As usual the topic of "full bloods" versus "mixed bloods" is disturbing. It is disturbing for a number of reasons the main one, to me, being that there are people alive today living on reserves who had no control over who their Ancestors slept with and yet we are holding them to an incredibly unreasonable expectation---that they should be held responsible for the marriage/procreation choices of their Ancestors and pay for these choices through social & thus political ostracism from their bands which translates into real disenfranchisement from legitimate claim to their Ancestral homelands.
Blood purity & the idea of race, for those of you who don't know, are European concepts. They were created by European men in order to justify the racial hierarchy they then used to justify the colonization and genocide of the indigenous people of the lands they invaded. It was intended to give them a moral and biological high ground, and is not grounded in any real biological truth.
The idea of first having "pure blood" is a fool's claim. Unless you were there for every single copulation of every single Ancestor you cannot make the claim of "blood purity". Indigenous people have been intermarrying for millennia---with other bands and other tribes. More recently, we have been intermarrying and procreating with non-indigenous people for several hundred years.
Traditional indigenous people do not have the concomitant European idea of "race" and "blood purity"; these ideas were imported into our communities since 1492 by the Europeans whose social organization with its strict pyramidical, nonegalitarian hierarchy required the creation of blood lines that would isolate social power to a few elitists. By making the claim that blood lines could be "pure" and then by restricting "breeding" to a select few and then backing that claim up at the point of a sword, they assured that their monopoly of socio-political power was entrenched into their cultural fabric.
The current individual sitting on the throne in Buckingham Palace did nothing to earn that position---she was born into it. In the traditional Cree way (I can only speak in specific terms about my own community) leadership is earned, not handed down. Those who demonstrate ability in leadership are recognized for it by a natural process of consensus---someone notices that a person is good at something, soon people start to come to that person for advice. Leadership that is handed down or hereditary is not so reliable in producing leadership that is effective, responsible, or knowledgeable and is less reliable in reflecting the consensus of the community. Of course, for many tribes, hereditary leadership can be dissipated & relocated to another individual when the heir-incumbent proves to be inept (there are precedents that have been set because tribal communities are traditionally not comprised of the rigid and fixed social norms that, say, European hierarchies commonly & historically have had). Not so with leadership passed through "blood lines" like with European forms of social organization.
Also in the Cree way all of us are related. The Plants are our First Ancestors. The Animals are our Cousins. All people, though not of our cultural group, are all children of the Mystery. We fight with each other as other Animals do, but we fight over things that are uniquely human like blood legitimacy and blood purity.
This is not because indigenous people created the idea of race but largely because of more recent definitions and concepts that we have allowed to colonize our communities and disrupt our traditional patterns of norms and values. That is, blood legitimacy was never an issue until there started to be a monetary and material consequence attached to it...things that, again, were imported into our communities by Europeans. Previous to this time, indigenous people all across Canada and all across Turtle Island, were intermarrying with each other as we have always done, as well as inter-"breeding" with non-ndgns people.
Some of this inter-"breeding" was taking place within the context of those Ancestors making conscious choices to marry white...making conscious choices to assimilate both culturally and biologically for their own reasons, some of which, i would venture to guess, were influenced by residential school experiences which taught some of them to internalize the hatred of the whiteman for ndgns people. Some no doubt saw it as a survival tactic for their children to be of bi-cultural backgrounds.
Some of this inter-"breeding" was the result of local customs in which it was not unheard of for women to marry non-ndgns fur trappers and traders for whatever political or social motivations. The fur trade saw a huge number of non-ndgns men inter-"breeding" with indigenous women....the descendants of which are considered either Metis or Aboriginal, depending on the course of their own local history and politics.
Some of it was no doubt forced upon indigenous women. And some of it was no doubt not given too much thought, certainly not the thought we now put into it.
I come from a multicultural family myself. On my mother's side (she comes from a rez in northern Manitoba) is my maternal grandfather who had an Anishinaabe mother and French father. His father was not in his life so he was raised by his mother along with his siblings up in northern Manitoba. My mosum grew up speaking Cree and Soto but not English--he didn't go to residential school and was not a Christian. My maternal grandmother was Swampy Cree (one of those so-called "full bloods") who spoke Cree, Soto and English and was a Christian/traditional mix of spirituality.
On my father's side (he is from a rez in southern Saskatchewan) is Plains Cree, Blackfoot, Lakota, Assiniboine and French. My mother spoke three languages (Cree, Soto and English) but my father only speaks English----both of them went to residential school. He for ten years and she only for several. I was raised with my siblings up north to think of ourselves as one hundred percent Swampy Cree, not Soto and not French and not Metis and not Blackfoot and not Assiniboine. I have cousins who "look like full bloods" but who are even less "pure" than me while in the same vein I have cousins who can pass for white but are culturally Cree---they think Cree, act Cree, sound Cree, speak Cree, live Cree.
According to the current European originated "blood quantum" standards for calculating "blood purity", I am 3/4 blood, or 75%, Aboriginal and according to my Band, I am 100% Cree.
According to these same standards my white-looking Cree-speaking cousins up north are less than "half breeds" and don't have status. Not because of my maternal kokum who married my maternal mosum who was bicultural and whose mother lost status because she had children with a whiteman, but because their mother, my aunt, married a whiteman and never bothered to try and get her status back which would have been gotten through her grandmother, my great grandmother.
Knowing how human beings are and how north my maternal side ranged in northern Manitoba I would not be surprised if I had Dene and/or Inuit somewhere in my family tree on my mom's side.
That being said, there are isolated communities still where there has not been that much intermixing with Europeans, if any. However, this is no longer the norm for the majority of our communities and the majority of us are products of our Ancestors' choices in bed partners, which included non-indigenous people.
I am of the mind that genetic variability is healthier for a species. Just look at how bottleneck societies can be crippled by the lack of genetic variability----in-"breeding" makes them weak, not strong. My Ancestors were strong, not weak---they did not fear inter-"breeding" because they knew that Cree is Cree.
I am also of the mind that blood doesn't mean much when that person's mind is colonized and they are more assimilated in terms of politics, culture and value systems than a "half-breed mutt" who speaks their own language, is loyal to the death to their First Nations people, has internalized the traditions and customs and value systems of their people and who are not trying to be white and who are not seeking validation from whites as I have seen many self-proclaimed "full bloods" do, "full bloods" who are Christian, speak English, aspire to walk like a whiteman and who internalize white ideas of race and racism.
Certainly there is something beautiful and meaningful worth passing on in terms of genetic legacy, but having indigenous DNA does not mean that child will automatically know her language or customs. She needs to be taught those things. And it is in the teaching of this knowledge by those who know where the true essence of indigenous culture lays. After all, it is in our languages, our value & belief systems, our spiritualities, our traditions and our cultures that much of our true identity is contained. Blood is only part of it...culture is where the meaningful lived differences are encapsulated.
Having said that, I think that there is a real threat to the dissolution of indigenous solidarity because of biocolonialism that needs to be discussed, not ignored. People are threatened by the mixing of nations. I am threatened by it, not because of DNA or genetics, but because of the way group loyalties work. Will our children who can pass for white do so because it is easier? Will they slip along, silently moving away from their Aboriginal communities because:
1.) those communities are punishing & rejecting them for what they look like something they had no control over and;
2.) because they find acceptance among whites who look like them?
Regardless of what these kids look like, they carry the blood and the genetic legacy of our Ancestors. They need to be embraced and taught to be full and contributing members of their tribal nations. We need to capture their hearts and minds so that when they grow into adults their loyalties will lie with us, and their beliefs and value systems will be indigenous, not western and not European.
And if there is any advantage to them being able to pass as white then they will more likely be to use that advantage to the best interests of their people....contributing in the way they can to all of our health; it is the traditional way.
Rejecting them because it was whim of the genetic draw that they were born with blue eyes or light skin or blond hair makes no sense when inside every single one of their blood cells and in every single strand of DNA & RNA they carry the SAME genetic code of the SAME Ancestors who lived here on Turtle Island 40, 000 years ago.
Rejecting them is rejecting the blood of our own Ancestors.