I’ve been chuckling about this video for a few days now.
- the1491s. “I’m An Indian Too“. YouTube <youtube.com>. Sep 21, 2012, retrieved Dec. 12, 2020.
So then. When the laughing subsides for a bit, I’m ready to go on with some more reading around this topic. There’s a particularly active faux Red community on Geni.com. I have a long standing interest in the subject of racial identity, but these folx really lit my interest. A wide variety of pipe carriers, and vision warriors, and chiefs of various standing. They couldn’t bear to hear that they might not be as NDN as they want.
I remember reading a few years ago about White folx with a tiny bit of Indian ancestry weighing in on whether the Washington Redskins name is racist. Invariably, they’d (a) assert their claim to Indian ancestry, then (b) say they aren’t offended by the name. Can people be less self-aware than that? I don’t think so.
I was pulled back to this issue recently by Darryl Leroux (no surprise there) and his latest article about indigenization.
- Darryl Leroux. “Aspirational Descent and the Creation of Family Lore: Race Shifting in the Northeast.” 2020. (“Ultimately, this article’s initial analysis demonstrates that genealogical research is not simply a matter of discovering a long-ago ancestor, but that one might recreate the identity of particular ancestors to fit one’s current desires about identity.”)
There are also these older articles, still on my radar:
- Adam Gaudry and Darryl Leroux. “White Settler Revisionism and Making Métis Everywhere.” 2017. (“Our analysis of the public advocacy work and political claims of these two groups of self-identiﬁed Métis demonstrates how the indigenization of the descendants of early French settlers is fraught with colonial overtones that threaten Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination.“)
- Darryl Leroux. “‘We’ve been here for 2,000 years’: White settlers, Native American DNA and the phenomenon of indigenization.” 2018. (“The [Métis Nation of the Rising Sun (MNRS)] claims that they exist today as an ‘Indigenous’ people due to both the strength of their European ancestry and the minute presence of genes associated with Indigenous peoples.”)
In other words, some people are making a very basic mistake of confusing ancestry and identity. It doesn’t have to be this hard–I have Swedish ancestry but I am not a Swede. So simple and obvious but it might be easy to lose your bearings if the only culture you know is your own.
Ultimately, this approach acquires an ersatz legitimacy from a related debate about the U.S. government using blood quantum rather than culture as a determinant of Indian identity. I wrote about that a few years ago. It should take only a few moments of reflection to see the difference between saying if you have the culture blood shouldn’t matter, versus saying if you have the blood you can claim the culture.
I’ll be watching to see where this goes. From the resistance I’ve encountered personally, I’d bet the ranch that rationality loses this round, this generation. There’s a powerful undercurrent in the dominant settler culture of wanting to be indigenized, some way, some how.
Update: Now here’s a book for my reading list: Circe Sturm, Becoming Indian: The struggle over Cherokee identity in the twenty-first century (2011). Looks like it’s still available from UNM Press for $27, but twice that used. Should be half that. Something hinkey, there. I’ll put it on my want list and wait for the market to play out.