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Editorial

Are you a real “part” Indian?

Cherokee.

What do you think of when you hear the word? If you are a member of any other tribal nation you may laugh upon hearing the word. It may make you think of blonde-haired, blue-eyed  “Indians” wearing turkey feathers at powwows. It may make you think of people asking you “Are you Indian?” and when you answer yes they reply that their great-great-great-grandma was a real “Cherokee princess.”

It’s not just a joke, I’ve actually heard it before. I myself don’t think I have ever met someone who was black, white, or other, that didn’t claim to have some distant Cherokee ancestor. Growing up in the South, I would hear from the black folks the “I’m part Indian, that’s why I got ‘good hair'” legend. And of course the white people would boast about having high cheek bones and being tall due to their “Cherokee princess” ancestor.

It’s a trip to me that the Cherokee people can be so “loved” and claimed and yet so hated at the same time by other Indians.  Many of the tribes out west say that the Cherokees are “fake Indians” or “paper Indians” because they have been mixing with the whites since the 1500s and have so many mixed-bloods in the tribe. Of course on the other side of things you have the non-Indians who regard the Cherokees as “magical” or “spiritual” and mythical like a leprechaun or something.

Here is where I stand on the subject basically: If you are going to claim Cherokee ancestry at least try to learn the cultural heritage of the people. Don’t go out and buy a dreamcatcher and a turkey feather warbonnet and go on websites and message boards saying “Mitakuye Oyasin” to everybody (which is Lakota, not Cherokee) and acting like some wise “medicine man” or how you think a “real Injun” would act. You look foolish.

Don’t put on some Boy Scout-made “regalia” and go to a powwow making up your own “dance style” and looking like an idiot. If you want to learn, then learn things the right way. If I had a dime for every time someone told me they were “part” Indian I would be living in a mansion right now.

Like I said before, and many other people have preached this until they are blue in the face too, Indians don’t come in “parts.” You are either an Indian or you are not. If you tell me you are “part” Indian I want to know some things. Are you enrolled with the tribe, or at least knowledgeable about your Native ancestry through some kind of documentation?  Where are your Indian ancestors from?  Do you know the language? Are you trying to learn?  What about your people’s history and culture?  The stories?  If you give yourself a colorful “Indian name”, and grasp onto a group of New Age ‘medicine men’ you are disqualifying yourself from anyone taking you seriously regardless of who your ancestors were. Many of the people who fall under this category are forming fake “tribes” seeking government recognition and making real documented descendants look bad. The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma even formed a “fraudulent tribes task force” for confronting people seeking to form tribal entities claiming Cherokee heritage. There is always the option to learn who you are without creating something that isn’t accurate and is offensive and dishonorable to your ancestors.

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Discussion

8 thoughts on “Are you a real “part” Indian?

  1. N read Custer Died for Your Sins, by Vinnie Deloria jr (RIP)

    Posted by Frank cornstalk | February 23, 2012, 7:30 am
    • Let’s talk about Doublehead’s Clan and how most of them have been rejected on the Rolls. Even during the time that they were living right in the middle of the Cherokee Nation. Who did Sequoya go looking for at the base of the Rockie Mountains and wound up dying in Mexico alone, still looking for the Lost..75,000 of us know who..Sometimes its alright to have all your history and sometimes its some dirty little secret that the Tribe doesn’t want to “rehash”. It’s a Chicamauga thing…So they just don’t acknowledge their existence. The Moravian Journals are gonna bring alot of light on who’s a wannabe and who isn’t and alot of true Cherokee that have had doors slammed in their faces are going to be vindicated. This fight in my family has gone on for well over 125yrs now. Fullblooded Cherokees people who were denied on the Rolls..with relatives in other clans that were accepted. Do your research before you categorize everyone out there who claim they’re Cherokee into one group….educate yourself on their claims. The Tribe did alot of this to thereselves.

      Posted by Rose Little Butler | March 16, 2012, 9:20 pm
  2. Yes, I’m Cherokee. My ancestors were too proud to sign the “roll” to receive government benefits. They refused to trade their pride for a few handouts from the government.

    Posted by Annita Rackley | February 23, 2012, 1:45 pm
    • hi Annita..as An enrolled member of the Klamath,Modoc Yahooskin band of snake Indians of Chiloquin Oregon..I want you to know that a “Roll” is not anything we signed to be called an Indian..it was a document made up of numbers given to every Indian on that reservation that they had placed my Ancestors on,,you did not get a choice as to that number or a choice as to whether you wanted to stay there on that REZ….you stayed against your will..if your Ancestors where in fact on that rez because they were Indian..than they would have a “Roll” Number whether they ever took government handouts what ever that may mean to you…..I am Enrolled not because my great great grandparents gave in and signed some thing to get hand outs..its because I am Indian by blood through Blood degree thats comes from a tribe that is federally Recognized as a tribal entity. I can choose not to enroll..which for a time I did decide not to Enroll..but you can not possibly have a whole family lineage refuse to be enrolled..how could your family decide this through the generations and all agree not to enroll? Somewhere back in your family is a ROLL number next to one of your Ancestors name. If you cant find one..then they were never Indian..or somehow lucked out and managed to stay hidden for decades and did not get put on the rez along with the rest of us Indians that have a ROLL number…Need to re-look your family history…

      Posted by Winema Huiit-Weeks | March 17, 2012, 4:59 am
  3. In my tribe the deciding factor of whether or not someone is Tlingit may fall into one of three categories (and these are just my observations, not to be taken as undeniable fact):

    1. Direct matrilineal descent from a known clan member. We’re all about who your momma was, and your clan passes from mother to children.

    2. Enrolled in the tribe. This can be shaky, because you can qualify as an enrolled tribal member without being a part of a clan, and in my tribe, clan is everything.

    3. Adopted. This is taken more or less seriously depending on the clan that adopted you, where you live, etc. There are some *very* white looking people whose clan membership no one would question, because they’ve earned it.

    In my view it is less about how “Indian” you are and more about whether or not your tribe or clan claims you. The boiling down of tribal membership to bureaucratic procedure or blood quantum is not really in the spirit of tribalism. In the old days there was little question about these things, because who you were and what tribe/clan/band you belonged to were inseparable. In many cases your very existence was due to your tribe. The tribe protected its individual members, and individual members protected the tribe. The tribe owned/controlled/took care of resources that supported tribal members. We didn’t really need police, taxes, welfare, or jobs (though there was always plenty of work) because all of those functions were built into our social organizational model: the tribe. These days our Tribes operate as bureaucracies. Nothing like our old tribes.

    Posted by Vince | February 23, 2012, 1:52 pm
  4. That’s what I thought…only one-sided replies may reply. What’s the point of posting a debateable issue if you don’t want to hear the other side. That’s close minded. There are many sides to this issue. Many people have been unjustly rejected on the Rolls. I have met very many on my quest for the truth. Which I know. One fact of the Greens history that has been left out is that in 1808 they lived within the Cherokee Nation…with their Clan…documents to prove this….so why were some accepted and others rejected? You write a column either for feedback and debate or for your own pin pointed opinion. Could there be something about this you do not know?

    Posted by rose little butler | March 16, 2012, 10:42 pm
  5. My mothers siad ecame from the Wyandot Indians and Irish .My fathers side was from the German, Dutch and Welsh. I do not know the Wyandot language or cultures I do not speak the language . but i do not speak Irish, dutch ,welsh or german either . But I do believe that I do have some Indian in me as it came from my mothers said of the family the same as with all the other blood lines that run in my family.

    Posted by Linda Baldwin | March 17, 2012, 12:34 am
  6. My best advice to you….is to educate yourself on all the trials and tribulations prior To the Trail of Tears. Not all Cherokees walked the Trail.

    Posted by rose little butler | March 17, 2012, 3:13 am

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