Green Bay Press-Gazette
GREEN BAY − Dr. Lillie Rosa Minoka-Hill, one of the most celebrated Oneida community members from that tribe’s history, could not actually become an Oneida citizen because of the blood quantum requirement imposed by the U.S. government.
The book is a compilation of articles by Indigenous intellectuals examining the history and current use of blood quantum to determine tribal citizenship and why it’s a problem.
Hill was born in 1876 to a mother who was Mohawk, a tribe related culturally to Oneida, and became the second Indigenous woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree in 1899.
Six years later in 1905, Dr. Hill married an Oneida man, Charles Hill, and went to live with him on his farm on the Oneida Reservation just west of Green Bay, where they raised six children.
In 1916, she provided medical services to the Oneida community after her husband died and the reservation’s only physician, Dr. Josiah Powless, left to serve in World War I and died just five days before the peace armistice.
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Dr. Hill provided the services in her “kitchen clinic.”
In 1947, the Oneida Nation’s executive committee recognized Hill by adopting her as an honorary member. She was given the Oneida name “Youdagent,” meaning “she who carries aid.”
She had spent most of her life on the Oneida Reservation, was a descendant of a related tribe, married an Oneida man and was recognized as Oneida on social and cultural levels. Her children, grandchildren and other descendants were fully recognized as tribal citizens and the Hill family has continually held leadership positions within the tribe to this day.
But Dr. Lillie Rosa Minoka-Hill could not be a citizen, which would have allowed her to vote at tribal meetings or hold an elected position within the tribe. She was denied citizenship on the basis of blood quantum.
Blood quantum is based on a tribal enrollment policy that the federal government started imposing in the late 19th century in an effort to limit tribal enrollments. It examines the “Indian blood” of one’s parents.
Metoxen Kiel writes that Dr. Hill’s story embodies the dilemma that Indian Country is dealing with today when addressing blood quantum.
“Vexing as it is, the notion of ‘Indian blood’ is entangled with Indigenous life and nationhood as a result of settler colonial domination,” Metoxen Kiel writes. “Despite the many ways in which academic and popular discourse about race has gradually shifted away from biology and toward understanding race as a social construct, biological notions of race remain rigidly in place in Native America.”
More about blood quantum: Click here to read a companion to this article that further explains what blood quantum is and outlines some of the problems it’s causing in Indian Country, including a declining population among First Nations across the United States.
Frank Vaisvilas is a Report for America corps member who covers Native American issues in Wisconsin based at the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Contact him at email@example.com or 815-260-2262. Follow him on Twitter at @vaisvilas_frank.You can directly support his work with a tax-deductible donation online at GreenBayPressGazette.com/RFA or by check made out to The GroundTruth Project with subject line Report for America Green Bay Press Gazette Campaign. Address: The GroundTruth Project, Lockbox Services, 9450 SW Gemini Drive, PMB 46837, Beaverton, Oregon 97008-7105.
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