EUGENE, Ore. — A new tribe of Native Americans is rising in Western Oregon, but that’s not setting well with the established tribes.
The so-called mixed-blood tribe is being started by local Native American descendants.
The Lake family who lives in Eugene says each family member has a fraction of their blood that is Native American. But that fraction of blood is not large enough to be considered a member of their ancestral tribes, so they’re starting their own tribe for people like them.
“I have been told my whole life that I’m Native American, both my father and my mother are Native American, all together I’m one-eigth,” said Richard Lake III, Una Tribe Founder.
That one-eighth tribal blood doesn’t allow Richard Lake III to be considered part of an ancestral tribe.
The U.S. government uses what it calls blood quantum laws to decide whether a person is part of a specific tribe.
“I always wanted to be a part of my Native American heritage, and without that recognition my mother failed to become a tribal member which left me out in the cold because I cared to,” said Richard Lake II, Una Tribe Founder.
But one Klamath Tribe member says it takes more than a bit of Native American blood to be a part of a tribe.
“The ancestral memories of that are generations and generations of a single people living together sharing memories and developing language,” said Gordon Bettles, Klamath Tribe Member.
And although the Lake family created a website, declaration of creation, and now has nearly 330 members throughout the country, local Native Americans say that does not make a tribe.
“Klamath tribe otherwise you belong to a cult, or a club, or an organization, tribes are more than just the blood it’s the shared common ancestral memory that we all have as a tribe,” Bettles said.
Even though they’re not recognized by the government or other tribes, the Una mixed blood tribe thinks in 10 years you’ll be hearing a lot about them.
“Our end goal is set up a reservation for our members to be able to live on or visit,” said Richard Lake III.
One local tribe member says he knows a number of people who do not have a high enough fraction of their blood to officially be members of his tribe. But these members are called descendants and learn the language, culture, and history of the tribe without being official members.