Intimate Interminglings’ Blood-Thinning Prescription

A Voice for thee but not for me. But who is thee, that’s my question? At the last census in 2021, 812,728 people self-identified as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (indigenous) descent; that was 3.2 percent of the population. The population has since increased, as will have those identifying as indigenous.

How many in this self-identifying indigenous population are “full-blooded,” I thought. A first reaction to my thought was whether it would be considered racist. All I can say is poppycock. In any event, I find it hard to get a number. I found one source which put the number at only 5000. But that seems much too low and I know little about the source, so don’t want to rely on or cite it. However, it’s clear that those who self-identify as being indigenous are overwhelmingly of mixed race like the rest of us.

Intimate intermingling has consequences. Moreover, those consequences make progressive dilution inevitable. My daughters are half Italian. Their five children are only one-quarter Italian and, sadly, for three out of the five, only one-quarter English. And so it goes. And, perforce, multiracial societies like ours speed up dilution. Which returns me to the question: Who is thee? In Australia there is a three-part test for claiming indigeneity:

♦ Being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.

♦ Identifying as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.

♦ Being accepted as such by the community in which you live, or formerly lived.

It’s clear, is it not, that the first part of this three-part test has fallen into disuse. Bruce Pascoe and others of similar hue and genetic background prove that. Yet, of course, it is the only part of the test which is sufficient onto it itself. You might not self-identify; you might not be accepted. All the same, your DNA tells the tale. Though, that tale is not necessarily given the weight it deserves. Thus, many of those claiming to be indigenous have far less claim than my grandchildren do to being Italian.

You’ll recall US Senator Elizabeth Warren claiming Cherokee ancestry, based on a photograph in her parent’s house of a distant relative with high cheek bones. Apparently, it did her no harm at Harvard. In fact, DNA testing showed that there was a Native American in her family tree from 6 to 10 generations gone by. Pathetically, she used this testing to continue to justify her claim before being laughed off the stage. If, in fact, the Native American concerned had his or her way with a white Warren ancestor six generations before, Sen. Warren would be 1/64th Native American. And if it was ten generations before, she would be 1/512th. This brings me to blood quantum rules which apply in America and to the debate within Native American circles about them. It has relevance here.

According to Wikipedia, certain tribes, the White Mountain Apache Tribe of Arizona, for example, require a stiff 1/2 degree of blood quantum for full membership. The Cheyenne Tribe 1/4. The Comanche Nation 1/8. The Caddo Nation 1/16. None go down to 1/64; though the Cherokee Nation, among some others, has no specific blood quantum rule. Sadly for Sen. Warren, she’s still on the outer, unless she can establish lineage from an individual on the tribe’s designated roll. She can’t or she would have done.

Blood quantum rules pose a problem. Native American Leah Myers addressed the topic earlier this year in The Atlantic. Her tribe, she wrote, “requires that members be at least one-eighth Jamestown S’Klallam by blood.”

“Because I am exactly one-eighth, unless I have kids with another citizen, my kids will be ineligible to join … blood-quantum laws are used by many tribal nations to determine citizenship … by enforcing these laws, tribal governments…not only exclude some active members of their communities, but also may be creating a future in which fewer and fewer people will be eligible for citizenship.” 

This view is echoed by fellow Native American Kylie Rice:  “If native communities uphold strict blood quantum rules, it is inevitable that enrolment numbers will decline and tribal communities will no longer be viable as sovereign nations.”

There is a desperation at the heart of clinging onto a defunct past, which is becoming dimmer and more defunct each passing day. The problem that Leah Myers and Kylie Rice face is that clinging on to a tribal identity when it becomes one-quarter of who you are is hard enough. When it becomes one-eighth, one-sixteen, and one-thirty second, you’re really getting into Elizabeth Warren territory. And that’s the future. There is no stopping it. Native-American bloodlines will become more and more diluted. Some people might still want to live in a half-world in which some Native-American cultural norms are preserved. But they shouldn’t kid themselves that they are Native Americans. Biology trumps wishing and hoping.

What applies to Native Americans applies here to Indigenous Australians pari passu. If there are financial incentives in play, the numbers self-identifying as Indigenous might go on increasing. However, Aboriginality has declined, is declining, and will continue to decline until, eventually, over generations to come, it will become barely detectible. Accordingly, apropos the Voice, compartmentalising Australia into indigenous and non-indigenous populations is farcical. You can say the same, as it applies to land rights. Giving native title to people of distinctly mixed heritage is self-evidently absurd.

Finally, how awful is it that Aboriginality is heading south, cultures and languages lost? Perspective, perspective. I looked up the ancient tribes of Britain at the time of the Roman conquest. The BBC listed 27 major tribes. I could recognise not one – e.g., the Ordovices, the Selgovae, the Dubunni. (My spell check lit up.) Alas, all of those cultures and languages lost. It’s called life.

16 thoughts on “Intimate Interminglings’ Blood-Thinning Prescription


    Precicely, because of intimate intermingling, in different parts of the globe, we are, all of us, bitzers. We have benefited from hybrid vigour. The Voice campaign ignores this and is dividing us by blood line. Royalty used to embrace this kind of bloodline elitism but it led to offspring with inferior characteristics. The Voice campaign promotes racial elitism where bloodline determines access to land and resources. The result will be a country with inferior characteristics.

  • pmprociv says:

    Fully agree with you, Peter. In my view, genetics and their applications are carelessly thrown about, not only in this area but many others. Pick any two people at random off the street, from anywhere in the world, and you’ll find their entire genomes differ in less than 0.2% of their DNA sequences, and the biological significance of most of those differences is still unknown. When you narrow that down to X- or Y-chromosomes, or mitochondrial DNA, or even just bits of these, it becomes less of a technical challenge, but then overlooks what’s going on elsewhere in the genome, and loses far more meaning. I always laugh when reading how some of us have a little bit of Neanderthal DNA in our genome — seeing that we share ca. 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees, I’d guess the Neanderthal component would be well above 99%! As for genetic sequences unequivocally distinguishing Aborigines or TS Island folk from the rest of us, I’m not aware any has yet been found.

    This entire business of separating citizens of a nation into distinct tribes, with distinct privileges (or penalties), is unquestionably a racist exercise — and will have the usual consequences of such exercises, as shown repeatedly throughout history (just ask the Jews). Until very recently, I hadn’t given any serious thought to possible differences between Russians and Ukrainians (my parentage is one of each), but Putin’s war now compels me to take sides. This raises an interesting mind game: were some of Australia’s more rabid “First Nations” leaders to foment a civil war here, fighting the colonial invaders, whose side would those ticking the indigenous box on the census form align with?

  • Alistair says:

    pmprociv and stjohnofgrafton …
    I think you miss the point. We may very well share 99% of our genome with chimpanzees – but boy what a difference that 1% makes! You can say that genetics makes no difference because we are all fundamentally the same – but tell that to people who have a genetic history of prostate cancer in their families. The devil is always in the detail. The point is that very little work on genetic differences are published because geneticists dont want to be labeled racist – but that doesnt mean its not happening. Here is an example. Apparently the Chinese have been working on genetically engineered bioweapons which are able to target based on racial identity. Now tell me that “race” doesnt matter.

    Incidentally – re the little bit of Neanderthal in everyone of us is incorrect Europeans have Neanderthal genes, Asians have Neanderthal genes, but Africans (never having had the opportunity to interbreed with Neanderthals – dont have any Neanderthal gens. Then add in Denisovan genes Asians have Denisovan genes but Europeans and African dont have Denisovan genes. There is an obvious fact to be taken from this – Obviously there has been little to no interbreeding between Africans Europeans and Asians in the last 50,000 years until the modern era. What genetic mutations have affected each separate group independently I have no idea but it is unlikely to be insignificant –


      “pmprociv and stjohnofgrafton …
      I think you miss the point”
      Strawman alert!

    • pmprociv says:

      Sorry, Alistair, but it’s you who has entirely missed the point here. I most definitely did not “say that genetics makes no difference because we are all fundamentally the same”. I wrote that the differences between us were minute, and their significance largely not yet understood (with rare, individual exceptions when it came to certain disease predispositions). They’re not reliable for the purpose of distinguishing races genetically, given the constant intermixing of human populations that’s gone on for at least the last few millennia, and the statistical basis of ancestral DNA analysis. And I wouldn’t lay too much reliance on some obscure blogger pushing conspiracy theories. Chinese researchers might well be doing odd sorts of research, but that proves nothing — and their government is still pushing traditional Chinese medicine, which says a lot, to me at least. They’d be crazy to think a DNA-based bio-weapon could be used to wipe out only non-Chinese people!

      Neanderthals were a species of Homo very closely related to ours (if we interbred with them, some would say we’re even the same species), meaning they also came out of Africa (yes, I know, there’s a hypothesis about that Homo sapiens actually evolved in Europe, but it needs much more evidence). The point is, all humans have much in common, and our individual (and group, i.e. “racial”) differences depend on minute changes in our genomes, mainly affecting controlling DNA sequences (“epigenetics”) — and they’re the short base sequences that also largely account for the differences between us and the great apes (which is brilliant evidence for evolution, were such still needed). In effect, the genetic differences amongst us, as individuals, are greater than the average differences between Australians of external ancestry, as a group, and Aborigines, as a group.

      My big point, of course, is it’s stupid to even begin to consider using genetics to segregate populations. And I’d extend that to using any other marker, be it skin colour, eye shape, place of birth, ancestry, religious belief or whatever. If you want your nation to run smoothly, treat all citizens equally — while giving special consideration to individuals in genuine need, as necessary.

  • DougD says:

    Warren’s academic and political rise were finished off when Trump labelled her “Pocahontas”.


    Another good article from Peter Smith: “Leftism Dies in Daylight”

  • brennan1950 says:

    The High Court got this so right.

  • bomber49 says:

    If the Yes vote wins it will enshrine forever the entitlement that one drop of Aboriginal blood provides for the foreseeable future. For example the coach of SA’s cricket team, Dizzy Gillespie identifies as Aboriginal, which is true. If he and his descendants keep reproducing with non-Aboriginals they will still be entitled forever more the special Voice to Parliament that is denied to the majority. It’s reverse racism. Pre-emancipation in the US, ‘one drop’ of negro blood branded you as black and a prime target for kidnapping and sale, despite being ‘free’. The Nazis copied much of the Jim Crow legislation, but didn’t go as far as one drop of Jewish blood to brand one a Jew; even the Nazis knew where to draw the line when it came to bloodlines.

    • john mac says:

      Yes bomber , what’s absurd is that most of the high profile , highly paid “Indigenous” AFL players who are pushing the “Yes” vote , Adam Goodes, Eddie Betts, Shaun Burgoyne , Buddy Franklin etc , Have white wives ! Is this just random selection from them , because if they were true to the cause , they would have married Indigenous women . Were they not good enough for these footballers , as none of these guys are full blood , but chose to water down their own race , while pushing for more money and power for themselves . What a joke !

  • Citizen Kane says:

    “Biology trumps wishing and hoping.’ If only that were true Peter, the Trans debate would be a distant memory, instead to state such a thing in a postmodern world is to now be labelled a ‘biological essentialist’ and therefore deplatformed. The diminished role of the first part of the three-part test as you have listed them is another example of empiricism being sidelined by the postmodernist fixation on ‘self-identification’ and group identity politics contained in the parts two and three of the test as you have listed them. You are of course 100% correct in your article’s assertions – but the neo-marxist / postmodernist world disagrees!

  • rosross says:

    Ah the irony. Once the one drop approach, as used in the American South in centuries past was considered to be racist, as of course it is. But now, if selectively applied it is a positive thing.

    The ridiculous thing is that even someone one fully aboriginal parent and one non-aboriginal parent is NOT aboriginal but an Australian of mixed ancestry. The British considered someone half and half to be European unless they opted to live a tribal lifestyle, in which case they came under different regulations and were entitled to more support.

    And since someone 100% aboriginal is an Australian, the latter label is the only one which counts. More so because, thanks to the well-intentioned if not truly aware missionaries, at least in regard to skin traditions, there are very few who are 100% for any particular clan given the promotion of intermarriage between different aboriginal men and women. In centuries past this put them at risk of death for breaking skin traditions but clearly enough of them survived.

    Surely in 2023, such colour coding should be summarily rejected?

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    Who gets a vote in the composition of this Voice has not yet been revealed, possibly because Albo and the Abolites (sounds like a rock band doesn’t it?) have put it into their ‘too hard’ basket. Consequently, I have a respectful and modest proposal.
    Every modern abolite campaigning for a Yes vote might call theirself Generation 0. (2^0) Their 2 parents, Generation 1 (2^1). Their 4 grandparents Generation 2 (2^2). And so on back up the family tree. Allowing a minimal and thus generous 15 years per generation, approximately 16 generations takes us back to Captain Cook’s landing in the year 1777 on the shores of Botany Bay. From there up the family tree and backwards in time, it is full-blood ancestors all the way. But in the geometric progression from 2023 to 1777, each abolite has 2 parents, 4 grandparents 8 great-grandparents, numbering 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16389, 32768, and 75536 all the way back to Captain Cook’s landing. In each generation back, there will be in each individual both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal genes.
    I think that all would agree that for a modern abolite to get the same privileges in Voice voting on the strength of one (1) Aboriginal ancestor in that whole trainload of 75,536 people, would be grossly unfair.
    But there is a way out. Each aspiring voter in the election for members of the Parliamentary Voice squad should be required to submit a blood sample for genetic analysis, and allowed a number of votes in proportion to the percentage of Aboriginal genes in their individual genome. ‘Full-bloods’ would get 100 votes, those with 50% Aboriginal genes would get 50 votes, and so on. Some might finish up with only 1 vote, and some even 0 votes (ie the pretenders, pot-hunters, rent-seekers, bludgers etc.) But I do not see how any system could be fairer.
    In Australia we have a general rule for elections: 1 vote, 1 value. But if an election is to be race-based, it has to be 1 gene, 1 value, just to knock out the said pretenders, pot-hunters, rent-seekers, bludgers etc.
    I rest my case.

    • Roger Franklin says:

      Ian, according to the Calma/Langton blueprint there will be no voting — Voice delegates are to be “appointed”. Read that to mean a lot of Big Men and/or their toadies will get the per diems, travel and whatever else they can write themselves in the way of pay and perks.

  • vagan says:

    According to the census over two-thirds of Indigenous households involve a non-Indigenous partner, meaning also that most Indigenous children today have a non-Indigenous mother or father. The bloodline thins by the day.
    Add to that the argument from Noel Pearson and others that the voice is about Indigeneity (descent from pre-contact inhabitants) not race and you have an interesting consequence for the voice.
    It would mean that to be a member of or vote for the voice all you would need to demonstrate would be some fraction of Indigenous lineage, NOT that you particularly identify or indeed are accepted in the community as Aboriginal, these being the additional defining criteria of eligibility for Aboriginal assistance programs.

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