At Sealaska Heritage, we field a lot of questions from the public, researchers and the media about Northwest Coast cultures. This question comes to us from an Anchorage resident with blood ties to the Wooshkeetaan Clan. This person is very passionate about his Native heritage but feels left out because he is only 1/8 Native blood quantum.
Question: I feel connected to my Tlingit heritage but am only 1/8 Native by blood quantum. What does this mean for me?
Unfortunately, the legal definition for being Native is the 1/4 Native blood quantum. Sealaska Heritage Institute did a study that shows that we have an increasing population of Native people who are less than 1/4 Native blood quantum. A number of tribes and Native organizations are also working to change the federal laws and regulations, such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act, that require the 1/4 Native blood quantum.
A number of tribes, such as the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indians of Alaska, use the definition of “lineal descendant” that does not include the reference to blood quantum.
Sealaska (Corporation) changed its policies for eligibility for scholarships, for internships and to serve as a board youth advisor from the 1/4 Native blood quantum to “lineal descendant.”
Your parents or grandparents can gift you stock even if you are less than 1/4 Native. Sealaska also adopted a resolution to allow for the enrollment of Natives who were born after 1971 and who did not receive stock, but they are required to be 1/4 Native blood. This eligibility requirement to enroll into Sealaska can be changed, but it will take efforts from shareholders to change this requirement. The number of Natives who received stock after the adoption of the resolution is growing. I believe that their children are not or will not be eligible for enrollment into Sealaska.
The Sealaska elections will soon be happening and you can ask your family to raise the issue of the 1/4 blood requirement with the Directors. You can also join the Anchorage Tlingit and Haida Community Council and raise this as an issue with the members to gain support and perhaps bring a resolution to the Tlingit and Haida General Assembly which will soon be happening. It will take people like yourself to make this an issue. My mother always taught me, “Do not complain unless you are willing to do something about it (the cause of your complaints).”
Good luck in this effort. You have the passion and I believe you can make the change happen.