( – promoted by navajo)
I finished this in approximately May of 2008 and wanted to wait till the issue came up again and after I was able to let it go to discuss it. Poignantly, I wish to discuss the issue of “many simply feel they do not belong.”
Thousands of Native Americans are not enrolled in their tribes because their bloodlines have become diluted over the years, as is happening with the Comes Last family. Even some full-blooded Native Americans lack enough of any one tribe’s heritage to qualify for enrollment. .. And, on a more intangible note, many simply feel they do not belong.
Another way of saying “many simply feel they do not belong” is to say that many feel isolated. I’ll offer some thoughts on that and then share the essay I wrote in 2008.
Feeling isolated and not belonging are different from really being isolated and really not belonging. I really was overall isolated the first six months of my life at the DHS before being adopted. The practice and importance of picking up newborns was not yet established; so, when my parents got me, I had a flat head. I spent most of my life feeling like I didn’t belong and that I was alone, but that was fiction I told myself. Again, feeling isolated and not belonging are different from really being isolated and really not belonging. Here’s how I pulled the wool over my own eyes.
I felt alone to start with, so I was a bitter victim. Furthermore, my studdering didn’t help any. If someone expressed love, I would to a greater or lesser degree turn my back, then I would really be alone. I made being a loner a self fulfilling prophecy by overreacting to the smallest of perceived rejection and so forth, yet if I had responded in kind to the care being shown to me in the first place, I wouldn’t have been alone. Consequently, learning that took me twenty years. Interesting, because I was always surprised when people didn’t reject me for saying the main way I know I’m 1/6 something is by a DNA test. That’s a huge revelation for mixed bloods like me: if someone expresses care it’s because they care. I didn’t always know that though.
My biological mother told me in one of few phone conversations that the family rumor was that the American Indian heritage originated in Oklahoma, but didn’t know anything more about it. I became furious without being able to acknowledge it at the time. I didn’t know who to be angry at: her, my ancestors, Christianity, or the extermination policy of the U.S. government towards my ancestors. I finally forgave it, yet I think it’s easier for me not knowing specific details about specific ancestors, than for those who do. I can safely assume they were assimilated into the Christian faith my biological mother professes and so on, but specific details are lacking. Point is, it’s been all too easy to make unsound assumptions about other’s motivations, and then use those unsound assumptions as an excuse to refuse their love. On the other hand, is someone is being negative, that’s much more easily dealt with when accepting other’s love is the common choice as opposed to living at a distance. If you’re a mixed blood, you’re not alone and you’re needed. Feeling isolated and not belonging are different from really being isolated and really not belonging. Here’s the essay I wrote in spring of 2008.
What can you do when you’re a mixed blood and a DNA test is the only proof that you’re Native American? First off, you must be aware that you are part of a modern dilemma that has no easy answers. Those answers must come from the individual’s awareness of this modern dilemma in a historical context, wherein from that historical context the individual might find their suitable answers.
In this essay, I touch on the issues of …the implications of an increasing ‘mixed-blood’ Indian community, and the growing place of DNA testing in Indian country…
– snip –
“The internalization of blood quantum criteria to determine identity has promoted in-group conflict, leaving First Peoples and their descendents fighting each other under the table for the pitiful scraps thrown by the lord and lady of the manor… (Baird-Olson, 2003: 212).”
To reiterate, there are no easy answers on such a mass scale; however, one must be honest and let the cards fall.
Experience has shown me that the cards don’t fall, unless the person I’m communicating with is being dishonest and disregarding the system of relationships between tribal members that yield the power and political status that they think they have. These individuals then demand financial compensation after marketing themselves while committing something much worse than identity theft. Consequently, those in my or similar circumstance with lost history are sitting ducks for such predators; hence, my advice is to not ask questions, but run. I briefly define this character in the next paragraph. Let’s take another brief look at the dilemma, it’s past and present reasons, and then I will share my experience and hope.
Life will be better for all of us when Indian Country abandons the “us and them” mentality and extends a hand in friendship to mixed bloods.
We will now concisely discuss past reasons for this dilemma after mentioning cultural genocide as critical reasons for being honest about one having tribal affiliation or not. There is a need to address with absolute candor the subject of claiming identity with a particular tribe in light of the existence of plastic medicine men and others that “claim tribal status in order to secure highly desirable jobs.” Historically speaking and not mentioning Allotment and so on right now, the problem has been dishonesty. White men married Indian women to steal their land, whites claimed to have Indian identity when they really weren’t Indian in order to steal land; so, it’s no surprise today that history is repeating itself. What can someone do to help stop that history from repeating? Be honest, and brutally so. But what specific history is repeating that causes the hard feelings?
Answering that question, anyone that knows anything about the Dawes Commission knows that putting people in positions of having lost records of family members was the goal all along.
Conquering the land –
“The Dawes Commission” by Kent Carter. p. 2.
The Indian Office appropriations bill passed on March 3, 1893, established a pattern of using such legislation to attack tribal autonomy that would become all too familiar to those delegations.
– by revising and attacking, according to how best the land could be stolen, the very definition of Indian identity.
“The Dawes Commission” by Kent Carter. p. 44.
The Dawes Commission decided that its task was not to find everyone who had Indian blood; it was to enroll only those people who met the exact requirements of the law as they defined it. This position frustrated applicants and their lawyers at the time and drives present – day family researchers to tears.
Indeed it has.
Truth heals, but always after boiling out the infection. Unavoidably, I was raised without any knowledge of any American Indian ancestry whatsoever in my blood for having been adopted into a very loving family. Being honest, my Native American biological origins which are only from my biological mother’s side of the family, where I get my 16% Native American blood from isn’t something I like to think about. Images of her stripping with me inside of her, while smoking marijuana or drinking fill me with disgust if I dwell on it. I hate strip clubs for that reason, and realizing that nudity was still allowed under Oklahoma State law when I was in high school makes me realize the dollar bills probally fell on the floor by her and went not
into her g -string. Yet her allowing herself to be robbed of her values in that way is almost a parable for why I have no place in the Native American world in any tribally recognized capacity. Truth heals, but always after boiling out the infection.
I cannot say for sure my Indian ancestors were exterminated, but this I do know: they and thus me were and are assimilated; victims of the cultural genocide of at least Allotment, racism, and genocide denial of their time. The shame of my biological mother is the shame of my ancestors who became Christianized and left their cultural history behind because of shame, survival, or both. The tribe and the clan were lost from me and from at least my biological grandparents, which condemns me to be a walking example of a successful extermination, culturally speaking.
The phrase “in whole or in part” is important.
Perpetrators need not intend to destroy the entire group. Destruction of only part of a group (such as its educated members, or members living in one region) is also genocide. Most authorities require intent to destroy a substantial number of group members – mass murder. But an individual criminal may be guilty of genocide even if he kills only one person, so long as he knew he was participating in a larger plan to destroy the group.
Next, I will share what is right for me in my situation and not necessarily for anyone else. Knowing these things about myself and my general history, there is something I will never do. I will illustrate what I’ll never do by sharing a conversation I had with my wife when she asked me something in general about my ever having tribal affiliation after the Chickasaw tribal anthropologist asked me if I was Indian at a recent conference. I told him the bare outline of what I’ve stated in the first paragraph and about my DNA test results. Here’s what I told her.
“Even if I learn informally that I’m this or that tribe, I’ll never say what that is in a public format unless these things have been done: I’ve contacted the tribe, an elder knows about my family history, they are on the Dawes Rolls, and I get a card.” She had some questions and didn’t exactly object, but here’s what I responded with. “It’s not fair, but neither is life. This is how it has to be done. If I ever do miraculously end up as a tribal member; I’m not taking any benefits. The only immediate value would be in having another tribal member listed on their membership rolls for obvious reasons.”
Consequently, my response to the valid, not sound idea that I must first contact the tribe, then find an elder who knows about my family history, then locate them on the Dawes Rolls, and then get a card before I can say that I’m barely over 1/6th Native American, is that I refuse to be homogenized. Whatever this 16% is in me that turns my heart and blood red, is going to live. Not so with my half sisters.
I have two half sisters who I am 99.9% certain I will never meet from my biological mother; consequently, whatever American Indian ancestry that is in me is also in them. Hence, my entire living family from which comes my Native American heritage is walking examples of successful cultural exterminations. Please don’t tell us to go off and die; we’re already dead, culturally speaking.
The problem involves those people claiming to be Native American although they are not enrolled with any particular tribe.
As I said in the beginning, truth heals after boiling out the infection, but boiling the infection out makes room for the cure. Here is the cure for being a walking example of a successful cultural extermination.
Those cures feel temporary, because back at home with its walls and ceilings the affliction of civilization begins anew. However, this cure is permanent “depending on my spiritual condition.”
You are all my relations, my relatives, without whom I would not live. We are in the circle of life together, co-existing, co-dependent, co-creating our destiny. One, not more important than the other. One nation evolving from the other and yet each dependent upon the one above and the one below. All of us a part of the Great Mystery.
Each day I choose to be either a walking example of a successful cultural extermination, or I choose to be an example of Mitakuye Oyasin. I choose to be the whites in my history who helped American Indians, and never the whites in my history who I imagine probably exterminated them. Whatever I choose to be in any given day, and hopefully it’s choosing to be an example of Mitakuye Oyasin and being of at least some small service to “All My Relations” more often than not, that’s me as a mixed blood.
Concluding, part of the meaning in the suffering for me personally was stated by someone who is a complete surprise in my life. I was recently reunited with my biological father; his side of the family is all German and he married a woman who is Blackfoot. He introduced her to me as my mother; she would have been my step mother. She gave me a crystal she had dug up long ago and said, “This is just like you, all broken up inside but it holds itself together somehow. It’s beautiful, just like you.” I smiled with my heart and remembered Crazy Horse’s vision.
“Upon suffering beyond suffering: the Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world. A world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations. A world longing for light again. I see a time of Seven Generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again. In that day, there will be those among the Lakota who will carry knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things and the young white ones will come to those of my people and ask for this wisdom. I salute the light within your eyes where the whole Universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am that place within me, we shall be one.”
I hope we make it come true along with similar visions, dreams, philosophies, and hopes.
For if we don’t, let us say that the genocide and the slavery that infected the New World, the hubris of Manifest Destiny,the current economic crisis with all of its social consequences, and the current climate change crisis with all of its social consequences are just too much for us. Are they, really? That is the question we all need to be asking ourselves; accordingly, non – Indians should be asking themselves the questions that David Gabbard, a non – Indian, poses in his essay entitled “Before Predator Came.” If it really is all just too much for us to apply the precepts of unity while simultaneously respecting each other’s cultural and geographic boundaries, then history has already shown us what the alternative is.
As difficult as it may be for non – Indians to realize the corruption of American Institutions, such as universities, or to recognize the hypnotic effect of propaganda and hegemony, it may be far more difficult for them to mitigate the shadow side of their own cultural histories. In this chapter a non – Indian (David Gabbard) scholar stresses how vital it is to do so nonetheless, for until a true realization occurs, the United States of America will likely continue its similar intrusions of colonialism in other parts of the world and on other people. He points out that for this realization to take place, we must recognize First Nations scholarship as a set of practices aimed at helping everyone remember themselves and that efforts to discredit that scholarship and the worldviews that it attempts to recover can keep us in a cycle of genocide that will ultimately consume us.
David Gabbard’s essay entitled “Before Predator Came” in“Unlearning the Language of Conquest Scholars Expose Anti-Indianism in America” by editor Four Arrows (Don Trent Jacobs). p. 230
For European Americans in particular, we need to inquire into the history of our ancestors’ journeys across the Atlantic. Did they really leave Europe to escape religious persecution, or were the majority of our ancestors deemed elements of a surplus population whose deportation could help facilitate predator’s virulent spread to other corners of the earth? Did the enclosure movement and the subsequent deportation of the unemployed and “criminal” elements to the Americas, Africa, and Australia constitute our own “Trail of Tears”? Was it a forerunner to the reservation system imposed on the Indigenous People that predator would later establish? These and other questions abound. Seeking their answers is vital for the sake of remembering ourselves. First Nations scholars from the Indigenous Peoples of North America and elsewhere have shown us the door; it is up to us to walk through it. It’s the only path home.