13 Oct 2011

Northern Mariana descendent definition shift proposed

4:06 pm on 13 October 2011

A Northern Marianas legislative committee wants to change the criteria to be recognised as an indigenous person.

Northern Mariana descendants must possess one-quarter Chamorro or Carolinian blood but the House Natural Resources Committee is suggesting an amendment to Article 12 of the Constitution that would lower the threshold to any degree of indigenous blood.

The Committee's chairperson Joseph Palacios says a trend towards cross-cultural marriages means many Northern Mariana descendants are worried their children and grandchildren will not be able to inherit or own land as their bloodline is too diluted under current legislation.

"The amendment that we did is saying that as long as you can prove through court the land that has been handed down from your ancestors could be your great, great, great grandparents, they qualify to own the property."

If the amendment is passed by the House next week and then the Senate, the initiative will be presented to voters in an election.