Yellacat Ranch Under a Western Sky

Becoming Indian

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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.

There are also these older articles, still on my radar:

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.

Yellacat Ranch Under a Western Sky
Justin Swanstrom

Justin Swanstrom

Made in America. Retired attorney. Bookseller at Shining Lotus. No Nazis in Valhalla. He/him.

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