Blood Quantum

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LeRoy Comes Last and his family live on a hump of benchland in northeastern Montana, on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. In all directions the land is flat and treeless, with just a few soft ridges here and there, as if someone lay sleeping beneath the topsoil. To the south, U.S. Highway 2 cuts toward the town of Poplar in one direction and Wolf Point in the other. Just beyond lie the tracks of the Great Northern Railway, where passenger trains with names like Empire Builder once ran. And farther still, yellow cottonwoods mark the course of the Missouri River, the reservation’s southern boundary.

Inside the Comes Last mobile home, toddlers — the charges of a daughter-in-law who runs an ad hoc daycare center — careen around the living room under streamers of black and orange Halloween crepe. Seated at his kitchen table, his rough hands resting on a plastic tablecloth decorated with cartoon spiders, Comes Last looks as if he might have wandered into the wrong home. A tall man in his 60s, he has a warm weathered face and a purple neckerchief, and wears his hair in long braids under a black cowboy hat. His young round-cheeked Northern Cheyenne wife, Sabrina, sits next to him, holding a child.

Comes Last is a full-blooded Lakota Sioux of the Hunkpapa Band. His ancestors arrived at Fort Peck more than a century ago. His business card proclaims him a “Holy Dog Consultant,” spiritual leader and firestarter, and he is one of the few remaining Lakota speakers on the reservation.

http://www.hcn.org/issues/41.1/blood-quantum

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