In the United States today, stating the exact number of Native Americans isn’t as easy as providing one, all-inclusive, number. Through many years of interbreeding with European newcomers and later immigrants from around the world, bloodlines have become diluted and the number of purebred Native Americans is diminishing with each generation.
The US government established the Bureau of Indian Affairs to administer to the needs of the Native Americans living on Indian reservations. Many social networks, such as the Native American Music Awards, honor Native Americans for their achievements in the arts, government, education, and other industries. Inclusion into these organizations and assistance from the government are based on genetics instead of family lore.
Blood quanta is the term used to identify the percentage of tribal blood in the genetic make-up of people claiming to be Native Americans. Documented evidence of lineage is required of anyone approaching the government for assistance and recognition as a true Native American. The federal guidelines establishing the status of Native Americans differs from one agency to another and the lack of consistency is a source for much dismay and misunderstanding.
Native Americans wishing to enroll for membership into individual tribes must undergo blood quanta studies. The percentage of Native American blood a person must document for inclusion into these tribes varies from one tribe to another. Membership may even be not allowed or restricted based upon the blood evidence presented at enrollment.
With the growing number of gambling casinos on tribal lands bringing new wealth to tribesmen and women, bitter disputes among the tribes have arisen as more people claim to be Native Americans in order to reap the financial gain these casinos generate. Some tribes now require DNA testing to determine whether or not potential new members can be officially declared Native Americans belonging to a specific tribe.
Tribal bloodlines, especially where the casino revenues are concerned, are often the source of heated debate because bloodlines were blended and diluted even before the arrival of the white men from Europe. Native Americans have a long history of kidnapping and capture of peoples from other tribes in order to sustain numbers large enough to support life within the tribe when tribal numbers were diminished due to death or capture in battle and when the tribal strength was threatened by famine, disease, or other natural disasters.
The most recent population numbers given by the US Census Bureau list 2.1 million Native Americans belonging to one race only and another 3.4 million people of mixed race (tribal) heritage.