Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Mother's Legacy: Identity

Today's post concerns an issue that affects all Natives and that is enrollment and blood quantum and the question of identity.  Please refer to the following charts as I explain something my mother was trying to remember.  She'd told me that blood quantum didn't have anything to do with math or fractions. Now, after researching my family history, I know what she meant.  If you try to use a pedigree or ancestor chart to figure out your blood quantum, you may be in for a surprise.

I am on the rolls as 1/2 MCT blood. What this means is 1 out of my two parents is MCT blood and all her ancestors are MCT.  My father is from another tribe, well, band, as he is Chippewa, at least 3/4 cause I haven't found all his ancestors yet.  His blood quantum would be 6 out of 8 of his direct ancestors are St. Croix.  Where confusion enters is that not all tribes/bands have the same degree of blood quantum and some use lineal descent.  We have 1/4 as the minimum and St. Croix has 1/2.  I am not able to be enrolled at St. Croix as the number of my direct St. Croix ancestors does not equal 1/2 while the number of my direct ancestors with MCT blood is more than 1/4.  Where the math comes in is to reduce the fraction down to see if it equals 1 out of 4, i.e. 17 (parents)/(out of )64 is 2/8 or 1/4 and that is the only thing the math means.

Ancestor (Pedigree) Chart
Most people who think of or do research, are familiar with the Ancestor Chart.  It's how most genealogical charts are done.  There is a Standard for doing genealogy charts: direct paternal ancestors are the left side and maternal lines on the right.  Without a color chart, it gets confusing if you don't know the standards.  Colors are used to differentiate lines to make it easier to see as well as the ease of printing now that we have computers.

Descendancy Chart
What is actually used to determine enrollment is a Descendancy chart of someone on the basic rolls of the Bands in the MCT and St. Croix who may not have all been full blood.  Now it is harder to see the exact relationship as siblings marry different people and their children's quantum could be be different depending on the other"s enrollment.  So not all the cousins will have the same blood quantum, even though one line is the same.  To fully understand the importance of this, take a look at one of the public charts of Royal Houses of Europe.  Their kings and queens must be a descendant, preferably direct, of their first king/queen, or possess royal blood to some degree, which is why they've kept such records.

And there you have it.

Ancestor or pedigree charts are easier to understand than descendancy ones.  So don't use a pedigree or ancestor chart when you are trying to find your blood quantum.  Rather, use it to further your knowledge and understanding of your relatives.  You must use a descendancy chart to determine blood quantum.  Further information on descendancy charts can be found at  https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Genealogical_Charts_(National_Institute). Let this be a start in your search for knowledge.

Now, for those who are trying to get enrolled, there are issues much more confusing than the two touched upon, such as lineal descent.  First and foremost, in my opinion, is that of our culture and traditions concerning family which are quite different from that of the dominant society.  Traditionally, family generally means all our relatives.  When we introduce ourselves, we start with our name, our parents, our Clan, then Tribe.  (Notice, we do not say Band.  Though, nowadays, it is gradually being added, an influence from our recent past.)  The reason for this is to show our place within our society which has certain expectations that do not match with dominant society.

When my mother struggled to remember exactly how the determination of blood quantum worked, it was because she had an entirely different view of family.  We always hold Tribe, than Clan, then family as the basis for our identity.  We know exactly where we fit in the scheme of life as we see it.  What was, and still is, hard to assimilate is a different idea of family.

In the old days, when a parent died leaving a child behind, he or she did not have to be adopted into another family.  They already were a part of a family.  The parent's siblings, aunts/uncles or  grandparents, if still alive, took over the raising of that child.  If no one in the family was available, then a Clan or Tribal member took it over.

My mother's struggle had to do with the working down and separating out the exact parents of a child or descendancy, which has become more important than our traditional viewpoint of the child's  identity.  That, in a nutshell-albeit a simplistic explanation-is the problem with blood quantum.

How can a child be more Indian than his brother or sister?  This question was, is and will be asked until we, as a Tribe, answer it for ourselves.  Do we, as a Tribe, accept that the parents must already be enrolled as more important than our traditional view of the child already being a member of the Tribe and Clan by virtue of the mother and/or father whether legally recognized or not?   Directly correlated to this is the concept of legitimacy of the child which was introduced by the concept of marriage in the Christian church as opposed to our traditional view of marriage.  In the aforementioned Royal House charts, all claimants to the throne had to be legitimate: parents with royal blood married within the Church.  What has this to do with our Enrollment Records, you may be wondering?

Well, everything.  This was, and still is, a tactic of the dominant society and especially the Church in their "conquering" of the world: the introduction of legitimacy of people being born into the Church as the basis for membership.  If you weren't, well you were a pagan.  Our society says you are a member of our society before you are born, by the fact of being in your mother's womb.  Theirs says you have to accept their idea of membership or have it accepted for you i.e.baptism or adoption.  Thus, a descendant of someone listed on the Rolls is the only legally recognized member of our society in their viewpoint.  And since the U.S. government technically won, their rules abide.

Many of our people "adopted" these ways, thus we have conflict between those views.  In the spirit of the Royal Houses, only "legitimate members" can be Accepted.  In the spirit of our tradition, all babies born to a mother and father are Accepted whether married in the Church or not.  Keep in mind our "freedom of religion" was only granted in 1978.  Ahh, will be checking on civil marriages at some point.

The question of identity is so easy for myself, yet I see others struggle with it.  All because there are opposing concepts of parentage, marriage, society.  And it is thanks to my mother, Marjorie Alice, a Christian, that I am able to follow our traditional ways whilst my siblings can follow the ways of my father, Axel Sr., also a Christian.  She ensured that we treated each other with the respect due brothers and sisters.  We were never allowed to name call for whatever reason or answer to her.  If we fought, we had to find a way to resolve it.  We celebrated each other's accomplishments and learned to get along with each other.  She got her strength from her parents and grandparents.

I, Niiganabiik, Mildred Holmes in the English, Bear Clan, Ogiichidakwe of the Aniishinabe, daughter of Marge/Axel, granddaughter of John/Mabel and Henry/Rachel, greatgranddaughter of Frank/Alice, Charles/Jesse, George/Catherine, and Hartley/Judy, *greatgreat granddaughter of Wakiimawab/?, William/Mary, am my mother's daughter.  I hope this topic has answered one or two questions you may have on the subject of enrollment and blood quantum as well as clarify your idea of identity.

*These two lines were of more interest-mother's and father's direct paternal line, the others will be added as I get the info. (Name translations, if any.)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankful for Mom's Legacy

Today is the second holiday of cooking nothing. Cept I think I will make something.  Not sure what.  I've been thinking of everything that's happened in the past year.  I'm now going through all my mom's sewing stuff.  Before it was just sorting out according to the projects I knew she was working on.  Now, it's going through the stuff we bought together for different reasons.  Sometimes, we'd buy two or three hanks of one color we liked, with nothing in mind for it, ceptin' to admire the color.  There are plenty of those.  And trying to find her five petal flower pattern.

Lots of times, we'd take the scenic route whilst on our way to you know where over on the Leech Lake Reservation.  We'd stop in out of the way places just to look.  I'd think we were lost, yet Mom always knew where we were.  Least on those roads.  There was a couple times when she had a sort  of puzzled, almost panicked, look and my heart would sink.  Then we'd hit a road or a turn and she'd tell me where to turn.  Comes of the Indian habit of using landmarks, which don't always stay the same  over the years.

I've been looking over my posts on my other blogs and on my second favorite haunt.  I knew I posted a lot of the things we'd do or stuff that happened.  Now, more than ever, I am glad for those posts.  One thing I am truly grateful for is the trip to Vegas we went on with the Elders on the rez.  She really liked being in the Grand Canyon area.  At the time, we'd have the usual butting of heads cause she wanted to do one thing and I wanted to do another.  Our little tiffs that'd been happening ever since I was a child.  Then on the roads, I'd catch a photo shot of her when she wasn't looking.  She didn't like having her picture taken.  Not all Indians do.  I might've mentioned it before on one or the other of my blogs.  Reason: People used to come to the reservation, take pictures and use them to scam money out of people by saying they were raising money for us.  Yeah.  The first time that happened to me, I told her and that was the last time I ever posed for those pics.

Anyhow, on the trip, we stopped in Flagstaff and she was mighty tired.  Then we went out to the reservation to visit with the Elders there.  That sure picked her up.  Sort of like being at home.  Even though it was a long trip, in the dark and think we were a mite lost, and got back late, she had fun.  I came across the gift she was given and remembered the games we'd played whilst there.  She always liked meeting new people, finding out where they were from and what they did.  I'm not as social as she was and she'd get a bit perturbed with me.  Ahh, noow I'm grinning with some of the stuff she'd say.

Ohh, to me, she's always the 36 year old woman I first realized, or rather thought of her as someone other than my mother.  I remember her brushing out my hair and then braiding it.  Yeah, yeah yeah, my eyes were more slanted than usual.  Always wished I had the courage my sister had when she stole my mom's scissors and cut her hair.  What I did was learn to braid my own hair.

She really liked it when "her boys" would come over to help her with one or another of her outdoor projects.  They'd sit around, smoking a cigarette, drinking a cup of coffee and gabbing more than working.  She enjoyed that.

Oh, I think this is long enough.  Will be posting more about her and the legacy she left us.  Thinking that's what I originally had in mind when I started this post.  Didn't really post cause I'm a bit superstitious.  Her health wasn't the best and I didn't want those in the next world thinking I didn't want her here any more.

I've been thinking about grief and the aftermath, the learning to live without a certain person in one's life.  I see a lot of posts over to my second favorite haunt about there being an empty spot, a hole in one's heart.  I've come to the conclusion that I don't have an empty spot cause she's there in my memories, my heart, my sons' faces.  They have quite a bit of her habits.  She's always here.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


My mother and her parents and grandparents passed a legacy to me and my siblings.  One very important aspect was education.  And education meant school.  And school meant learning how to read, write, spell among other things.

A big part of our education took place in the home.  We learned how to clean and cook game, in particular, venison.  Had to learn how to cook rice, both varieties-wild and white.  Macaroni and potatoes.  We'd pick blueberries in the summer, raspberries, hazelnuts, chokecherries.  And strawberries.  Could never figure out Juneberries though.

There were times, I'd watch Auntie Nancy braid rugs.  She'd show me how to carve the toothbrush to use for a needle.  I never did do any braiding myself.  The rugs she made were humongous ones.  They covered the whole floor of one room.  And using a loom.

I'd watch another aunt cook.  I learned to make fry bread watching her.  Another aunt and my mother did beadwork.  I learned how to tell if there was sweetgrass around.  I learned how to tell which trees were used for what purpose.

I learned to listen for the different animals while out in the woods.  We learned how to make different bird calls.  I learned how to fish, though it's never been my favorite sport.  Nor hunting.  I couldn't bring myself to do so, even though we took gun safety classes.  I learned how to shoot a bow.

I learned how to make a snare, not good at it though.  I learned how to shoot marbles, use a slingshot.  Not good at tracking. though I can find my way around.  Learned how to tell where north is on a cloudy day.

Just this little bit of my education list has brought people to mind that might have information about my family, and extended family.  Do you have such a list?  Of course, you have.  Free form your thoughts and you may find ways and means to grow your family tree branches.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Search Engines

The records most have heard about through ads are the ones held at Ancestry.com.  Census records come immediately to mind. Surprise, surprise. surprise.  Researching by just entering a name on a search engine has netted me much information about my family. In fact, I was astounded by the number of entries for some names.  Course, I was one of the very few who actually looked at search pages number 4 and higher.  Point, I found myself two hours later, finally getting to search results that were basically the same as those earlier.

I was even amazed at the number of lateral names that came up in this search.  Now, here is where you will need to be very careful in clicking the links.  This is how I came across some photos, articles in the New York Times that pertained to my ancestors and their friends, colleagues and clan.  I've come across relatives names mentioned in books that had been written.

When I mentioned some of the documents to my mom, more information about our family was unearthed.  She gave me names of people I could talk to as well as more of the history of our village. Other family had more information about how many of these books were written.

Search engines can point you in directions to follow. They can't if you don't have much more information than a name, so try to have as much info as you can if your ancestor has a common name. A couple times, while searching for something completely different, pages have come up.  So have a few key words that might help you in your search.  And have a notes file on your computer for copy/paste of the url (and a description of the contents) where you found the page as bookmarking can quickly get to the hundreds if you're not careful.  The Wayback Machine isn't as helpful if you don't have the url.  And many pages have been taken down at someone's request.

I will be featuring interviews with tribal historians. Family Legacy is much more than genealogy, as my journey to trace family history has taken many turns.  One thing I've learned is to stop the knee jerk reaction of anger when reading some of the documents. Featuring tribal historians may help us to see things in a different light.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Treaty talk

The first documents that are presented here are ones we've all grown up with, we've heard about them and may have even read at one time or another. The Oklahoma State University Library Electronic Publishing Center has copies of treaties for the tribes in the United States. http://digital.library.okstate.edu/index.htm} Another document is the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Constitution along with individual Band Constitutions.

Genealogically speaking, the names of the signatories are listed. Since most family tree programs are concerned only with legal definitions of relationships, you may or may not find yourself having some type of familial tie to one or more of the signatories. Clans are not considered at all and these relationships are at the heart of our culture. Other aspects of determining relationships among us aren't written down.

I mention the treaties which most are familiar with and the MCT Constitution for the enrollment requirements set forth in those documents. Currently, 1/4 MCT tribal blood is required. A complication that's hard to accept is the forced adoption of children by non-tribal members resulting in their being unable to be enrolled, even if they are full-bloods. Another issue is some tribes require only lineal descent, some have stricter blood requirements. For those of you reading this who may be concerned with the enrollment issue, although you may not be federally recognized, you will be culturally recognized if this is your goal.

Legal aspects don't match cultural aspects; debate has raged for centuries. The "Indian Homestead" or Dawes Act in 1887 forced tribes in the US to adapt family definitions more closely resembling the dominant society. Without a prior signed treaty, the federal government no longer recognizes Indian tribes as separate nations, thus "federally recognized tribe." http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0700/frameset.html has a pretty good summation of the period regarding Indian citizenship in the United States.

These legal documents are the basis of relationships between tribal, federal and state governments. They determine enrollment in federally recognized tribes and is the key aspect of life on all reservations. Anishinabe have an international issue as the majority of our tribe is in Canada and currently MCT enrollment is under debate regarding the enrollment being expanded to include Anishinabe blood where ever we are enrolled.

Over the course of my life, I've met a lot of people who have claimed Indian blood. I have a certain amount of skepticism whenever I meet someone with these claims.  Overall, the introduction determines whether or not I accept their claims. This intro is something that is culturally defined and is universal among tribes. Consider your motivations for tracing your family history carefully if you are trying to prove Indian descent. Cultural definitions and legal definitions need to be considered when researching Indian family history. They might be why you run into brick walls. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Family Legacy

Family legacy has been mentioned in movies, tv and newspapers.  The image of inheriting property and money is one that is very familiar to most of us.  The family legacy discussed in this blog is "something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past.*"  Along the way, I hope you will gain the confidence and knowledge to search through these documents yourself, not just for the lineage.

One thing that has helped me to understand my world is knowing some of what has happened to various members of my family and community.  Knowing a little about the World Wars, the Korean and the Viet Nam Wars has helped me understand our warriors a bit better.

Listening to my elders as I grew up helped me to understand the effects various policies and procedures the U.S. government had on our way of life.  Learning exactly what some of those were clarified my understanding of what I perceived as inaction on the part of those same elders.  It helped me deal with the emotional aspect of trying to walk a path that I didn't want.  I wanted to stay in the familiar and that was changing.  Life comes full circle as we struggle with self-determination.

I'm more appreciative of the electricity we enjoy in the village knowing that my parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins got together and brushed out the route for the line to be brought here.  Everyone who worked got one share in the Cooperative.  I remember everyone being very busy and all the littles were supposed to stay out of the way. I was brought back to the village after walking the great distance of one mile because I wanted my parents who were busy. I didn't know at the time what they were doing. I do now. And I liked watching those TV shows with my friends, having running water.  Could read longer.  When I look at the records from that period of time, memories flood back.  I remember a bit more about different events which help me trace lineages.

It will be the same for you on this journey of yours.  As an Elder here in the village is fond of telling me "Someone always knows" when you are searching for something.  It might help to find a different direction in which to look.  Such as finding out one of my ancestors was taken out of Indian school and sent to live with relatives in Canada.  There is a place to look.  It isn't enough to know that we have relatives in Canada.  You need to know which one specifically.  It might help to remember that one needs a sense of humor about these things.  Dealing with the unexpected can be frustrating at times. There is more to family legacy than perhaps, you've thought about. Miew.

*  leg·a·cy  (lg-s)
n. pl. leg·a·cies
1. Money or property bequeathed to another by will.
2. Something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past: a legacy of religious freedom. See Synonyms at heritage.
[Middle English legacie, office of a deputy, from Old French, from Medieval Latin lgtia, from Latin lgtus, past participle of lgre, to depute, bequeath; see leg- in Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.