MN Chippewa Tribe votes to end blood requirement for members

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe has voted to remove a decades-old requirement that members have a minimum of 25% Chippewa blood.

Officials say 65% of voters on an advisory referendum say the blood quantum requirement should be removed from membership in the six-reservation tribe. The referendum is a guide for tribal leaders who will now decide whether to ask voters to amend the tribe’s constitution.

The majority of voters say each reservation — Fond du Lac, Mille Lacs, Bois Forte, Grand Portage, White Earth and Leech Lake — should be allowed to determine its own enrollment requirements, the Star Tribune reported.

“It’s really very emotional,” said Fond du Lac citizen Cheryl Edwards who is part of the tribe’s constitution reform group. Edwards said the results put the tribe a step closer to restoring treaty rights to non-enrolled descendants who can hunt, fish and gather only until they turn 18. It’s a group that has included her children and grandchildren.

The blood quantum requirement has caused the tribe’s enrollment to shrink with many children not considered members despite having a parent who is. About 15% of the tribe’s roughly 39,000 citizens are under age 18.

“Traditionally, we have counted on our young people to provide those things our elders cannot,” she said. “We can’t all go out and get in the canoe and harvest the wild rice. … This will open their freedom.”

Those opposed to ending the requirement are concerned that accepting more members will use limited federal or casino-generated funds, or that more people taking advantage of treaty rights will make resources scarce.