The legislation of identity: "I'll be damned if I let these people take my family's heritage away with the stroke of a pen"

Assimilation has been used as a tool by the federal government to further its colonial enterprise. Through assimilationist policies, the federal government gained land and resources from Indian people. The codification of a definition of "Indian" in the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) was intended to limit the number of people to whom the federal government owed a unique political and financial relationship. The application of a definition of "Indian," based on blood-quantum standards, was an attempt to assimilate Indian people out of their Indian identity and into mainstream society where they are not party to the federal relationship. The legislated definition, which differs from tribes' customs and values regarding membership, has had several effects. The definition has affected tribes' abilities to be fully self-determining and issues of "membership" have created divisions within tribes and among Indian people. This paper examines the history of blood-quantum definitions and the long-term effects of and reactions to those definitions within Indian communities.


Alison Meadow


Rob Williams





Arizona State Museum: 

M9791 M4151


AAT 1395268
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences