Why Was Blood Quantum Part of ANCSA?
Blood quantum first originated in the United States in the early 1700s in the Colony of Virginia, where it was used to limit the rights of anyone who was more than half Native. These measures were carried forward into the 19th and 20th centuries to limit the federal government’s treaty obligations to Natives. Tribes started using blood quantum in their enrollment requirements with the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Today, tribes throughout the Lower 48 and in Alaska, along with Alaska Native corporations, have a wide range of standards for who is considered “Native enough” to enroll or to be a shareholder. In the Lower 48, eligibility for benefits is also sometimes based on residency on tribal/reservation lands.
When the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was passed into law in 1971, it contained an eligibility standard of one-quarter Alaska Native blood quantum. Today, 10 of the 12 Alaska Native regional corporations maintain the requirement of one quarter or more Native blood quantum for enrollment, including Sealaska. ANCSA was amended in 1991 to allow shareholders of the corporations to determine for themselves what standards should be used to determine eligibility.
In 2007, Sealaska shareholders voted to open enrollment to descendants of original shareholders (those born after 1971) and people who were eligible but for a variety of reasons “left out” of the original enrollment process in 1971. However, the one quarter Native blood quantum requirement remained, and is still the requirement today.
Sealaska estimates that there are approximately 15,000 lineal descendants of original shareholders that are currently not qualified to enroll as descendants.