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indigenous peoples

Being married to a native american has made me realize just how many people are, somehow, native american.

I read a bit of his Vine Deloria, Jr. books and one of the issues in there is how indians, at least their history, got "popular" in the 70s around the time of the environmental movement and suddenly EVERYONE had some great-grandmother who was an indian princess. It was always a maternal figure (we want to think of nice white men rescuing the ladies from savages, not the other way around) and always gave us some deep connection to the Earth.

Add this to the complication that we're near Oklahoma, where millions of Native Americans were forced to live at one time or another... particularly the Cherokee. The Cherokee nation was not only huge but many of them adapted early to European ways. They dressed, spoke, and associated like white Americans. Married white americans. Had children. LOTS of children. So many children, in fact, that being part Cherokee really just means that you were born somewhere in America... but people still act like it's incredibly unique.

The second marc explains that he's not just a really tall mexican, out come the percentages and fractions. Usually, no one can prove anything and no one is registered with a tribe. No one knows about the indian rights movement, AIM, the BIA or reservation laws. In fact most people like to believe that the last indian was killed at wounded knee, and that the best way to be aware of native american issues is to buy CDs of flute music and hang up black and white photos of old guys wearing headdresses.

Sadly that's not the case. You can't get in touch with the earth around you by listening to family rumors about grandmothers. If you want stories you have to find real stories, do real research, and get some up-to-date information on what indigenous people are up to these days. Support a cause. Go to a protest. There are still millions of current issues out there to be familiar with.

I'm not trying to pretend like I know everything or relate to indians on a different level because I'm close to one. But based on my experience, I don't think I'm too far off base if I just ask people to drop the percentages, please? It's not only boring, but it also makes you just like every other American... thinking first of indians who died a long long time ago, and enforcing the idea that indigenous people in this country only get to have a past and not a future.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 9th, 2008 12:58 am (UTC)
I see you finally made the "Everyone's a Cherokee" post.
Jul. 9th, 2008 01:03 am (UTC)
How did you know my grandmother's grandmother was an indian?!

and my grandfather's grandfather married his niece.
Jul. 9th, 2008 01:03 am (UTC)
whoa, hello livejournal sign in box
Jul. 9th, 2008 01:04 am (UTC)
lol its true.
i took a class that opened my eyes more so than they already were about whiteys and how we viewed native americans. People try and say they are part native american to alleviate some of the guilt you feel when you learn REAL history.

i am okay with saying i am 0% native american, but at least i'm educated in the subject.
Jul. 9th, 2008 01:08 am (UTC)
Try being Scottish or Irish, just as bad :)

"Hey that's cool, I'm Scottish too!"
"Oh, where were you born?"
"Right here, my great great grandfather came over in 1870."

Yeah, ok, whatever.
Jul. 9th, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)
Around here (Northern Canada), all (okay, 99 out of 100) of First Nations people are too busy trying to co-opt African-American gang culture of all things, (for lack of a better term) than celebrating their own rich history (even in a community of 500 people you often see "Eastside VS. Westside" grafitti. Uh huh.) so whenever I see some white person with a dreamy Native American + Dreamcatcher tattoo I have to laugh out loud and say "Clueless!" to myself. Furthermore, what the heck is wrong with just being boring old American/Canadian anyway?!
Jul. 9th, 2008 03:14 am (UTC)
Hey, didn't [insert relative here] mention something that one time about the family having [insert tribe, normally Cherokee] blood? I wonder if my kid could get a scholarship for that...
Jul. 10th, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)

with equaled and maybe redoubled sarcasm.

I am gay, mexican, born in Europe, in an interracial relationship...

my children better go to college for free, dammit. :)
Jul. 9th, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
My husband actually spent part of his childhood on a Reservation near Jersey. Not the prettiest part of his life. I find it frustrating that he wants nothing to do with his heritage and would rather people simply think he and our children are "tanned."

But, heritage, ethnicity, race, culture, all of these things possess dual characteristics, well, more like multiple characteristics and connotations that are linked to our very worldviews, it is hard to ask people to separate or examine these subjects objectively.
Jul. 10th, 2008 04:24 am (UTC)
I can take pleasure in knowing that if anyone in my family attempts to claim to have any Native American heritage, I can call them a liar. Being highly modern euromutts (in that most came to the US since 1900, with only a small part of my dad's family that pre-dates the Civil War).

I've definitely experienced the Cherokee syndrome, though - a lot of people like to claim it, I know of only 2 who could prove it, though.

Personally, I really enjoy learning about the various native cultures - all the things that were nearly missed due to the woderous joys of manifest destiny... I could spend a a few lifetimes at Mesa Verde, trying to learn about the ancient Puebloan people. Around here, I have been reading up more on the Adena, Hopewell, and Ft. Ancient cultures of mound builders... and the Mississippian stuff at Cahokia... love that stuff...

but anyway... I know people who talk as if the Mayans are all dead and gone, too... yet I would swear I had this conversation in horribly borken spanish trying to buy a few blankets south of Cancun... because he didn't speak spanish... he spoke Mayan.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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