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Blood Quantum: A Question of Preservation

For much of American history, blood quantum, a legal measurement of heritage, has determined rights and privileges of minority citizens.

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For much of American history, blood quantum, a legal measurement of heritage, has determined rights and privileges of minority citizens. It may sound archaic, but many Native American tribes still determine membership based on blood quantum. This because unlike other ethnic groups in the United States, American Indian tribes are considered sovereign nations and the US government requires proo…

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Photo Library of Congress

Photo Library of Congress

For much of American history, blood quantum, a legal measurement of heritage, has determined rights and privileges of minority citizens. It may sound archaic, but many Native American tribes still determine membership based on blood quantum. This because unlike other ethnic groups in the United States, American Indian tribes are considered sovereign nations and the US government requires proof that one is a member of those tribes before one can legally be considered Indian. The history of blood quantum in the Native American community is long and complex, and still sparks controversy, especially because of its continued usage. There are many reasons why blood quantum is still a part of Indian life, but recent signs show there is both a willingness and a desire to put an end to it usage. 

A Brief History of Blood Quantum

Blood Quantum started in England as a way to determine inheritance. Before the laws of primogeniture–where the oldest surviving male son inherited everything by default–all surviving relatives inherited property according to the strength of their familial relationship. For example, a wealthy baron might have children with his wife as well as illegitimate children and half-siblings, all of whom would have a claim to portions of his estate. 

When English settlers colonized the New World, they brought blood quantum laws and used them to determine land and legal rights of Native Americans and slaves or former slaves. The first blood quantum laws in the US date from the early 18th century. However, blood quantum was not applied unilaterally in colonial America–important to note for the very fact that it was applied unilaterally in the 20th century. 

Instead, as with cases of inheritance in England, blood quantum was a tool used to determine the application of special laws regarding Indians (ability to sign contracts, receive state support and the like) on a case-by-case basis in a court of law. That’s not to say the laws themselves were fair, just that blood quantum was only an issue when these legal matters came into question. “Blood,” or how many of the individual’s ancestors were Indian, sometimes was ruled insignificant in the face of cultural association–in Inhabitants of Andover v. Inhabitants of Canton in 1816, the court ruled that though a woman didn’t have any Indian blood, culturally she was an Indian because she grew up with her tribe. 

Blood quantum was also applied when the US government signed treaties with Indian tribes to determine land rights and legal benefits–not tribal membership–and the Indians defined themselves as either “full-blood” or “mixed-blood.” The federal courts hesitated to apply blood quantum unilaterally because it was clear the Indian definitions of mixed-race were different from tribe to tribe and didn’t conform to the US government’s.

All that changed after the conclusion of the Indian Wars (which saw skirmishes as late as the 1920s but were effectively over after the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890). Indian who were moved onto reservations and were dependent on the government had their legal rights determined by blood quantum. The more “white” one’s blood was, the more legal rights one could claim. Rights like signing or witnessing contracts were denied to full-blooded Indians because they were wards of the government and therefore not considered competent. In effect, full-blooded Indians were considered children under the law.

Because most Indians in the late-19th and early-20th century weren’t allowed to sign contracts, they couldn’t sell the land the government gave them after the Indian Wars. But after several years, the government wanted that land opened up for possible sale. Not just because the land might then open up for white development, but because as fully competent owners of the land, American Indians would also have to pay taxes on it. Congress’ solution, first applied to the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma, was to break the land up into allotments, assign the allotments to individual members of the tribe, and then use blood quantum to declare American Indians either mixed-blood or not Indian, thus opening up their allotments for sale. 

How did Congress determine who was and wasn’t “Indian”? By using the blood quantum declarations in 19th-century treaties as well as anthropologists to study individuals’ facial features to determine their race. Not surprisingly, these measures dramatically reduced the population of the Native community. At the White Earth Reservation, for example, the number of registered full-blooded Indians went from more than 5,000 to 126.

Congress had an even greater purpose than opening up land, however. It should be noted that American Indians weren’t the only minority who faced blood quantum laws at this time–in the South there was the “one drop” rule, which meant that a person with one drop of African blood was considered black. Compare that to American Indian blood quantum, which fractured an individual’s racial he…

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Last Half

Rock Art of the Purgatoire Canyon

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Despite the permanency the name implies, rock art has an unexpectedly ephemeral nature. It doesn’t announce itself but creeps up on you, appearing in places you’d least expect like the footprints of someone who’s passed before you. It is this very transitory nature of rock art that makes it both fascinating and extremely difficult to und…

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Where

 


Despite the permanency the name implies, rock art has an unexpectedly ephemeral nature. It doesn’t announce itself but creeps up on you, appearing in places you’d least expect like the footprints of someone who’s passed before you. It is this very transitory nature of rock art that makes it both fascinating and extremely difficult to understand. Because of the large and unique collection of petroglyphs and rock structures in Southern Colorado, archaeologists in our area may one day be able to shed a little light on the meaning of rock art images all over the world.

The Picket Wire, or Purgatoire, Canyon area just south of Lamar has a large and well-preserved concentration of rock art that archaeologist Lawrence Loendorf of the University of New Mexico predicts will “be the key to understanding North American rock art.” The Purgatoire River running through the canyon is one of many tributaries that make up the Lower Arkansas River Valley, an area which extends through the southeastern corner of Colorado and into the Oklahoma Panhandle and Northwest Texas. This area has the highest concentration of rock art in North America and a cultural history going back tens of thousands of years.

Walking into the Purgatoire Canyon is like walking back in time. The canyon is huge—wide enough to be seen from space—and blanketed with long, savannah-like grasses, intersected by tall cottonwoods and tamarisk that line the river. On either side, the valley walls rise up and branch off into smaller canyons that remain largely unexplored. The canyon walls themselves are dotted with junipers and basalt boulders that run all the way down to the river bed like toys scattered in a child’s playroom. Considering that less than a century and a half ago the canyon had the humid, fertile environment of a rain forest, it’s not difficult to imagine the attraction of the oasis-like valley to settlers throughout history, from the Folsom Man to Spanish colonists.

And the rock art is everywhere: pieces chipped off from boulders litter the trail, and every rock seems to have some sort of petroglyph, although not in the most obvious places one would look.

Something that becomes immediately apparent when searching for rock art is how much seeing it depends on luck and subjectivity, even when the area is rich in petroglyphs. As Loendorf put it in his study of the Purgatoire Canyon, A Manual for Rock Art Documentation,

“ … in practice it can be very difficult to decide if marks on a rock are the result of a tree limb blowing against the surface or the product of a human artist. It can be equally difficult to decide if a series of marks is purposeful, not fortuitous.” He also points out that finding rock art can depend largely on such changeable conditions as lighting and recent rains.

Loendorf has been studying the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, or PCMS, since 1989 and is the world’s foremost expert on petroglyphs in Southern Colorado. The PCMS itself is not part of the Purgatoire Canyon, but borders the northeast side of it.

According to Loendorf there are three major types of rock art in the area: biographic, which are incised scenes of warfare similar to ledger drawings and buffalo skin paintings; visionary and shamanistic images like handprints, which are the most common images in the PCMS; and what Loendorf refers to as “doodles,” or very abstract shapes such as squiggly lines and spirals.

These types of petroglyphs are not unique to Colorado. Handprint petroglyphs can be found all over the world; and when seen in conjunction with human figures they are believed to be a sign that the art is shamanistic in purpose, as if the print is capturing the artist’s soul. Spirals or concentric circles are also a worldwide phenomenon. In the Southwest they are often associated with shields, but are sometimes also connected to astronomy.

That being said, there are certain types of rock art that can only be found in the Purgatoire Canyon and PCMS site. These petroglyphs are anthropomorphs or quadruped figures who face the viewer and have knobby knees and digitate hands. They were created by the mysterious Apishapa (also spelled Apishipa) Culture, a group unique to Southern Colorado who inhabited the Lower Arkansas River Valley between 2,000 and 500 years ago. They’re mostly known for building rock structures like the “Stonehenge” type ruins found in the Apishapa State Wildlife Area, about 20 miles east of Walsenburg. But there are also examples of their rock structures in the PCMS and Purgatoire Canyon.

Unlike other inhabitants of North Ameri…

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Last Half

Ice Blocking

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With the stress of several fires, all dry desert heat, and rainless days, I know I’m looking for unique ways to stay cool and calm.

Since it’s not ideal to travel three hours to the sand dunes so you can spend a day scooting down sandy hills on plastic sleds like you’re Matthew McConaughey in Sahara, I have …

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With the stress of several fires, all dry desert heat, and rainless days, I know I’m looking for unique ways to stay cool and calm.

Since it’s not ideal to travel three hours to the sand dunes so you can spend a day scooting down sandy hills on plastic sleds like you’re Matthew McConaughey in Sahara, I have a different method for you all. Instead, you can get a little wet, and certainly wild, with a slide down and cool down toward the end of a hot day. With what you ask? What else could you possible do to cool down besides sprinklers in your back yard, waterpark, or swimming pool? Ice Blocking of course, don’t worry I’ll tell you what the heck it is. Here’s what you do. First, this simple fun can be easily devised using two items:

-One 10 pound block of ice (can be found at King Soopers)

-And One kitchen towel to keep your tush somewhat dry (don’t be afraid to accessorize)

Second, find yourself a steep and grassy knoll (dirt does not work and you will hurt yourself), University Park in Pueblo is always a good choice, but any steep hill will do. Next, place your towel over your block of ice, situate yourself as comfortably on your ice as you can, have your friends give you a little push and… Geronimo! You’ll slide down that hill faster th…

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Last Half

Art Coup in Cañon

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Through the lightly Juniper specked cliffs cupping the slight winding roads, you can take a slow drive past the quiet residences of small towns that don’t make it on the map.

Through the lightly Juniper specked cliffs cupping the slight winding roads, you can take a slow drive past the quiet residences of small towns that don’t make it on…

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Through the lightly Juniper specked cliffs cupping the slight winding roads, you can take a slow drive past the quiet residences of small towns that don’t make it on the map.

Through the lightly Juniper specked cliffs cupping the slight winding roads, you can take a slow drive past the quiet residences of small towns that don’t make it on the map. Drive a little further, you might find yourself cruising upstream to the rushing Arkansas River. You may even see a lonely rafter eager for some white water or an angler hungry for brown trout. Art is neither a rare spectacle. You can walk down main street and spot several art studios full of a life’s work, or you can see an artist diligently completing his oil painting halfway outside of his studio door. For some, not much is really happening in Canon City for the art community but recently the Fremont Center for the Arts scored a major coup by showing an internationally-known artist’s creations.

Thomas ‘The Painter of Light’ Kinkade’s, artwork made its appearance at the Fremont Center for the Arts in Canon City. Thomas Kinkade is the American artist known for his realistic and impressionistic paintings using three elements of light: water, sunlight, and artificial light. His purpose in painting was to simply paint with his heart. Although he never searched for fame in his work, he is the most sold artist in the country and became so reputable that his art is easily spotted in St. Jude Hospitals, The White House and even the Vatican. 

Garden of Prayer by Thomas Kinkade | Courtesy Fremont Center for the Arts

Garden of Prayer by Thomas Kinkade | Courtesy Fremont Center for the Arts

The FCA is a non-profit organization home to the local artists of Fremont County but also host to collections and exhibits of art ranging from Day of the Dead exhibits to the Splendor of Glass exhibits to Artist of the Tattooist. The FCA’s establishment is known to the art community, but to outsiders it merely appears to be an extension of the public library across the street. To discover that Kinkade is in Canon City is a stunning piece of news, so with all this excitement, many are left wondering, how does artwork of this caliber make its way to a small town?

Art centers are struggling and it …

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One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you can change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
Continue Reading

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you can change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.

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