MN Chippewa Tribe Begins Lengthy Process to Change Blood Quantum Requirements

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On June 22, 2021, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Tribal Executive Committee (MCT TEC) held a special meeting on the Bois Forte Reservation to discuss enrollment issues, specifically, blood quantum requirements for enrollment as defined in the current constitution.

A motion was passed officially beginning the process of amending the MCT Constitution to allow each MCT Band to adopt their own enrollment eligibility criteria.

At the special TEC meeting, called for by MCT President Cathy Chavers (Bois Forte), tribal representatives heard perspectives from the constitutional delegates present and hosted discussion centered around changing enrollment criteria within the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Constitution.

Currently, the MCT Constitution requires that a person’s combined blood quantum from their parents must be at least 25% in order to be eligible for enrollment in an MCT Tribe. During the TEC meeting, a motion was made to begin a process that would allow MCT members to weigh in on whether the Constitution should be changed to allow each of the six Bands to adopt their own enrollment eligibility criteria, instead of being required to follow the 25% blood quantum. The motion was made and passed.

Essentially, the proposed referendum will determine whether MCT members are interested in changing the enrollment criteria for membership. Should the referendum pass, MCT members would then vote again in a future Secretarial Election on the actual language of the amendment to the MCT Constitution.

Under the proposal supported by Leech Lake, the enrollment criteria defined in Article II of the current MCT Constitution would be changed to allow the six sovereign Bands to individually determine tribal membership of their respective Band.

Following the meeting, the MCT released a memo on their website stating:

“It is important to be clear with our voters that participating in a referendum vote does not change the constitution. However, a referendum is the first step that will guide the TEC’s decision about whether to request a Secretarial Election about changing the constitution (by an amendment). A Secretarial Election is the only way to make this change under our current constitution. The results of a Secretarial Election can change the constitution if enough MCT members vote to pass an Amendment. Referendums and Secretarial Elections are distinct and defined in Article XIV: Referendum and Article XII: Amendment, of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Constitution. This will likely be a lengthy process and members should expect to receive more information about this topic in the future from their TEC members and the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe as we progress toward addressing membership and enrollment criteria together. “

Leech Lake Tribal Chairman Faron Jackson Sr. said this vote was a huge step forward for the TEC and looks forward to what it could mean for the Leech Lake Band.

“…If this vote passes we’re going to be able to distinguish our own membership on Leech Lake. The way our community wants it, the way our families, and relatives want it and we won’t be leaving any grandchildren behind any longer,” said Jackson.

The MCT TEC held their regular Quarterly Meeting on July 12th, 2021 at the Mille Lacs Grand Casino. Among the agenda items was a resolution drafted by MCT legal counsel pertaining to the ballot question for the referendum, which was presented as such to those in attendance:

Therefore be it resolved, that MCT TEC does hereby authorize a referendum to be conducted on the following question:

Should Article II of the Revised Constitution and Bylaws of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe be amended through a Secretarial Election to remove the current membership requirements, including the one quarter blood degree requirement, and replace such membership requirements with authorization to the individual Bands to establish Band specific membership requirements through Resolution or Ordinance.

Following a brief discussion on the language of the resolution, the TEC decided to send the resolution to the MCT Constitution Reform Committee for further revisions before being reconsidered for passage by the Tribal Executive Committee.

All of this comes after previous efforts to reform enrollment eligibility in the MCT have failed to take shape. Most recently in July 2017, the TEC voted to rescind a resolution which would have set the date for a Secretarial Election on blood quantum reform. At that time, the TEC voted instead to initiate the current Constitutional Reform process which was expected to address the enrollment issues through the implementation of a new constitution

The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT) consists of the Bois Forte, Fond Du Lac, Grand Portage, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, and White Earth reservations. The MCT was created in 1934 and formally recognized by the Secretary of the Interior in 1936. It serves as a centralized governing body for the six tribes, representing an estimated total population of 41,000 Ojibwe citizens.

The Tribal Executive Committee (TEC) is composed of the Chairman and Secretary-Treasurer from each of the six member bands. The TEC selects from within the group a President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer for two-year terms. The remaining officials act as board members. The TEC holds four quarterly meetings each year.

For more information on the MCT and previous meetings, please visit mnchippewatribe.org

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