Reggie Wassana: "Times are changing" on Blood Quantum (2023)

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Reggie Wassana, Governor of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, recently attendedre-electedfor his second term in November. During the same election cycle, the citizens of Cheyenne-Arapaho voted to amend the tribal nation's constitution to reflect thethe blood volume requirementfor citizenship from a quarter to an eighth.

Blood quantum is a concept that measures the percentage of native blood that a person has. However, the measure is historically controversial because it limits tribal citizenship and the benefits that come with it.

Wassana graduated from Weatherford High School and grew up in rural western Oklahoma. He graduated from Southwestern Oklahoma State University before working for his tribe as director of the Housing Department. After working in housing, Wassana was "persuaded out of politics" by other tribal people and ran for the District 3 legislature seat. After serving District 3, he was elected legislature speaker before running for the governorship.

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Wassana recently fielded questions about his path to politics, the changing blood needs of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, and other developments occurring in his tribe and Indian Country at large. The Concho-based Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes are a unified, federally recognized tribe founded in 1937 by the Southern Cheyenne and Southern Arapaho peoples.

The following conversation has been lightly edited for style, clarity, and length.

Tell us about you. Where you grew up? What is your professional background and why do you dedicate yourself to politics?

I grew up in rural western Oklahoma, just north of Weatherford, Oklahoma. I graduated from Weatherford. I went to school for OU for a year. I went to Southwestern and graduated there. My grandparents lived on their own land as part of the allotment. They gave my mother a few acres to build a house through the Indian Housing Program. So I put down roots in western Oklahoma. I grew up among many relatives. We lived in the country. As I was telling people, I hardly ever saw anyone shine in the summer because we always hung out with all of our relatives. So, in the educational circle, I hung out with our cousins ​​and relatives after school for the whole summer.

After I graduated, I worked for the tribe. I worked in a planning department. Some housing commissioners wanted me to run for director. I applied. I got the job. When I got into the housing industry, I think we were very successful. We've done a lot: a lot of renovations, we've bought houses. We built some buildings for the tribe. I think people somehow convinced me to go into politics. Like, "You did this, you did that, we need someone to help us in the tribe." So I think the influence of the tribal members, having worked on the housing, with all the good things that we accomplished, people wanted me to take that further into the tribal side of politics.

So I finally ran. I was young then. Some people have said, "Wait until you're a little older, a little mature, and when the time is right." I tried to apply twice before and couldn't vote. For some political reason some people didn't want him to go to the polls because I think some people thought he could win and would win if he went to the polls. So I was pretty much left out of the survey. When I had the opportunity to run, I ran for representative to the district legislature in Cheyenne Arapaho District 3 in my area. I've won. I was elected speaker for the remainder of the legislature. I was President of the Legislature for two years. But two years into my term, the government appeared. I found it. We won. And I recently ran for my second term and won last November. So we were very successful.

She and Lieutenant Governor Gib Miles were recently re-elected in the November general election. In the October primary, Cheyenne and Arapaho citizens voted to reduce blood count requirements from one quarter to one eighth. What kind of changes has the tribe seen or hopes to see since the referendum?

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This has been discussed for 20 or 25 years. Even 20 years ago, when people were talking about it, many were still against it. They did not want any lesser services or a part of the casino profits. So he was always against it. I think a lot of older people died in the younger generation with children with a quarter of blood or less. They showed up and went, voted and agreed, but it was going to end like this. According to tribal records, most were quarters of blood, which was our amount of blood. I think this headquarters wanted their children or grandchildren to participate. So eventually it would pass.

On December 1 we start accepting applications for applications that do some due diligence and verify that they have enough blood, their parents are tribal, or have some sort of 8th grade test. So you will go through these apps patiently. I hope that in the next two to three years we can have another 3,000 to 6,000 tribal members on our roster, maybe even more. There are many people out there who were not only born at the age of eight, but are already adults. There are already adults who want to change their citizenship from a tribe to the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribes.

Given that the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribes are two distinct tribes with their own individual histories, do you think the issue of blood quantity is more sensitive within the tribe?

I think it comes down to the pride of heritage of some of the older people. There are some people in the tribe who wanted the amount of blood to stay because they thought that if we open it, our future tribesmen might not look like our previous generations. And they didn't want to accept that. But times change, things change. Philosophies change with the tribe. The perspective changes. At some point, the majority, which would be quarters or halves, would have something to say. I don't necessarily think the Cheyenne or Arapaho see this as a Cheyenne-Arapaho blood issue. They consider it a membership issue. Most of the younger people, the millennials, the generation X, I don't think they care too much which tribe you belong to, whether you're a Cheyenne or an Arapaho, because a lot of the tribesmen are part Cheyenne and part Arapaho. You manage to split both bloods to form an eight. You don't have to be just an eighth Arapaho or an eighth Cheyenne. You start splitting that blood to become an eight. I think a lot of people saw it as if we were diluting the blood by a small eighth.

Twenty years ago I would have told people that one day this would change. That day has come. As these years go on, you'll see more and more people make up an eighth or a quarter of our tribal membership rolls. Because we can't get married. We have to go out and out and find other tribal members or other non-Native Americans to marry because we are all going to be related to each other in some way to that degree. It was probably the time an eighth came in. Happened. If we did it next year or two or three years later, it would probably go even further. But it came. The day came when the amount of blood would be opened.

noSovereignty Symposium, You mentioned that the tribe would like to buy land in Colorado, where the Cheyenne tribe originated. Given the expected increase in enrollment, is land expansion something the tribe is looking for?

Yes, in the elections we had, we left many things on hold until we know if we will be re-elected. We were originally in the Rocky Mountains, like I said, in Denver. When the gold was found, we were quite a ways from that area. And part of the goal is to go back to Colorado and buy land and build a resource center or economic development. We have tribal members up there who would like to see some services move to that area. I think we have the right, and as part of our historic area there, Colorado and Denver, to try to do this.

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As governor of a sovereign tribal nation whose territory is not directly related to the Supreme Court's decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, what positive impact do you think the decision will have on citizens? What concerns do you have?

I think they have recognized the fact that the issue of trust has not been eliminated. It was based on tribes and contracts; this is how they arrived at the McGirt decision. But I think just the recognition, that could have opened up other areas that said Congress is ratifying treaties, but some treaties haven't eliminated that land issue or that trust issue.

So I think a lot of tribes will see something like this. As far as the tribes are concerned, it was a positive decision to say, "Hey, there may be other issues that have never been investigated." Because, you know, we all think that things have been analyzed, condensed, and analyzed. But that just goes to show that there could be other issues. I think it was good to recognize that there are still some fundamental issues in the Indian country that may have been overlooked. But we are not part of the McGirt decision. We are in western Oklahoma. He affected the eastern tribes on this side. The state and the tribes are discussing how to deal with it.

His tribe's economy has grown significantly in the last 20 years. What led to this, and what are the current benefits and challenges that might not have existed a few decades ago?

Well, of course, the arrival of the casinos. We have six casinos. I would say we did well. We provide services. In the early 1990s, before the arrival of casinos, we had 70% unemployment. So what has definitely changed is that there is now an income in the family. Unemployment fell dramatically. Instead of 100 people lining up for one job, you can have 10 jobs for one person. So that ratio has gone from being unemployed to being unemployed, people with household income, where they were reliant on government support, whether it was food stamps or some kind of monthly government support. So I think we've gotten a lot of people off the government aid lists. Lots of people got jobs. Many people can support their families. They can buy houses, they can buy cars. So overall, I think we're not only providing more services and helping our seniors, but we're also boosting the Oklahoma economy. Once you get families out to buy cars, hire people, buy houses, buy furniture, all these durable goods, all these services, whether it's food or gas or whatever, we're more stuck Money in the economy for people People keep their jobs outside of casino jobs. So it's definitely changed.

I remember that in the 90s our budgets were minimal. Now our budgets are in the millions. We managed to care for the elderly and help provide good nutrition and health care. The longevity of our tribesmen has probably increased from three to five years simply because they are a little easier to live with than they were in the 1980s and early 1990s, tribes in positions they probably never would have had without them.

Many people have difficulty distinguishing between the situations faced by different tribes. What should Oklahomans know about Cheyenne and Arapaho specifically? What do you want people to understand about your tribe and the larger tribes here in Oklahoma?

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Our tribe still has a real cultural base. We still have our ceremonies. We still have our cultural events and we still live our traditions. This is something that some tribes do not usually do, and mainly due to the location. Some of the tribes are more successful because they are close to larger population bases. But I feel like our tribe still has a lot of heritage and still does a lot of the same cultural and ceremonial events that we've done in the last 100 years. One of the things that people need to understand is that although we have managed to penetrate society, we have preserved our culture, heritage and ceremonies. But you know, we still have work to do to keep that going, but we're still doing it. But we also need our youth to help move this forward.

If you had to compete in a sport or game for $1 million, what competitive activity would you choose?

Well, if I was 6'4″, I'd probably play basketball. I love sports in general. My first love was soccer. I liked improvised games, basketball. I played golf. I played checkers. I played chess. I mean, whatever, I'll play. I will do it. And I think that's always been my competitive nature. I mean I loved soccer. I thought, you know, like any kid, I wanted to be a professional soccer player. I also like basketball. I ran cross country. This requires a bit of effort, especially when you have to compete against a lot of people. But I like everything. I like all sports.

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Is blood quantum still a thing? ›

Many Native American tribes continue to employ blood quantum in current tribal laws to determine who is eligible for membership or citizenship in the tribe or Native American nation.

What is the point of blood quantum? ›

Blood Quantum is a strategy used by the government and tribes to authenticate the amount of “Native blood” a person has by tracing individual and group ancestry. The amount a person has is measured in fractions, such as ¼ or ½.

Who invented blood quantum? ›

The idea of blood quantum was first introduced in 1705 by the Colony of Virginia, which adopted the “Indian Blood law.” This law was used to reduce the civil rights of Indigenous people with ½ or greater blood quantum.

What is the blood quantum for Cheyenne? ›

(b) Each person of ¼, or more, degree of blood of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, born after October 31, 1967, but prior to the effective date of the constitution and bylaws adopted in 1975, both of whose parents are members of the tribe.

How much money do you get for being Native American? ›

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) does not disburse cash to individuals, and contrary to popular belief, the U.S. government does not mail out basic assistance checks to people simply because they are Native American.

What do Native Americans think of blood quantum? ›

Some tribes and nations still use the blood quantum to determine enrollment, and their sovereign choice should be respected. However, many American Indians today agree that the blood quantum, regardless of how tribes and nations choose to use it, is simply not the defining factor that makes a person Native.

Do Native Americans pay taxes? ›

Members of a federally recognized Indian tribe are subject to federal income and employment tax and the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), like other United States citizens.

Are there any full blood Native Americans left? ›

Yes, there are many pure-blooded Native Americans in both North and South America. However, the vast majority of Native American cultures have disappeared. The largest number of pure-blooded Native Americans in the US can be found on the Navajo reservation.

What percentage do you have to be to be considered Cherokee? ›

To give you an example, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians requires a minimum of 1/16 degree of Cherokee Indian blood for tribal enrollment, while the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Higher Education Grant expects you to have a minimum of 1/4 Native American blood percentage.

Is blood quantum a myth? ›

(Ever heard a Navajo explain his or her clan relationships?) The myth of blood quantum is just that, a myth.

What blood type are Choctaw Indians? ›

Studies show some members of the Choctaw Tribe in Oklahoma have blood characteristics not found in any other part of the world. This discovery was made in 1997 at Oklahoma Blood Institute (OBI). The “type” or minor blood group is known scientifically as ENAV(MNS42).

What happens if you have Native American blood? ›

Having Native American ancestors or Indigenous American DNA does not make someone a Native American tribal citizen. There are differences between a person's genetic, political, and cultural identities. Native American tribal members are citizens of their nations.

Do Native Americans have the same blood type? ›

All major ABO blood alleles are found in most populations worldwide, whereas the majority of Native Americans are nearly exclusively in the O group.

What is the blood quantum for Cherokee? ›

For Cherokee Nation citizens, a blood quantum is computed from the nearest direct ancestor on the Dawes Rolls. Blood quantum listings on the Dawes Rolls of Cherokee Nation range from 4/4 down to 1/256.

What God did the Cheyenne worship? ›

Guardian Spirits: The Cheyenne Spiritual Beliefs

They also believe in two principal deities: The Wise One Above, a supreme being they call “Maheo,” and a god who lives beneath the ground.

Do Native Americans get checks every month? ›

The bottom line is Native Americans do not get automatic monthly or quarterly checks from the United States government. Maybe they should, and maybe one day they will, but at this time it is merely a myth.

Do Native Americans get extra benefits? ›

Q: Are American Indians and Alaska Natives eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits? A: Yes! American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) may be eligible for SSI and/or SSDI benefits if they meet the non-medical and medical eligibility requirements.

Why are Indian reservations so poor? ›

Because nearly all tribal land is managed by the federal government, everything that happens on Native American lands must wind its way through an arduous bureaucratic process. The tribes have little, if any control over those processes, which raises a substantial barrier to economic growth.

Who are Native Americans most genetically related to? ›

Genetically, Native Americans are most closely related to East Asians and Ancient North Eurasian. Native American genomes contain genetic signals from Western Eurasia due in part to their descent from a common Siberian population during the Upper Paleolithic period.

Can DNA testing tell if you are Native American? ›

Could A Blood or DNA Test Prove AI/AN Ancestry? Blood tests and DNA tests will not help an individual document his or her descent from a specific Federally recognized tribe or tribal community.

Do Native Americans have better genetics? ›

The Native American populations have lower genetic diversity and greater differentiation than populations from other continental regions.

Do Native Americans get Social Security? ›

Social Security programs support tribal communities through retirement, disability, and survivors benefits; providing a safety net for workers and their families.

Are Native Americans Poor or rich? ›

Based on the data from the 2018 US Census cited by Poverty USA, Native Americans have the highest poverty rate among all minority groups. The national poverty rate for Native Americans was 25.4%, while Black or African American poverty rate was 20.8%. Among Hispanics, the national poverty rate was 17.6%.

Can a non Native American join a tribe? ›

Every tribe has its own membership criteria; some go on blood quantum, others on descent, but whatever the criteria for "percentage Indian" it is the tribe's enrollment office that has final say on whether a person may be a member. Anyone can claim Indian heritage, but only the tribe can grant official membership.

What state has most Indian tribes? ›

Though Alaska is home to nearly half of the country's 574 federally recognized tribes, the Last Frontier is home to just one reservation. Nearly one in six Alaskans is Native American, the highest proportion of any U.S. state.

What do Native Americans prefer to be called? ›

The consensus, however, is that whenever possible, Native people prefer to be called by their specific tribal name. In the United States, Native American has been widely used but is falling out of favor with some groups, and the terms American Indian or Indigenous American are preferred by many Native people.

Which state has the most Native Americans? ›

Alaska, Oklahoma and New Mexico have the highest population share of American Indians and Alaska Natives, according to new census figures. Nov. 26, 2021, at 7:30 a.m.

How tall was the average Cherokee Indian? ›

The average height of all adult men in these tribes was 172.6 cm, placing them at the top of the world's height distribution. They were 1 to 2 cm taller than American soldiers, 3 to 11 cm taller than Europeans, and slightly taller than Australians.

How do I prove my Cherokee bloodline? ›

When establishing descent from an Indian tribe for membership and enrollment purposes, the individual must provide genealogical documentation. The documentation must prove that the individual lineally descends from an ancestor who was a member of the federally recognized tribe from which the individual claims descent.

What do the Cherokee prefer to be called? ›

According to the Cherokee Nation, the Cherokee refer to themselves as “Aniyvwiya” meaning the “Real People” or the “Anigaduwagi” or the Kituwah people.

How much Native American do you have to be to be considered Native American? ›

The Bureau of Indian Affairs uses a blood quantum definition—generally one-fourth Native American blood—and/or tribal membership to recognize an individual as Native American.

Do all tribes require blood quantum? ›

Many Native tribes adopted the same criteria used by the federal government, leading the majority of tribes to have a blood quantum requirement.

How much money do you get for being Choctaw Indian? ›

All Choctaw members aged 18 and older can receive $1,000 annually for two years starting next month, while those younger than 18 can receive an annual payment of $700 for two years, according to a press release. Recipients must apply for the payments and attest they were negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

What is the oldest blood type in the world? ›

The oldest of the blood types, Type O traces as far back as the human race itself. With primal origins based in the survival and expansion of humans and their ascent to the top of the food chain, it's no wonder Blood Type O genetic traits include exceptional strength, a lean physique and a productive mind.

What is the golden blood type? ›

One of the world's rarest blood types is one named Rh-null. This blood type is distinct from Rh negative since it has none of the Rh antigens at all. There are less than 50 people who have this blood type. It is sometimes called “golden blood.”

What blood type are Navajo? ›

Blood and Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA)

The results found the O blood type at “unusually high” frequencies in Navajo people, about twice as high as other ethnic populations.

How many generations does it take to get Indian status? ›

After two consecutive generations of parents who do not have Indian status (non-Indians), the third generation is no longer entitled to registration.

Why do so many people have Cherokee blood? ›

The tradition of claiming a Cherokee ancestor continues into the present. Today, more Americans claim descent from at least one Cherokee ancestor than any other Native American group. Across the United States, Americans tell and retell stories of long-lost Cherokee ancestors.

Which blood type is not found in Native America? ›

The A allele apparently was absent among Central and South American Indians. The O blood type (usually resulting from the absence of both A and B alleles) is very common around the world.

What is the rarest blood type? ›

What's the rarest blood type? AB negative is the rarest of the eight main blood types - just 1% of our donors have it. Despite being rare, demand for AB negative blood is low and we don't struggle to find donors with AB negative blood. However, some blood types are both rare and in demand.

What ethnicity is B negative blood? ›

Distribution of blood types in the United States as of 2021, by ethnicity
African American47%1%
Oct 14, 2021

What DNA do Cherokee Indians have? ›

The Cherokees tested had high levels of DNA test markers associated with the Berbers, native Egyptians, Turks, Lebanese, Hebrews and Mesopotamians. Genetically, they are more Jewish than the typical American Jew of European ancestry.

Do Cherokee Indians get benefits? ›

Like the members of other Native American tribes, Cherokees have access to free health care at tribe-run clinics and hospitals. Prescription drugs, eyeglasses, and hospitalizations are all covered under this system, which the tribe operates with funding from the federal Indian Health Services.

What does an owl mean to the Cheyenne? ›

Tribes such as the Lakota, Omaha, Cheyenne, Fox, Ojibwa, Menominee, Cherokee, and Creek consider owls to be either an embodied spirit of the dead or associated with a spirit in some way. In some cases, the appearance of an owl, especially during the day, may be a harbinger of death.

Are Cheyenne and Lakota the same? ›

No, the Cheyenne and the Lakota are not the same. The Lakota are a Sioux people. They are one of the two main branches of the Sioux. The spoke a Siouan-language like the Dakota, Quapaw, and the Catawba of the east coast of the present-day United States.

What are 3 interesting facts about the Cheyenne tribe? ›

The Cheyenne of the Great Plains got most of their food from hunting buffalo. The Cheyenne lived over a vast area of the Great Plains. They were divided up into 10 bands. The main governing body of the Cheyenne was the Council of Forty-Four.

How do you get a blood quantum? ›

Calculating blood quantum involves dividing an individual's parents' combined degree of “Indian blood” in half. For example, if one parent has 1⁄4 “Indian blood” and the other has 1⁄2, their children will have 3⁄8 blood quantum.

Is blood quantum still used in Canada? ›

References to Indian blood quantum have never been used by the Canadian Federal Government, although references to Indian blood appeared in the first attempt to define Indians in the 1850 predecessor to the Indian Act and were not removed from the Act until 1951”.

How much money do you get for being Chickasaw Indian? ›

Following submission of an application to the EACH program, citizens can expect delivery of a $2,000 by U.S. mail within 14 days. “It's important Chickasaws know that eligibility for this program is wide-ranging,” Lt. Gov. Chris Anoatubby said.

What is Hawaiian blood quantum? ›

You must be a native Hawaiian, defined as “any descendant of not less than one-half part of the blood of the races inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands previous to 1778.” This means you must have a blood quantum of at least 50 percent Hawaiian. This requirement remains unchanged since the HHCA's passage in 1921.

Do natives pay taxes in Canada? ›

Indigenous peoples are subject to the same tax rules as any other resident in Canada unless their income is eligible for the tax exemption under section 87 of the Indian Act. We want you to be aware of the benefits, credits and requirements that apply to you.

Can you get Indian status through marriage? ›

Indian women who married a non-Indian man no longer lost their Indian status. Indian women who had previously lost their status through marriage to a non-Indian man became eligible to apply for reinstatement, as did their children.


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