White Earth Band considers new constitution

Citizens of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe will vote on constitution reforms in a referendum planned for this summer.

The proposed new constitution includes a controversial provision that would change the requirement for tribal membership. Right now, people must have one-quarter Indian blood to be citizens of the tribe. The new constitution would use family lineage, where children and grandchildren of tribal members would be citizens, as well.

Tribal member Donald Vizenor says fewer and fewer people qualify for the one-quarter blood requirement, including people in his own family.

"I am the last one of our family. So as it is, when I pass on, if it stays the same as it is, my children, my grandchildren, their children, will not be any Native at all. There won't be any Natives left. I am the end of the line in our family," Vizenor said.

The proposed document also includes more checks and balances in the governance system, as well as term limits for elected officials.

"Independent court systems are absolutely necessary to economic development. Who's going to partner in with us when the court system is under the tribal council. Now, during my administration, we have stayed away from the court. But that's not a guarantee that another tribal leader will do the same," said Tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor.

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