Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_SHI to sponsor lecture on what it means to be Native

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Free virtual event part of Native American Heritage Month celebration

Nov. 18, 2020

(About the Lecturer) (Flyer)

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor a free online lecture this Friday on blood quantum and what it means to be Native as part of its series in recognition of Native American Heritage Month.

The presentation, The Great Vanishing Act: Blood and the Future of Native Nations, will be given by Norbert Hill Jr. of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and former executive director of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and the American Indian Graduate Center.

Blood quantum, imposed from within and without, has shaped Native identity and has been the primary determinant in deciding “who is an Indian” for more than a century, Hill wrote. The conversation about Native identity — sometimes civil, sometimes violent — has been going on in Indian Country far longer than that. This will continue whether blood quantum laws are changed or not.

“We are living in challenging circumstances when it comes to navigating what it means to be Native,” he wrote.

Tribal disenrollment, DNA testing, egg and sperm banks, CBIB cards, online dating, ethnic student groups on college campuses and debates over sport mascots all challenge our definition of what being Native is — and what it is not. As you read these words, there are hundreds, thousands, millions of voices talking, writing, texting, Snapchating, Facebooking and engaging in Zoom conversations about blood quantum, identity, and belonging, he wrote.

“Like Malcolm Gladwell's "tipping point," we have reached a moment in history where significant culture and intellectual change has begun. This is a leadership moment in Indian Country,” Hill wrote.

The talk, scheduled at noon on Friday, Nov. 20, will be live streamed on SHI’s YouTube channel ( The series, which focuses on citizens and shareholders in Alaska Native corporations and tribes, is also offered as part of a one-credit course through the University of Alaska Southeast.

The talks are offered through the Preparing Indigenous Teachers and Administrators for Alaska Schools (PITAAS) program and funded by the Alaska Native Education Program. 

About the Lecturer

Norbert S. Hill, Jr., of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin has developed and administered education programs for American Indian students for nearly 50 years. Hill was the executive director of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and the American Indian Graduate Center. He later served as the director of education programs for the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. Hill holds two honorary doctorates from Clarkson University and Cumberland College along with a BS and a MA from the University of Wisconsin­ Oshkosh. Past board appointments include Environmental Defense Fund chair and board member of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and Trustee at St. Norbert College and the Wisconsin Historical Society. He edited Words of PowerVoices for Indian America. In 2017, he coauthored an anthology, The Great Vanishing Act: Blood Quantum and the Future of Native Nations. Hill lives in Oneida, Wisconsin, with his wife.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director, 907.586.9116,