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Blood Quantum

Since the progression of western cultural influences, the idea of lineage from blood has always determined your cultural status within today’s society. The current issues of blood quantum continues to be an aggressively debated topic within Indigenous groups because of its connection to tribal membership as well as benefits. For younger generations this has become problematic because many are either mixed or barely pass the criteria to be considered Native on paper. The U.S. government particularly introduced the idea of blood quantum in the late 1800’s as a way to keep track of Native Americans through  census rolls. As people struggled with the changes of being placed on reservations and boarding school the idea of keeping a “pure” lineage became more important in order to sustain tribal knowledge.

As Native American numbers dwindled, the status of your Certificate of Indian Blood was what many people stood behind. This gave them the power above anyone else to show that they were Native and proved to anyone else that they had rights, even though it was very little. As society progressed so did people and the goals for higher education as well as better prospects offered a chance for people to leave reservations. As time went by people noticed a trend of mixed children, or children raised by only a single parent. This made it harder to discuss the idea of bloodline and who belonged to what tribe or lineage.

Before the assimilation of Native Americans many tribes lived within a matrilineal society. This meant that women held a certain degree of power and looked to for council. Women were often viewed as important not only because they carried children but that they were the first to provide teachings to the younger generations. As we go further into the future, women in Native American tribes are feelings the effects of these changes. Often times they feel as though they must keep their lineage as pure as possible in order for their children to gain access to the tribe. This is one of the many problems with blood quantum today and identifying with the Native culture.

My work is a combination of printmaking and photography through the use of etching. The work focuses on the idea of identity that originated from the early use of photographs used as identification for immigrants coming into the U.S. The photographs viewed the individual in a stark viewpoint but it also provided a chance to create their identity in a single shot. The images themselves are completed in a bit map to represent the continuous nit picking from the government  and this in return is what identifies the individual. Up close to the prints you notice each individual dot and in order to see the whole you must step back. This is a reference to have society view us as a growing community rather than an artifact or a dying race. The use of red and black lines represent the bloodlines of the individuals and how many ethnicities or tribes they identify with. Through photography, Indigenous people can address current issues as well as present themselves in a manner of their own. It is up to the audience to decide how they will continue to perceive not only Native women but also Native people in general.