Sunday, September 16, 2012

What's A BQ Nazi??

I’ve been speaking about Blood Roles on various blogs for the past month and one question that keeps coming up is that of blood quantum and exactly what a BQ Nazi is.  This week’s blog is going to address that a little bit.  At the heart of blood quantum, ultimately, is racism - not only by whites against Natives but by Natives against whites and Natives against Natives as well.  This is the underlying issue that Blood Roles addresses.

Many in Indian Country believe that Columbus created BQ. That he was damned and determined that he was going to “bleed out” their race. 

This is not true.  Not only because BQ’s documented beginnings are well into the 1700’s but because, frankly, I don’t think that Columbus, or any of his later contemporaries for that matter, were that smart.  They saw land they wanted so they took it by force.  No science or chemistry involved.

Just as many also believe that BQ was started in the late 1800's as a result of the Dawes Act. This is not true as well.  While the government made good use of BQ at that time, it wasn't exactly responsible for brainchilding it into reality.
BQ was actually started in 1705 in the Virginia colonies.  Its purpose was to limit the rights of Native American Indians of half or more Native ancestry.  BQ wasn’t applied as an umbrella term until the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.  At that time the government used it to establish which individuals could be recognized as Native and, in turn, be eligible for financial benefits under treaties or sales of land.   At that point in history there were roughly 450 federally recognized tribes and BQ was used heavily to determine who could be a federally recognized tribe and who couldn’t be.   Ironically, back then, BQ wasn’t the hard and fast rule breaker it is now – and it was the Natives that determined that, not whites or the government.

Fast forward to the 21st Century.  At this point tribes all over the country have determined their own rules for tribal membership and there’s no cut and dried determination. Every tribe is different. Some, like the Cherokee, have lowered their BQ requirements so as to welcome all who can prove their ancestry.  While others, like the Pechanga, use BQ to exclude people from tribal roles in order to increase their casino per cap.  Some of this is based upon greed, some of it is based upon blatant racism, either way it’s wrong because, in essence, they’re discriminating against their own people based upon a fictional practice that really has no merit.

My own experience with BQ is fairly recent – in the last five years I’ve actually learned exactly what it is, where it came from and the bitterness that has derived from it.  In spite of writing Native based romance for many years this was one factor I was not personally acquainted with. 
Let me share a little background here. Some people, of all races, are under the impression that those of us who write interacial romance have some sort of romantic notion of what it's like to be Native. 

I think I that can say with some authority that there are at least two of us that don't share that notion that some hot Native hunk is going to come riding up on a horse and grab some chick and make for his tipi for hot sex.  Kathleen Eagle certainly doesn't write to that end.  Mrs. Eagle taught and lived on the Standing Rock Reservation for many years.
The Lovely Kathleen Eagle & Her Hubby Clyde Eagle
(c) 2012 Kathleen Eagle
She's been married to her Lakota cowboy  hubby, Clyde, for over thirty years.  She, more than any other writer I know who writes Native romance, has an excellent grasp on what it is to live and function within the rez world. 

As for me, having studied with various tribes and written about them as well, I would like to think that I have a pretty good grasp on rez culture myself.  (If the reviews for Blood Roles thus far are to be believed, I nailed it pretty well.) I have always had an interest in Native culture - I grew up around Penobscots, Abanakis and Micmacs. My first friend in school was a fun little Native girl named Dee.  Back then she wasn't Native to me, her tribe didn't matter, I didn't even understand she was a Native American until many years later.  All that mattered was that she was my best friend and I thought she was great. 
Dee & I Circa 1973
As I grew older, I appreciated what I saw and what I learned and always felt that the culture deserved attention and the injustices that were so blatantly ignored needed to be brought to light - which is where my storylines came from.
The Hiawatha Asylum For Insane Indians
Never Heard About It? You Need To.
My friends and colleagues who were Native respected my work because it many times brought attention to issues they felt were often ignored.  I’d never had any problems, never was I treated differently because I was white or because I chose to write about Native life. I did my research and I did it well. I presented a world that others had been deprived of learning about in history class in school. I mistakenly believed that my reputation within that world was secure. Then I met my late husband and all of that changed.

We’ve all heard of those moments where one finds out who their true friends are. Well, this was one of those moments for me.  My husband belonged to numerous groups regarding Native issues and many was the time that arguments arose about Natives dating or marrying non-Natives.  Robert was Cheyenne/Lakota and a full blood.  He was also a person not opposed to dating or marrying non-Natives.  He used to like to say that when he lived in New York City he dated the United Nations roster.  Because of this mentality and because he embraced diversity while still making it a point to know his history and traditions he was many times a target for those who felt that Natives needed to stay ‘with their own kind’.  It didn’t matter what tribe anymore (which was actually rather comical because in the old days some tribes would have absolutely nothing to do with each other) as long as a mate wasn’t another color other than “tan”.  

It was during this period that the term “BQ Nazi” was coined.  There was a woman who had begun to harass Rob unmercifully because he was married to a white woman.  Every discussion ended with her chewing him out for “forsaking his People” and “not marrying a strong Indian woman so he could have Indian babies”.  The last part we found rather comical because I was done having children and Rob couldn’t have children.  He never revealed that save to close friends but it was a factor that made all her ranting and raving a bit humorous.  Still, her behavior had a dark side and the scary thing was she had people that backed her outrageous mentality.  One night, annoyed with her carrying on regarding “Natives need to only be with Natives” he called her a BQ Nazi. 

The term stuck and spread like wildfire.  Within a month it was all over the internet and surfacing throughout the reservations.  My husband was very proud of this accomplishment – one he didn’t even aim or try for. It just happened.  Now, he said, now there was another name for those people who hovered in the background, unwilling to socialize with non-Natives but more than willing to take their money in a business situation, unwilling to let other Natives be with who they loved without throwing very loud, very obnoxious tantrums about it, unwilling to leave the husbands, wives or significant others alone and pegging them for harassment, unwilling to embrace their own people if their BQ was lower than their desired limit.  Before it had been termed “lateral racism”, a term that was easily overlooked and lost in a flow of words within groups based around oral tradition.  BQ Nazi gave this practice not only a term but a title as well, one that was pretty hard to ignore. (I don't know about you but whenever I hear or see the word "nazi", I tend to do a doubletake, just to make sure I heard or saw what I thought I heard or saw).  

I lost friends and colleagues because I married Rob. And no, not the white friends and colleagues, they had no issues with Rob at all.  It was the Native “friends and colleagues” who, all of a sudden, had an issue with me for “breaking the rules” and marrying a Native.  To my knowledge, there were no “rules” but suddenly it seemed that there were.  I was harassed, I was publicly raked over the coals in more than one instance because I “had shown blatant disregard for what Indians believe”.  To my knowledge, this ‘keep to your own kind’ thing had not been an active and important part of Indian Country.  I was proven wrong.

Interestingly, while the mentality has existed, it was never really actually addressed that much.  More often as not, you saw cartoons that addressed the vanishing Indian or there would be the occasional article that would bring up lateral racism as something that needed to be addressed yet nothing ever happened because of it.  A great example of this was Alfred Walking Bulls’ article on the topic where he stated:  “lateral racism exists in Indian Country and that, more than anything, needs to be seriously addressed”.  Unfortunately, the article was all but ignored.  Rob’s oddball coined phrase sort of changed that.  
Over a two year period two camps would form in Indian Country – the very loud BQ Nazis and the more quiet “independents” as Rob called them.  Independents felt strongly about their ties to their past and their history but felt a person should be allowed to be with who they want to be with, as long as history and traditions, along with ancestral lines, were taught to the children if there were any.  These two camps are still very much present within Indian country, albeit as unorganized forces.  Rob made it his job to try and educate people who needed educating.  He felt that this topic was extremely important and too blatantly ignored for it to not be a real problem.

When we began discussing the NABSU series, Rob stated that he wanted me to address BQ in the very first book because, in his opinion, it was the most important issue of all in Indian Country because it was definitely messing with peoples’ lives, heads and hearts.  After what we’d gone through – and in all honesty, what we had gone through really wasn’t as bad as some – I could see his point.   In that aforementioned two year period I had seen a full blooded Creek woman publicly state that she refused to acknowledge her grandchildren because they were half-white.  We met the wife of a Native artist who was harassed and stalked so much by BQ Nazi-types that she left him. He, in turn, cut off all ties with their only child, stating publicly that “the kid is half white, he really shouldn’t have anything to do with her”.   We found out that one of our very close friends who was slightly less than half-Dine had tolerated a childhood of abuse because of her BQ, putting up with beatings by both children and adults when she went to visit her father’s family – she was even hung off the side of a cliff because she "wasn't Indian enough". 
"Less than a quarter can get you killed if you're not careful"
~ Firewolf Bizahaloni
There were also the 'business' acquaintences that suddenly got a little squirrely as well.  A Native entertainment agent I had known for years went off the deep end and joined forces with a fairly well-known BQ Nazi and proceeded to eliminate any client with less than a ½ blood quantum in her client roster because she “didn’t want to work with people who weren’t real Indians”.  A well-known Native activist was pegged for annihilation by BQ Nazis because he was married to a white woman – they not only harassed and stalked the man, they tried to cause trouble for him by calling his job, sending the cops to his home on a bogus report and trying to publicly discredit him by harassing him on whatever talk show he happened to be on.  See a familiar pattern here?  When White Supremacists do this it’s called a hate crime. When Natives do this sort of stuff BQ Nazi’s call it protecting their culture.  Still doesn’t make it right. Just saying…

Ultimately, this is what Blood Roles is about.  The chasms created by blood quantum and the lengths some people will go to insure that the required allotments remain at status quo – or better.  Because it is so deeply embedded into the lives of Natives at this point in history, it is unlikely that blood quantum will truly ever be done away with, especially when so many BQ Nazis out there hold onto the hope that they’ll completely rebuild their tribe with the intent of overthrowing the government in order to send us all back to Europe where we belong.  It’s a very real sentiment and a very real goal – albeit a totally unrealistic goal. 

As my husband said “there’s no hope of sending anybody anywhere but we can sure as hell learn to live together a little bit better”.   I agree with this as well and ultimately this is the other aim of Blood Roles, learning to accept the differences, learning to pass on important knowledge and information so that what is important in one’s history is never forgotten while embracing what there is now and learning how to work with it.  No society is perfect, but it would sure help if people would, at the very least, try to get along, no matter what color their skin is.


  1. Amazing, simply amazing! You did a long of work on this.

  2. Very interesting article, Mia. Very thoughtful and thought-provoking.

  3. Well written, hits the nail on the head. Been there, been through it. Thanks for writing on the issue!

  4. Mia, low those many years ago when the internet was new and exciting I used to hang out and lurk on the NA boards on GEnie. There I saw the very thing you're talking about. I never spoke up or commented because I didn't want them to start in one me. I didn't want to be labeled a Wannabe. I was curious about the culture and wanted to find out more. You see, I'm from Georgia and I have NA Great-grandmothers from both sides of my family. I soon realized if I spoke up, they would label me and I would be driven off the boards. It is so sad that people who have a connection to the culture can't find out about it because of this practice. You are very brave to take this on. Rob would be proud.

  5. And that was way back at the beginning Scarlet - now it's ten times worse. They've actually created boards and websites dedicated to bashing each other and other races. There's one particular board that Rob helped start when he was writing for Indian Country Today - they sold the board to a tribe and the tribe just let it go on it's own. Boy was that ever a mistake - there's literally a gang of BQN's that hang there and wait for wannabe's or lesser quantums to show up so they can pounce on them and publicly humiliate them.

  6. Firewolf attempted to post but Google ate her post - so I'm posting for her:

    Yeah, you hit the nail on the head. I'd been fighting the BQNs for years when I finally said 'screw it', they won't change but maybe I help show people how ridiculous it is. I was born & raised on the Navajo rez. I speak, read & write my language. I was taught to live my life as a proud, strong Native woman & I still do. We were relocated off rez in the '70's because my Mom was White. Scottish, to be exact, & Scots are also Indigenous to their land. They were colonized by the British - lost, yet continue to fight them to this day. As I said, I live my life as a traditional Navajo woman. My father was at Alcatraz & I visited him their during the Native Occupation in '69. Many of the Occupiers were not full blood NDNs, yet they worked together to make history. As a Half Blood (as BQNs call me) I've been an NDN activist all of my life. I fought hard for the betterment of my people, while so many BQNs lazed around the rez collecting their 'bennies' & getting piss drunk or high. Way to make a positive image morons. When I created Native Resistance Network (a Direct Action organization supporting & empowering all Indigenous people) it was with 2 NDN sisters - also activists. All of us are half blood. We were very conscious of this & it was by design that our organization was both Half Blood Native & female led. We have Full Bloods members, we have other Half or Part-Bloods, but we also have Non-Native members who fight just as hard as we do. We've come up against BQNs & they've been discredited within the Native Community for too many reasons to go into. We are also backed & respected by many prominent Full Bloods who recognize the hard work & the progress we've made for many Natives so far. We are getting things done. Fighting& making strides for Native people while the BQNs do nothing. Nothing except to call us names. Right. By now, they know that they're only hurting their own people by trying to discredit us, but they don't care. They're so consumed with hatred, selfishness, greed & trying to prove their own individual worth that they don't care that they're trying to cripple real Native causes. We fight against the Tar Sands Pipeline & the devastation it'll bring, the Dine' Water Rights to keep our water as the government seeks to take it & destroy the Navajo & Hopi people. We fight against Fracking, both on Native lands & for everyone it touches. We fight for Native political prisoners, Natives who've been victims of violent crimes & many other issues. This is what being a true NDN is, fighting for our people - all of them. BQ Nazis do nothing but reinforce negative stereotypes. Scarlet, I'd be glad to know you & I'll bet that you'd fight hard to help our people. I wish you were in NY to join with us. Mia, I am so proud & so thankful for all that you've done for Native people. You are always a true sister to me & your love & dedication to empowering Native people in the RIGHT way shows the beautiful 'Red Heart' that you have. I love you my sister!