In the Spirit of Vine Deloria, Jr.: Indigenous Kinship Renewal and Relational Sovereignty

21 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2023 Last revised: 18 Jul 2023

Date Written: March 20, 2023


This essay heeds Vine Deloria, Jr.’s inspiring call for the renewal of Indigenous kinship tradition and counsels for the development of relational sovereignty. The first part deconstructs the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1978 landmark decision in Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez to expose its distinctly economic underpinnings. That case exemplifies a steady erosion of Indigenous reciprocity, and concurrent rise of tribal per-capitalism and neocolonialism. The second part suggests five actions that Native nations could take to restore inclusionary, duty-based kinship systems and rules. First, Native nations should replace blood quantum with alternative citizenship criteria rooted in traditional kinship principles. Second, Native nations should renew kinship terminology to eliminate neocolonial identifiers. Third, Native nations should outlaw disenrollment and bring their relatives home. Fourth, Native nations should lift enrollment moratoria and welcome their lost generations. Lastly, Native nations should—after pausing to understand the colonial legacy of federally sanctioned monetary distributions to tribal individuals—cease per capita payments and reinvest in community revitalization. By drawing on Indigenous traditions of reciprocity and shared destiny, Native nations should reconcile their peoples’ modern individual rights with their customary obligations and duties to one another. Through these strategies, Native nations can engage in a new paradigm of relational sovereignty, whereby Indigenous human existence is exalted and protected over individual power and profit.

Keywords: Vine Deloria Jr., Kinship, Indigenous, Post-Colonialism, neocolonialism

Suggested Citation

Galanda, Gabriel, In the Spirit of Vine Deloria, Jr.: Indigenous Kinship Renewal and Relational Sovereignty (March 20, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics