Jill Doerfler’s Those Who Belong did an excellent job at not only describing the constitutional process of the White Earth Anishinaabeg, but also at revealing the various ways that racialization, through blood quantum, has been weaponized for american purposes. She begins her book by exemplifying the insipid poison of blood quantum racialization by providing the statistic that by 2090, no one will qualify for citizenship within the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. This figure is not saying that there will be no Minnesota Chippewa, but rather that under blood quantum criteria, this is the purported future. Simply put, quantifying blood is the erasure of heritage in these circumstances. She traces blood quantum’s discursive power to the father of Eugenics, Francis Galton and his thesis of fractional inheritance, in which he hypothesized that each person gets half of their hereditary endowment from each parent resulting in their particular characteristics. From here, she goes on to mention how blood quantum was used for the purposes of dispossession and disappearance all to the service of the american government. For example, when it came to the african americans, they utilized the one-drop rule which ultimately helped produce more slaves. However, when it came to the designation of native peoples, they made it the 1/4 rule which would make it more difficult to obtain the status of Indian.
After outlining this epistemological violence with real-life violent manifestations, she then goes on to discuss Anishanabeeg views of citizenship and belonging. Through various scribing through transcripts of meetings and court cases, she demonstrates that familial love and lineal descent were the most important factors of belonging to her people. She demonstrates constantly the rejection her people had to the enforcement of blood quantum, and back in the 1880s, her people were not fully able to even comprehend what they were discussing by “full blood” or “mixed blood.” This is what I mean by epistemological violence. The imposition of blood quantum resulted in violent attempts to Anishanabeeg epistemologies of what makes a person, a person.
Later on in her book, she describes the constitutional process held by her people. It is important to point out that the constitutional convention was open and that those who were not delegates were able to contribute, a point that many criticized Na’i Aupuni for and rightfully so. The fundamental shift back to lineal descent in the constitution is in Doerfler’s words, the creation of a new origin story. This constitution was inspiring not only for this purpose, but for some of the ideas that it allows such as having applicants to housing take language classes or having fluent speakers teach the language for a few hours as a prerequisite for their application. This is a resurgent move in the right direction when the constitution infuses the culture not in a tokenized way, but in a meaningful way that makes the culture integral and supplementary to the running of the government. While I found all of this to be impressive, I began to wonder about what is next after this constitution. She ends her book saying how this constitution is the launching point for so many possibilities, and I am extremely interested as to what has happened since the ratification of this constitution. What has it affected? Has it been able to change the power structure of colonialism? I ask this because I look back at my island and our fight for self-determination. After a Constitutional Convention which was convened with federal approval in 1977, delegates in Guåhan created a draft constitution. It was then approved by President Jimmy Carter, and went to a referendum vote by the people. The people overall rejected the constitution largely due to the push by PARA-PADA who rightfully pointed out that this document did nothing in regard to self-determination and did not address political status. Part of the stipulation of the federal approval for this convention was that the constitution created by the delegates would exist within federal-territorial relationships and recognize the sovereignty of the united states. I completely understand that Guåhan is an unincorporated territory and not a domestic dependent nation, but I wonder how going through the constitution process can be self-determining outside of this federal rec arena?