November 8, 2023, marked a historic day for the St. Croix nation. The St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin (the “Tribe”) voted in a Secretarial Election to eliminate blood quantum requirements for Tribal membership. The Tribe will move to a model of lineal descendancy, whereas membership will be granted if a parent is an enrolled St. Croix member. Blood quantum, a system imposed by the United States government to determine Tribal membership, had previously required St. Croix members to have one-half or more St. Croix blood to become an enrolled member.
Blood quantum was not the only important item on the ballot, though. Additional revisions to the Tribe’s Constitution and by-laws included the removal of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) from oversight of the Tribe’s election process, staggered terms and term limits for Tribal Council, and open meetings and ethics.
St. Croix was one of the few remaining Tribal nations that had a requirement of one-half or more blood. With over 60% of its membership at elder status (55+ years old), the St. Croix Tribe risked extinction if membership requirements remained unchanged.
The elimination of the BIA from election administration will remove the “parental oversight” of the Federal government and strengthen Tribal sovereignty. Open meetings will provide a more democratic process of checks and balances and transparency. The process for running this Secretarial Election began in 2019 and was discussed in weekly meetings and updated to the Tribal membership through monthly, open meetings.