NPR: Tribes struggle with membership questions

"Many Native American communities are struggling with a basic question: just who is an Indian? As tribal numbers dwindle, many are reexamining how they define what it means to be a member. But lowering the blood requirement for membership has both political and economic impacts for many groups.

In Madison, Melissa Lompre tells a story: She was looking for a new church and recalls enjoying the services at a local Native American church, until "a man got up, and he made a comment: 'Our Native American brothers and sisters, here, they're not married to or with other Native American people.' I was going to stand up and say, 'Well, I'm here as a Native American person praying with all of you, what does it matter who I'm living with, who I'm married to?' and I just didn't go back to that service anymore."

Lompre's part Menominee, Ojibwe and Delaware, but two of her kids are half Puerto Rican, from their father's side.

"They're less than 25 percent Menominee," Lompre says.

The struggle for identity among Native Americans isn't just about outsiders; Lompre says other natives have looked down on her for not growing up on the reservation.

"I wish there was a magical mutt nation that you could put people in that could have that identity given to them, but there's not," she says."

Get the Story:
As Requirements Change, Just Who Is An Indian? (National Public Radio 5/11)