Society for the Anthropology of North America
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Racializing Indigenous nations and their peoples has long legitimated Indigenous land dispossession and settler governance of what is now the United States. Race, quantified through the notion of blood quantum which conflates Indigenous political distinctiveness with a racial difference, is integral to the functioning of these law regulating Indigenous land management. In December 2018, Congress amended the 1947 Stigler Act to remove the ½ Native American blood quantum requirement to hold tribal allotment land for Oklahoma’s Five Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee Creek, Seminole). In its seventy-one years as active law, the Stigler Act contributed to individual Choctaw landholders losing access and claims to their lands and homes, especially when Indians with a ¼ Indian blood quantum who inherited their parents’ lands, their lands moved from federal, restricted title to taxable, county-administered fee simple. In June 2019, the Supreme Court will soon announce its decision on Murphy v. Carpenter, a case that has the potential to legally recategorize the Five Tribe’s treaty territories as reservation land. Federal law currently only recognizes Indian nations’ courts’ jurisdiction as over legally recognized-Indians committing crimes on tribal land, underscoring the importance of who is classified racially as “Indian”. Such laws illustrate the importance of race and Indian access to land titling. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and archival research on land restrictions in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, this paper will examine how Indigenous nations’ racialization has dispossessed Choctaws of their land and curtailed Choctaw ability to govern their own territory and peoples.