A Legal History of Blood Quantum in Federal Indian Law to 1935

50 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2007

See all articles by Paul Spruhan

Paul Spruhan

Navajo Nation Department of Justice


The paper traces the development of the use of blood quantum, or fractional amounts of Indian blood to define Indian in federal law up to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. The paper shows that blood quantum was not widely used in federal law until the twentieth century, as the branches of the federal government used matrilineal or patrilineal descent or tribal membership to define Indian, for various legal purposes, including during the allotment era of federal Indian policy. Ultimately, the paper concludes that the varied uses of blood quantum reflect the changing policies of the federal government towards Indians through time and the continued failure to resolve two interlocking foundational contradictions of Indian legal status: 1) Indian as race and as political group, and 2) Indian as sovereign and as ward.

Keywords: blood quantum, indian blood, indian law, native american law, federal indian law, legal history

Suggested Citation

Spruhan, Paul, A Legal History of Blood Quantum in Federal Indian Law to 1935. South Dakota Law Review, Vol. 51, No. 1, 2006, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=955032

Paul Spruhan (Contact Author)

Navajo Nation Department of Justice

Window Rock, AZ 86515
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics