Gerzetich – Oneida Enrollment

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There’s actually two different kinds of enrollment. There’s tribal enrollment to be a member of the tribe. There’s the federal guidelines which require a person to have ¼ blood quantum. You have to have ¼ Native or Indian blood quantum in order to be an officially enrolled member of the Oneida tribe. And then tribes in general set their own rules for enrollment as well.

It just so happens that our tribe’s criteria to be enrolled is the same thing as the government’s. We require you to be ¼ blood quantum. So if you are ¼ Oneida, you are an enrolled member of our tribe. Being an enrolled member basically entitles you to all the different benefits and services that we provide here on the reservation. This [gets] back to gambling, gaming, casinos. Different tribes decide what they’re going to do with their gaming money, or gaming revenue. Some tribes decide to divide it up amongst their members. And they get paid what’s called per capita payments. Some per capita payments are pretty large, and they get them several times a year. What we do with our money here is we decided to put it back into our reservation and into our community. We fund things like—there was just a big debate last year with the President [Obama] trying to get [a] universal health care bill passed. We already have universal health care here. Any Oneida can go to our health center and be treated. If they can’t do it here they will refer you out to somewhere else, to someone who can get it done. That’s already here. All Oneidas have to do is go there, and they can get treated. We have a school system—K through 12—that we pay for with our gaming revenue. It pays for this museum. We also have a nursing home and programs for the elderly. We also buy a lot of houses that elderly and low income families can live in at a reduced rate. We have a police force. And there are several different things like that we put our money back into and we spend it on the tribe as a whole instead of dividing it up into payments like some other tribes do.

In order to have ¼ Oneida blood this means that one of your parents has to be 1/2 Oneida, which means that one of your grandparents has to be what is called a “Full Blood Oneida,” which makes really no sense to me, actually. I don’t know why they used blood. Blood is very European. The way we traditionally—we did not go by blood quantum. Having some type of magic or special blood. My blood is not different from anyone else’s. Having something intrinsic in your blood is an odd notion to us. We, the Iroquois or the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in general, have always adopted people into their tribe for probably 1,000s of years. Europeans even commented that when disease went through and wiped out many of our tribal members that we adopted members from other tribes to take their place. They estimate that even as much as 50% of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois were not actually Haudenosaunee or Iroquois. They were from different tribes that were adopted in. And once you were adopted in you became a member of that tribe or that nation. And that’s the way we looked at it. It had nothing to do with blood or who your parents were. It had everything to do with what was inside—the way you acted, and the way you behaved. Your actions dictated who you were. Now that this idea of blood quantum has been imposed on us, some people have adopted that. It makes no sense. There’s nothing intrinsically in some Oneidas’ blood that makes them Oneida, or not Oneida.

Production credits:

Executive Producer, Loretta Fowler
Assistant Producer, Brian Mornar

Production, Mike Media Group
Camera, Michael DiGioia
Video Editor, Kahrin Deines

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