers showing they were tribal members.
A typical conversation I have with perfect strangers goes something like this…
Stranger: “You Mexican?”
Stranger: “Then what are you?”
Me reluctantly: “Cheyenne”
Stranger: “You full blood? What percentage?”
Me: “You want to know the specifics of my bloodline percentage, culture and heritage?”
Stranger: “It’s cool, my grandma was part Cherokee.”
Respectful people would maybe introduce themselves before asking about my family history and blood percentage. Natives are objectified like some novelty living artifact. The only way natives are portrayed to kids in school are pre 1900. People do not picture a modern Native, only one dressed up like a romanticized Hollywood plains Indian. Measuring blood percentage is not a tradition of any Native culture.
I used to stay with my Mom and my Uncle Charles Chips, grandson to Horn Chips, brother to Crazy Horse at Pine Ridge in South Dakota. We are Oglala. Uncle Charles was one of the last Lakota Medicine Men. As we crossed onto the rez off state side, Uncle says to me “you are home, this is your land and wasichu has no say over you here”. This was one of the first times I had met my biological Mom. I was accepted in and participated in ceremonies without any proof of bloodline or percentage.
One person that was always with Uncle Charles was a guy who had traveled from Germany to learn Lakota ways. He dedicated his life to the tribe. He was a Sun-dancer and Uncle always introduced him as such. He didn’t even speak English, just German and Lakota. Uncle regarded him with the highest respect. He was treated as a family tribal member regardless of his skin color, upbringing or part of the world where he grew up.
Natives are courageous free-thinkers, defiant critical-thinkers, philosophers, artists, technicians, scholars, athletes…you name it and natives will excel and revolutionize anything they come across. A strong and free spirit on the forward path, this is modern native culture. This spirit runs through all of us no matter who we are and where we come from.
Unfortunately, this universal spirit can be ignored, suppressed and forgotten. It’s up to each of us to find it for ourselves and in one another. It’s always there and will never be quantified by blood percentage. It is available for all to attain through spiritual connection and equality.