Ancestry may be a very important part of people’s lives, but for Native Americans in particular, their bloodline is part of how they are defined.
The blood quantum system exists in the Native American community, where people must trace themselves to a specific tribe and prove their native ancestry in order to get most benefits and to enroll in their respective tribe.
“Blood quantum is thinning out and some people want this issue to be thrown out altogether,” said Seraphina Wall, assistant director of Native American Student Services.
Wall said being a part of a tribe is unique, but they are losing their culture and language because tribes are getting smaller. If the blood quantum system were thrown out, their culture would diminish, she said.
NASS, along with other advocacy offices, held a student panel Monday that addressed the question “What is Race?”
Wall said the panel was set up for students to discuss and share their opinions about multiculturalism and the struggles they face with trying to fit into today’s society.
“It’s not only important to figure out where you come from, but to be aware and have respect for other cultures,” Wall said.
The six panelists consisted of students from many backgrounds – not just Native American – including some who identify with multiple races. Some panelists expressed uneasy feelings of culture shock when first arriving on CSU’s mostly Caucasian campus.
The topic also shifted to how minorities must choose a category and “check one box,” even when they identify with multiple ethnicities.
Andrew Hubble, a senior wildlife biology major, participated in the dialogue between the panel and audience. He wanted to express his opinion about being categorized and how “checking the box” may still be appropriate for now.
“I participated because I wanted to share my own experience,” said Hubble, a Shoshone Native American. “I wanted to see if I could help others understand the culture and even get enrolled in their tribe if they are helping out with the community and their culture.”
Students from El Centro, Black Student Services and the Business Diversity and Leadership Alliance participated as panelists and worked in collaboration with NASS.
Marcus Elliott, assistant director of BSS, said his organization felt there was a need for this discussion because the topic hits home for a lot of people. There is a need for more awareness about the issues minorities have to deal with, collectively, on a fairly frequent basis.
“This age group (18 to 23) is where you try to find yourself and try to identify with a category,” Elliott said. “It’s important for a person’s overall development going from childhood to adulthood.”
During the month of November, NASS, in collaboration with other advocacy offices, will be hosting numerous events in an effort to get the word out about Native American Awareness Month and to bridge the gap between cultures.
“We want people of privilege to have an understanding of their surroundings, including interactions with people who may not look like them or have the same culture and values, and embrace that rather than be afraid of those differences,” Elliott said.
Staff writer Stephanie Gerlach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.