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3 Descent and Genealogy: The Changing Landscape of Tribal Membership Governance in the United States

From: Tribal Constitutionalism: States, Tribes, and the Governance of Membership

Kirsty Gover

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved.date: 27 January 2021

In the United States, the modern period of tribal constitutionalism began in the 1930s. This chapter illustrates the ways in which tribes have altered their membership governance to maintain and repair continuity during shifts in federal Indian policy and tribal demography. Tribes are increasingly likely to use lineal descent and blood quantum rules after 1970, in place of apparently ethnically-neutral rules, such as parental enrolment or residence. Tribes also increasingly prefer tribe-specific measures of blood quantum, in contrast to the pan-tribal concept of Indian blood quantum used in federal law and policy. Together these changes suggest that tribes are becoming more ‘genealogical’ in their approach to membership governance, favouring descent rules over racial measures.

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