- Those Who Belong: Identity, Family, Blood, and Citizenship among the White Earth Anishinaabeg by Jill Doerfler
Chi-miigwech for the knowledge gifted in this book. I write this review from Nbisiing Anishnaabeg territory on the eastern side of the Great Lakes. Here I offer some reflections on what this book has taught me.
Rooted in the territory of the White Earth Nation (WEN), Those Who Belong is a history of the relationship between identity and citizenship that is deeply relevant to our understanding of the Indigenous past and contemporary conversations about belonging across Turtle Island (North America). Divided into three chapters, the book (re)stories the past from the Anishinaabe perspective. It maps Anishinaabe notions of identity, navigates the ways in which blood quantum designations came to be implemented, and supports Anishnaabe resurgence through a detailed discussion of the (re)creation of citizenship through the Constitution of the WEN in 2013.
Circling through time in her exploration and creation of aansookaanan (sacred stories) and dibaajimowinan (the stories of everyday life), Jill Doerfler examines “the multifaceted issue of citizenship among the Anishinaabeg of the White Earth Nation and the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT),” an umbrella tribal government formed in 1936 under the Indian Reorganization Act (xiii). Through the first two chapters, we learn how the WEN understood, practiced, and defended their own understanding of citizenship rooted in lineal descent and familial relationships against blood quantum designations. The words of elder William Bill Anywaush well-capture this understanding:
There was never in the past any mention of drawing any line; relationship was the only thing that was considered in the past. Even though the child had very little Indian blood, in considering relationship, he was still an Indian. One thing that these old folks over there urged me to do was to have mercy on my Indian people. Don’t ever, as long as you live, discriminate against your fellow Indians.(70) [End Page 156]
There is nothing Anishinaabe about blood quantum. Rather such requirements emerged in the early twentieth century through settler-state policies to steal land and resources and destroy Anishinaabe ways of life.
Even yet, the shift in tribal policy to include a one-quarter degree rule did not occur until 1961 when WEN, along with five other nations represented under the MCT, accepted it as the sole determinant of citizenship. They did so under considerable pressure and after years of defending their nation against policies passed by the United States Congress without consultation, most notably the Clapp Riders (1904 and 1906) to the 1887 Dawes Act, and reliance on highly suspect blood classification rolls gathered in 1910 and 1913 to define and control the number of indians (see xxiv for Doerfler’s use of this term). The consequences of the one-quarter rule were devastating: they divided families, forced people to leave traditional territory and deeply wounded relationships. Population studies conducted in 2012 revealed that based on the one-quarter degree rule by 2040 there would be no new citizens of WEN and by 2090 no one would qualify for citizenship — erasure, the ultimate goal of the colonial project.
Those Who Belong is first and foremost a gift to Doerfler’s community, particularly citizens of WEN who found themselves alienated after 1961. It honours principals of honesty and reciprocity by (re)storying the past from the Anishinaabe perspective. When we learn from scholarship such as this, we acknowledge as Linda Tuhiwai Smith and others have outlined so clearly, that history has power. We participate in decolonization. The last chapter and appendix, detail the work done to restore Anishinaabe determinants of citizenship through the 2013 Constitution of the WEN and MCT. The book honours the strength and perseverance of those who dove one after the other in search of stories through which to (re)build and (re)vitalize the Anishinaabe world. It gifts other Indigenous communities with a model for the writing of a constitution through consensus building. We can all be thankful that Doerfler realized her...