Authenticity: Ethnic Indians, non-Indians and Reservation Indians


Authenticity is a puzzling feature of contemporary Indian life. Growing up on an Indian reservation, I rarely encountered challenges to one’s identity as an Indian person. People within the reservation community knew most of the families. If they didn’t know the family connections of a specific person they could learn with a few inquiries to elders or their own family members.

One grows up on a reservation community where there is an old and somewhat fixed family and kinship structure. There is very little doubt about who belongs and who does not, at least from a lineal descendent point of view. Tribal membership, because of blood quantum and other rules, may be more complicated and legalistic. A person whose family has lived within a tribal reservation community for as long as people can remember and who are legally tribal members usually do not encounter challenges to tribal identity from tribal community members...

Resource Type

Champagne, Duane. "Authenticity: Ethnic Indians, non-Indians and Reservation Indians." Indian Country Today Media Network. January 6, 2014. Opinion. (, accessed March 7, 2023)

Related Resources

Blood Quantum: A complicated system that determines tribal membership threatens the future of American Indians

Ryan Padraza Comes Last is a full-blooded Indian, Sioux and Cheyenne on his father's side and Assiniboine on his mother's. He will soon receive his Lakota name: "A Rope." (Comes Last raises rodeo horses and always has a rope in his right hand. He likes to call Ryan his "right-hand man.") But…

Indian Identity, Choice and Change: What Do You Choose?

Indigenous individuals and nations are faced with choices about identity, change and cultural continuity. The choices are not just mere faddish expressions but are deep decisions about culture, community, philosophy and personal and national futures. Many indigenous communities are divided over…

Native America Calling: Tribal Enrollment And Blood Quantum

Every tribe has its own rules for membership. Some tribes include lineal descent — proof that you descend from a recognized tribal member — while others have a blood quantum requirement that requires members possess a certain percentage of tribal blood. On White Earth, researchers found that the…