History, Department of


Date of this Version

Fall 2018


Pacific Historical Review 87:4 (Fall 2018), pp. 718–719.

doi: 10.1525/phr.2018.87.4.718


Copyright © 2018 The Regents of the University of California; published by the University of California Press. Used by permission.


During the allotment process (1887–1934), the United States established commissions and agencies nationwide to categorize Native American individuals as “full blood,” “mixed-blood,” or of any fractional part of African American ancestry, and determine who was (in)eligible for tribal enrollment and allotment. In Blood Will Tell, Katherine Ellinghaus sees this process as “troubling” and places its uneven practices at the core of the American settler colonial project (xv). Although the discourse of blood was almost never explicitly propounded as a deliberate and clear policy of the U.S. government, explains Ellinghaus, its implications diminished the number of Indigenous peoples, revoked official recognition, nullified tribal land rights, and made their lands more accessible for settlers. The ways government employees used blood quantum in the records, Ellinghaus contends, had little to do with Indigenous ideas of identity, kinship, and tribal membership. Drawn from extensive archival resources, university libraries, and government records, Ellinghaus takes on the colonial tropes of Indian “authenticity” and disempowers a much larger and insidious technique in the U.S. settler colonial story. It is precisely this goal that Blood Will Tell intends to render hypervisible by bringing forth a nuanced reading of the archives to explain this deleterious feature of settler colonialism.

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