A Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) or Alaska Native Blood is a federal document that certifies that an individual possesses a specific degree of blood of a federally recognized tribe, band, nation, pueblo, village, or community. Generally, the tribal rolls of federally recognized tribal nations are used to determine parental lineage and, therefore, blood quantum for Bureau of Indian Affairs-issued CDIBs. A CDIB is established through genealogical documents that verify ancestral bloodlines through one or both Native parents. Though possession of a CDIB does not establish membership in a tribe, some tribes do require a minimum degree of blood for both membership and/or access to benefits such as health care, education, and others. Membership rules vary from tribe to tribe. For example, in 1985, Congress passed the Quarter Blood Amendment Act that declared that Indian students must be at least one-quarter blood to receive financial support for higher education. A CDIB was the document used to establish eligibility.
The Ute tribe has the highest blood quantum requirement for membership (five eighths) whereas other tribes, such as the Western Cherokee, require only a traceable roll number. The most common blood quantum requirement by many tribes is one fourth.
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CDIBs are not without controversy. There is evidence that colonization initiated blood quantum in an effort to deny civil rights to “inferior persons” identified as “Negroes and Indians.” According to J. D. Forbes, many colonies used blood quantum to determine who should be afforded the “privileges of Whiteness.” Those with greater amounts of White ancestry were thought to be more competent than those with lesser amounts. A greater degree of White blood entitled an Indian citizen to greater privileges, such as the ability to buy and sell property and the right to vote. This literature suggests that it was believed by early colonists that Indian people would not sustain their culture, and the CDIB was one way to monitor how quickly the bloodline was assimilated into the majority culture. Controversy exists for other reasons as well:
- Census rolls of the 1800s and early 1900s are not always correct. If ancestors were not included in the original rolls, for whatever reason, it is impossible to accurately trace lineage.
- Because of the politics and privilege of the times, not all tribal people claimed Indian blood.
- Not all tribes are federally recognized and therefore not entitled to CDIBs or to the benefits that the CDIB may afford them even though they are indigenous people.
- Many Freedmen, or descendants of Black slaves “owned” by tribes, consider CDIBs to be racist and believe that the CDIB promotes discrimination. These Freedmen were often given tribal membership when freed but were not entitled to CDIBs because they did not possess an Indian bloodline. This situation resulted in Freedmen who were tribal members being excluded from any tribal rights.
- Finally, and the reason stated often, many people believe that no government agency has the right to determine who is and who is not Indian.
- Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), 25 CFR Part 70; RIN 1076-AD98. Certificate of Degree of Indian or Alaska Native Blood. Federal Register, April 18, 2000 (Vol. 65, No. 75).
- Forbes, J. D. (2000, November 27). Blood quantum: A relic of racism and termination [Native Voice column]. People’s Voice. Retrieved from http://www.weyanoke.org/reading/jdf-BloodQuantum.html