Commentary Events ICRA Symposium Indigenous Law Opinion

Reflections: FedBar Indian Law Conference and ICRA Symposium

I attended the Federal Bar Association Annual Indian Law Conference. At the dinner reception, I was placed next a woman tribal leader. During our conversation, she asked where I was from and, when she found out that I attend UNM School of Law, if I had attended the 50th ICRA symposium. We then began a deep conversation about tribal membership. I think it is interesting that people outside of tribal communities ask me, how much Indian I am. I feel strange replying that I am full-blooded. To me the status of being full-blooded is not as significant as to who my clans are and who I am related to. The tribal leader and I lamented over how difficult it is to change the idea of blood quantum. It is understandable most changes to our tribes’ internal self-determination has created more challenges and limited our ability to enact our inherent sovereignty. The issue of blood quantum even affects issues of health. Some Navajo children living on the Navajo Nation do not qualify for Indian Health Services (IHS) because they do not meet the eligible blood quantum levels. To enroll for IHS services, an individual is required to present a Certificate of Indian Blood. This leaves a population of non-member reservation residents that do not have access to health services. Having a lack of access to resources creates gaps and vulnerable populations. Asking for change is a challenge but it is necessary.

By Ernestine Chaco, Staff

Ernestine is Diné (Navajo) from Tsé’íí’ahi (Standing Rock), N.M. She attended University of California-Davis School of Medicine and plans to be an emergency medicine physician. During her 4th year of medical school, she took a leave of absence to pursue her passion of understanding the intersection between Federal Indian Law and health issues at UNM School of Law. She is currently a second-year law student.  Ernestine holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from Swarthmore College and a Master’s Degree in Medical Sciences from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.


Indian Blood: A Presentation

On November 8, 2017 the UNM Native American Law Student Association, in collaboration with the State Bar of New Mexico Indian Law Section, hosted a lecture titled “Indian Blood.”  The event–covering a very important and often controversial issue–received overwhelming attention throughout the state and beyond.  The lecture was well attended, filling the largest UNM Law School lecture hall to capacity.   Tribal leaders, tribal members, UNM School of Law students and alumni, and many interested community members gathered for an evening of education and dinner.  The speakers covered topics including the history of blood quantum in Indian communities, the effects of blood quantum on individual identity and belonging within a tribal community, and the impacts on a community divided by opposing viewpoints.

In order to set the stage for such a controversial and often emotion topic, the lecture began with a prayer by Governor Benavidez from Pueblo of Isleta, and a prayer was also offered by Chad Abeita (2L UNM School of Law Student – Navajo) before the meal.

Audience members, all affected in their own way by Indian Blood and blood quantum issues appeared to be grateful to listen and learn from some of the experts in the field and to hear how one community member experienced blood quantum membership changes first hand.

If you would like to view a recording of the event, please follow this link:

By Roshanna Toya

Roshanna Toya is from Pueblo of Isleta.  She is a second-year student at UNM School of Law pursuing a juris doctorate and a certificate in Indian Law.

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