ociety has a tenacious habit of burying undesir- able topics, only for the horror genre to dig them up and transmute them into accessible and entertaining (if challenging) narratives. It’s the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down – though perhaps a bucket of blood is the more appropriate analogy for Jeff Barnaby’s Blood Quantum, where a zom- bie epidemic sweeps across the nation, sparing only the Native population, who are somehow immune to the undead condition. Though it’s never revealed exactly why, the answer could only be something in the blood; the same sticky red stuff that’s been used by the Canadian gov- ernment to quantify the status of an Indigenous person. Taking its name from the controversial practice of measuring Native heritage for legal citizenship, Blood Quantum takes a cinematic tomahawk to one of the darkest subjects in Ca- nadian history.


“[Blood quantum] has to do with the idea that you’re basically trying to protect your culture, but you’re conflating it with the idea of not marrying outside of the culture, or outside of the commu- nity,” explains Barnaby. “Each tribe has its own idea of what percentage you need in order to be part of that tribe. Take, as an example, my son’s mother is Navajo but she’s only 50% Navajo. In order to be registered to that tribe, you had to be [at least] 25%, so my son could be registered, but if his mom were 25%, he wouldn’t be able to register. It wouldn’t matter if his mother took the time to raise him in the culture, to teach him the language, to live in the traditions…it just has to do with the idea of measuring your family’s history to exploit whether or not you’re a part of a tribe, because the less members of a tribe they have, the less people [the government] has to honour treaties to.”

The idea of disparate communities coming to- gether to fend off against an army of undead is nothing new to the zombie subgenre, but finding a common humanity among survivors is extra tricky when one group has a natural advantage in the very same arena that saw them persecut- ed before. With old power dynamics inverted and racial lines sharpened to the edge of a blade, it’s up to Red Crow reservation sheriff Traylor (Michael Greyeyes: Fear the Walking Dead) to keep the peace in a world that went from erasing his heritage to hungering for his flesh. In a land built on Native bloodshed centuries ago, Traylor and his community will have to choose between opening their doors to the forces that sought to assimilate them or maintaining the purity of the bloodline that allows them to survive. “I’ve felt like the dead coming back to life was the Earth’s immune system, in that you’re taking the one thing that makes you sick and you turn it against itself,” explains Barnaby. “So I always looked at the zombie apocalypse as an environ- mental catastrophe. The human race was dig-

In the Blood: Blood Quantum’s zombies don’t discriminate when it comes to their appetite for human flesh, it’s just that the undead condition isn’t contagious to the Native population.

minate when it comes to their appetite for human flesh, Native population.

27 R M

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