A protest has been organized and will continue in Hertel over the acceptance of descendants of the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin. They are calling for the end of blood quantum to be able to accept more descendants of tribal members.
“Lots of us don’t belong anywhere,” Mark Stoner said. He was holding a sign with “Descendants Lives Matter” on one side and “Our Lives Matter” on the opposite side. The St. Croix Tribe based in Hertel requires members to have 50% native blood or half degree blood quantum for membership.
Protesters stood outside tribal headquarters on State Road 70 andAngeline Ave. There were about 20 people outside holding signs and drawing attention to their issues with blood quantum and the tribe’s future. There was also a drum circle with teenagers who were also involved in the protest.
“We’ve been out here all day and we’ll be back tomorrow and the day after and the next day,” Stoner asserted.
One woman said, “What will happen to our tribe in 50 years? Or even 30 years if they don’t enroll new members?”
They held signs calling for the end to blood quantum, and even tribal corruption.
Stoner organized the protest for descendants because many descendants of tribal members have a story similar to his. Stoner explained that his mother is a full-blood native and his father was a white man.
“I’m not recognized, and neither are any of these kids,” Stoner says as he looks around at the children taking part in the protest. “They can’t go to the Indian world and they can’t join the white world.”
These descendants that are not recognized by the tribe do not get the tribe’s hunting and fishing rights as well as benefits of the tribe’s housing, education and health services. Stoner said that many people received no help when the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Everyone that spoke to the Sentinel during the protest said they were worried about the tribe’s future.
“Eventually there will be no tribe if no one can enroll,” tribal elder LaVerne Oiyotte said. She explained that if descendants want to enroll they should be allowed to.
Mark’s mother Angie Merrill was in attendance. She said she had never seen anything like the protest in Hertel and was happy to see it.
“My grandchildren will have nowhere to go when I’m gone,” Merrill said. She said that her children were enrolled as members for one year after trying to enroll them for many years.
“They were enrolled for one year and then disenrolled and we were never given a reason why,” Merrill said.
Wanda McFaggen, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer with the tribe said that the tribe could go back to being a “lost tribe” or they could even lose their federal recognition if enrollment drops too low.
“If we lose federal recognition we lose federal protection and federal dollars,” McFaggen said.
Another theme at the protest was to save young people from drugs and a life of crime. McFaggen and Stoner said when descendants feel they don’t belong with the tribe they go out and find somewhere they do belong.
“That can lead to gang violence, drugs or any other criminal activity,” Stoner said.
“We need to do something for our young people,” McFaggen added.
One of the teenagers with the drum circle said he was attending the protest to create change.
“I want to make change,” Nolan Churchill said. “I’ve never felt accepted even though this is where I belong.”
Stoner said he has been in contact with Tribal council member Thomas Fowler, but has not heard anything else in response.
The tribe did respond for comment from the Sentinel about the protest.
Michael Decorah, Senior Intergovernmental Affairs Specialist with the St. Croix Tribe, told the Sentinel in an email that the tribal council has been working on solving these issues.
"Standing for what we believe has been past down for generations as we all know. We also have had constitution meetings in the communities that began last spring and the last meeting occurred just before the shutdown. The tribe is in the process of sending out our final survey for the membership to view and comment. We have a few amendment proposals for consideration to the membership. This process is long but will not deter our desire & objectives to amend our constitution. Among the proposals for consideration include open meetings, ethics, term limits and enrollment. The tribal council has also participated in these community meetings which are open to the tribal membership & descendants."