'Marrying Out' Thins Native Americans' Ranks

Population loss could lead to loss of federal benefits
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2011 12:03 PM CDT
'Marrying Out' Thins Native Americans' Ranks
Native American tribes are threatened by a high rate of "marrying out."   (Getty Images)

More often than not, white people in the US marry other white people and black people marry other black people—but Census data show that more than half of all Native Americans marry non-Native Americans, and that could create problems for tribes down the line. The Eastern Shoshone of Wyoming, for example, requires tribal members to be at least one-quarter Native American. That means that if half-Shoshone Amanda LeClair marries her Mexican boyfriend, their kids will just barely meet the requirement—and if those kids marry other nonnatives, LeClair’s grandchildren will not be tribal members.

One expert tells NPR that “marrying out” has always been the norm in these communities: “Native individuals, due to the small population size of most indigenous communities, frequently find that they have to reach outside of their local community to find a partner suitable for marriage.” But consequences extend beyond a loss of identity—it can also mean losing the protections and benefits afforded to tribal members from the federal government. And if tribes slowly lose their populations, they cannot remain as fully functioning nations, says another expert. Even so, for LeClair at least, love trumps all. (More Native American stories.)

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