How to Find Out How Much Indian Blood I Have

Updated April 17, 2017

The question of Indian "blood quantum," how much Indian blood a person has, is a hot-button issue among Native Americans. Many in Native American communities believe it to be a racist and self-defeating question which only promotes cultural genocide. As put in the article, "The American Indian Blood Quantum," published on the Native-Languages website, "Nobody makes African-Americans prove their entire family line" to confirm their blackness. Yet blood quantum is the standard used to determine eligibility for Indian citizenship. To find out how much Indian blood you have, you can take a DNA test and /or conduct genealogical research.

Take an mtDNA test.The mtDNA test can be used to trace your maternal cultural ancestry. The test looks for a set of genetic markers, called haplotypes, which are found exclusively in certain cultural populations. In testing to see how much Indian blood you have in your maternal lineage, taking the mtDNA test can help you find out if any of the haplotypes in the DNA passed on to you from your mother match any of the haplogroups exclusive to any of the different Native American Indian populations, and to what percentage.

Take a Y chromosome DNA test. The Y chromosome DNA test can be used to trace your paternal ancestry. The Y chromosome DNA test, like the mtDNA test, looks for set of genetic markers which are exclusive to certain cultural populations. Unlike the mtDNA test however, only men may take this particular test because the Y chromosome is not passed on from father to daughter. It is only passed on from father to son. If you're a woman you will have to enlist a male relative -- father, brother, paternal uncle or grandfather, or cousin (paternal uncle's son) -- to take this test on your behalf. If the test reveals a Native American Indian bloodline, you should calculate your percentage of Indian blood relative to your generational relationship to the male relative you recruited to take the test. For example, if the test reveals that your father is eighteen per cent Native American; your Indian blood percentage would be nine per cent.

Do genealogical research. Many Native American tribes require prospective members to establish that they possess a certain degree of Indian blood, called a "blood quantum," in order to be eligible for recognition as a citizen of the tribe. But rather than relying on DNA testing, prospective members must prove their Indian roots through official documentation. You must submit certified copies of birth certificates, or other official documentation, which firmly establishes a family lineage from you to an Indian ancestor listed on one of the Indian rolls (census). Your blood quantum is then determined based on the number of generations between you and your most recent Indian ancestor. For example, if your mother is "pure blood" Indian, but your father has no Indian blood, then you are half Indian.

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About the Author

Maya Austen began freelance writing in 2009. She has written for many online publications on a wide variety of topics ranging from physical fitness to amateur astronomy. She's also an author and e-book publisher. Austen has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the New England Institute of Art and currently lives in Boston, Mass.