Lies, Damned Lies, and the Complicated Accounting of Identity [Counterpoint]

When I received Gyasi’s piece, I thought long and hard about how to respond.

His piece felt a bit like a slap – exactly how were we supposed to evaluate Queen Chief Warhorse’s credentials on the fly, especially after she had been vetted as a speaker by an organization intent on working locally with organizations that impact their communities? Why would we doubt her, just based on her face? I know it’s been quite a few years, but Racialicious started as a blog called Mixed Media Watch, which spent a lot of time exploring how phenotypes can be deceiving. It wasn’t so long ago that Addicted to Race boasted a “racial spy” section, which featured mixed race people recounting stories of receiving stereotypes intended for others. So we would never, ever question someone’s identity on phenotype alone. If we did that, we would have challenged Brandann for not looking properly Indian instead of just letting her tell her story.

However, Gyasi is correct – there are many, many people who have claimed to speak for Indian Country who have fabricated their identities, and we need to denounce those who would use an indigenous identity to seek profit for themselves. But are the answers so cut and dry to the point where they should be immediately obvious to all outside of the various nations? Over the years at Racialicious, we’ve come across many places in which someone’s heritage has been declared false. And each time, we try to figure out how to proceed. But the truth isn’t always easy to understand – and questions of identity are far more complicated than the Young Black Teenagers publicity stunt.

From Peggy Seltzer to Tinsel Corey, from Taylor Lautner to Cher, and from Princess Pale Moon to Andrea Smith, public proclamations of Native identity are often swiftly challenged and debated. So let’s examine the ones who made headlines, and then apply what we’ve learned to Queen Chief Warhorse.

This wouldn’t be the first time that someone has claimed Native background for fame and profit.

The easiest example to debunk from recent history is the Peggy Seltzer scandal. In 2008, one “Margaret B. Jones” published a memoir called “Love and Consequences” about her life as a mixed Native-White girl who fell into gang life as a foster child placed in a black home. The problem? The memoir was a fake.

While most reviewers focused on Seltzer’s affectation (see the video that Harry Allen wisely copied), quite a few missed that she had chosen to fabricate a Quinault affiliation.

Now, Seltzer wasn’t debunked because of the things she wore or the color of her skin – people (who unfortunately were not the ones publishing this memoir) figured out the truth by finding friends and family members who quickly copped to the truth.

Yet, even still, some chose to defend her bizarre appropriated experience. From Fishbowl LA:

Gordon Sayre, the professor at U of Oregon who taught Peggy Seltzer, semi-defends the practice of false memoir writing:

If Peggy’s assertion that she had spent part of her childhood on the Quinault reservation was untrue, if the paper she had written about this experience was based on false premises, at least it was backed up by enough research to be convincing.

There’s a moral assertion–lying is okay, provided you’re good at it. Or else, a professor of Native American literature knows little or nothing about the lives of actual Native Americans.

So let’s look at another well known example, that was also eventually sidelined. After releasing her song “Half-Breed,” pop star Cher began claiming that she was part Cherokee.

However, while her song and video made it sound like Cher had lived the mixed Native struggle, it turns out that Cher is actually Armenian and white. As Mental Floss explains:

Prior to 1973, Cher’s biography always listed her father (John Sarkisian) as being of Armenian heritage, while her mother, Georgia Holt, was of Irish and German extraction. But when Cher’s single “Half Breed” started climbing the Billboard charts (it would eventually hit number one), suddenly she remembered that she was 1/16th Cherokee on her mother’s side. That biographical revision probably helped stem protests from the Native community when Cher performed her hit in a full feathered headdress on an episode of The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.

Taylor Lautner also played the numbers. After being cast as the brooding, hot blooded werewolf foil to Robert Pattison’s cold, sparkly vamp peen, Lautner suddenly discovered his Native roots. However, it appears that it was a casting feint, possibly done because the director made a huge deal about asking all the Native actors for “their papers.” But will Lautner keep promoting his ancestry after the final Twilight movie airs in November? Probably not.

However, some people do more than to use their tenuous Native heritage to boost sales. Back in 2000, Colorlines published an expose titled “Charity Scams: Making Big Business Out of Native American Poverty” which pointed to American Indian Heritage Foundation, run by one Princess Pale Moon.

Koren Capozza reports:

This practice became apparent to Eleanor McMullen, chairwoman of the Port Graham tribe in Northern Alaska, when she learned that 1,000 pounds of beef liver were en route to her tiny coastal village. The donation was made in 1991 by American Indian Heritage Foundation (AIHF), a charity in Falls Church, VA, which had solicited funds on behalf of the Port Graham tribe but had not consulted with the Port Graham people.

McMullen was offended and demanded that the beef be returned to sender. “We weren’t looking for any donations, we were just trying to adjust to being without what we normally have.” The Port Graham Aleuts were hard hit by the Alaska oil spill that year. “I found out that this occurred amongst many people and that a lot of that money went to [the AIHF president’s] program, her wage, her staff.”

My investigation showed similar dubious practices by the National Relief Charities, the Native American Heritage Association, the Southwest Indian Foundation, and the Southwest Indian Children’s Fund.

As of 2010, the American Indian Heritage Foundation was still being run by Princess Pale Moon, who was initially credited as being Chocktaw, but now identifies (as of her blog post from 2010) as Cherokee/Ojibwa. Capozza continues:

Princess Pale Moon is the personality behind the American Indian Heritage Foundation (AIHF), the charity that sent the unwanted beef liver to Alaska. Pale Moon claims Native ancestry and says she created the organization so that young American Indians wouldn’t have to feel ashamed—the way she supposedly did—about their heritage. The only problem is that no records support Pale Moon’s claim to be Native American. She’s not registered with any federally recognized tribe and was actually asked to leave the 1992 World Expo in Spain by U.S. intelligence when it discovered she was a fraud.

“We remind her that we don’t have any royalty,” says Vernon Bellecourt. “They’ve always got to be ‘princesses’ or something or other. It’s a white woman masquerading as an Indian and, of course, she has some Indians on her board to give her a cover.”

Pale Moon has nonetheless had a great deal of success as a Native American spokesperson. She sang the national anthem at two Republican conventions and has raised millions of dollars for Native causes. Unfortunately, those causes are often aimed at her own self-promotion. Of the $197,000 AIHF spent on programs in 1998, $24,566 was spent on “TV and public appearances to present cultural values and to educate the non-Indian public of the aspirations and needs of Indian people,” according to the charity’s 1998 IRS filings.

The IRS has currently revoked the tax-exempt status for the American Indian Heritage Foundation, after failure to file tax returns.

But from here, it gets harder to definitively call people out, in part because we start getting into race and history. Taylor Lautner was not the only actor to fall under scrutiny from the Twilight saga. Tinsel Korey was also put in the crossfire for claiming Native heritage. While she has not reversed her position, others around the net have pointed to her birth name (Harsha Patel) and lack of registration as proof that she is not truly Native. However, most of these sites are tumblrs and wordpress sites without much else to go on but a few posts detailing the (usually anonymous) perspective on Korey’s heritage. For her part, Korey has declined to specifically name a tribe affiliation, though she has thrown out Ojibway and Anishinaabe at different points. Though sources close to Korey say that she is who she claims to be, there isn’t definitive evidence either way. Korey’s parents have not (to our knowledge) publicly gone on the record about their daughter’s background, and as far as the internet knows, no tribe has denounced her as being fraudulent. So do we assume she is being truthful, or assume she is lying?

Our final example is one that almost made me fall out of my chair when I heard it. During the Warhorse conversations, Deb Reese told me that the Cherokee nation challenged and rejected Andrea Smith’s claim to status. My initial reaction was complete and total disbelief, and some quick Googling didn’t turn up anything about the problem. A more specific search turns up a reference on Indian Country today – but it is an op-ed, written by Steve Russell and it essentially argues that if Smith is committing identity fraud, it isn’t that serious:

So we come to the question whether Smith is an ethnic fraud like Ward Churchill. My position is that even though not Cherokee, she cannot be a fraud of Churchill’s stature. He made public statements that no tribal person I know would endorse. He then abused Hannah Arendt’s work when he claimed that her study of Eichmann supported the idea that some undocumented worker washing dishes in the Windows on the World restaurant deserved his fiery death on Sept. 11, 2001. [...]

If the University of Michigan wants a researcher and teacher, it would appear by objective criteria they have one. If they want a Cherokee, not.

Smith’s record does not appear to require augmentation by hereditary advantage. Ethnic fraud is harmful to tribes and sometimes to individual real Indians if they are passed over for a fake in a job that really does call for a tribal person. Ethnic fraud is not harmful to universities unless they allow it to be. The University of Michigan should articulate its values and rule according to those values.

That’s the university. That is not me. I’m not sure I would want to associate with an ethnic fraud, as some I have met are truly disturbed individuals. How can somebody choose to insult his or her real relatives so gravely? Often, these people are outed by offended relatives. If they do take something meant for real Indians, they are no better than any other thieves. That’s my moral judgment. That’s not a judgment that is open to a public university unless ethnicity was a bona fide qualification for the job.

If the purpose of Indian studies is to create jobs for incompetent Indians, let alone incompetent fakes, Indian studies has no business existing. It breaks my heart to hear Indian scholars claim their scholarship would not stand up to the level of scrutiny that Churchill’s antics drew. Pray tell, why not? Are we scholars or, as the Rush Limbaughs of the world would say, ”race pimps?”

There are no news articles about the announcement, and the official statement may be known to those in Indian Country but is not available online. The only references are, once again, whispers around the fringes – while there have been some comments fiercely debating Smith’s identity, there is very little that directly refers to what happened. So who are we to believe as there is a lack of evidence that Smith was outed by the Cherokee nation. And, from the scant details, it appears that their official statement was not that Smith is not Native, but rather she is not registered. Which means Smith could well have Cherokee lineage, but she is not officially acknowledged by the tribe. Does that mean she is not truly Indian? Does it simply mean she failed to file her paperwork, or is holding off for other reasons? These allegations are far from clear. And if those within Indian Country do not make these kinds of challenges explicit, how are those outside of Indian Country supposed to know?

Let’s return to Queen Chief Warhorse.

From a paper trail perspective, Warhorse’s bonafides are light, but not non existent. There is a community that identifies as Chata in New Orleans and they were established in 2009. They have met with The White House and Elwin “Chief Warhorse” Gillum, as leader of the tribe, is currently seeking $43 million dollars for the Tchefuncta Nation’s economic development programs. She came to the America Healing conference, recommended by the mayor of New Orleans.

This is not to say that Warhorse is legitimate – as Deb pointed out, the “Queen” title is normally a red flag, and as Gyasi pointed out on Twitter, she is mixing a lot of traditions together to signal “Nativeness.” (From an outsider’s perspective, I wonder if there is a pan-Indian movement, in the way that black movements embraced pan-Africanism which might explain some of the conflation. But I’ll also point out here that many folks have come to reject the colonialist nature of pan-Africanism that collapses individual nations into one mass, despite its unifying aims.)

However.

As far as we know, she has only made claim to be a part of one tribe. Her tribe does have members, and is acknowledged as legitimate in New Orleans. If each nation has their own sovereignty, why would we doubt she is who she claims to be? If each nation has their own standards for inclusion, how are we to challenge Warhorse’s legitimacy? Gyasi pointed out on Twitter that she is generally unknown in Indian Country, and does not organize with other Native groups? But if she is receiving challenges to her identity based on her physical appearance, would she seek out Indian Country as part of her family? After all, the debates around the “IndiVisible” exhibit show that blacks with Native ancestry aren’t always accepted by Native Americans.

So where does this leave us? Unfortunately, not much further than before. We are never going to be a space that challenges someone’s identity based on physical appearance. More evidence is necessary before we feel comfortable jumping on a table and yelling “You, madam, are a charlatan!” And with the Warhorse case, there doesn’t appear to be much evidence to denounce her as a fraud. Her identity presentation doesn’t add up, but is that enough to challenge her identification? In some cases, the truth about heritage is fairly cut and dry. But in others, we need far more evidence than is normally made available.

It is vital to remember that there generally are no perfect solutions to solving issues of racial justice. This is because this idea we base it on – race – is an ever changing fiction, albeit one that has wrought real world consequences. As an organization, we seek to sift through the fiction to unearth the truth – but there will be times when this is much more of an art than a science. We will continue to look to Indian Country to help guide us through these conversations – but if that information is not forthcoming, or easily verified, it is unreasonable to expect that we will challenge the identities of others.

  • Anonymous

    Hello. I am pleased to find your website for the first time.

    This evening our local PBS station was running an old documentary type of film as filler. It was called “Going Home” I believe. It opened with a woman dressed in ‘native’ garb singing “America” at the Lincoln Memorial. Then, along with a young Navajo man, this woman magically transported them to what looked to be either Monument Valley or Window Rock. At the opening credits, it billed the woman as Princess Pale Moon. Well, of course that ‘princess thing’ raised my radar immediately. After watching this strange film for a few minutes, I had to go online to find out who this “princesss” was. As I suspected, she was pretty much declared a fraud all over the web.

    While I am here ‘visiting’ your site, reading the article by Ross and this one as well, I wondered how people reading this feel about DNA testing for haplotypes that break ‘race’ down to four groups: sub-Saharan African, Caucasian, Asian, and Native American. Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. uses DNA extensively on his “Finding Your Roots” program on PBS. And if your website has ever addressed the use or misuse of DNA results. 

    I can’t let this opportunity pass without mentioning the infamous “Crying Indian” commercial. As I’m sure you know, after his death it was proven without a doubt that he was the son of Italian immigrants and didn’t have a drop of Native blood in his body.

  • cb

    i have to say i am shocked by the idea that andrea smith is falsely claiming to be cherokee ….
    i find it very hard to believe. i have massive respect and admiration for her writing. i draw strength from her thoughts and the way she moves in the world and in the struggle for a transformed world.

    http://uppingtheanti.org/journal/article/10-building-unlikely-alliances-an-interview-with-andrea-smith/

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1_m5BwRpvA

    …@ steve russell is it possible to be more substantial/detailed about why that is not her true identity?
    has she ever countered these allegations?

  • Anonymous

    Here is a reposting by a Dr. Mack, from the State of Louisiana and his direct contact number. I am the director of the Bureau of Minority Health Access for the state of Louisiana. My office is domiciled in the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. I first met Chief Warhorse of the Chahtah Tribe in 2004 when she was seeking better access to health and social services for her people. When she called me, I told her that her tribe was not on my list of state and federally recognized tribes which I received from the Governor’s Office on Indian Affairs. When I asked the Governor’s Office on Indian Affairs about this tribe, the director at that time  says, “Oh, yeah. They are there.” She spoke as if she did not want me to know they were there. So I later told Chief Warhorse that I would get back to her.So I set on a quest to investigate this Chahtah tribe and why they were not on my radar. I could not assist them with there problems until I investigated them thoroughly. So looked through archives in St. Tammany parish were they are from,  contacted college professors from Louisiana State University, Southern University and University of New Orleans. Now I am from Kentucky, so this became a great project for me. Each historical expert and professors of history I spoke with, local and  state officials and elders who knew the history of Chahath all told me about their existence and their history. They told of how they at one time occupied thousands of acres of land and how they were a force politically for centuries. If you go to the archives, you will see the Chahatah ancestors and especially Chief Warhorse’s grandfather and great-great grandfather and how they occupied the land and excelled in their crafts.I can go on for days talking about this tribe with all I have uncovered. Queen Chief Warhorse is who she says she is and she has tons of authentic proof to back up her claim. The history of Louisiana is a difficult one, filled with suppressed  authentic evidence that has been lying dormant because of racism. The Chahtah had their recognition and lands stripped by decree and racism, then the nobles of that time period tried to bury them along with their history. It is my suggestion that rather than criticize or question the tribes authenticity, you can do two things: you can write or visit the St. Tammany parish archives and look at the old maps to see where the Chahtah came from and where they settled, or you can call me at the Department of Health and Hospitals at 225-342-4886 and I will be glad to speak with any you further about this wonderful, hard-working tribe. This tribe is responsible for successfully evacuating hundreds of people from hurricane Katrina, developed  a plan to assist the poor and underserved communities with establishing their own emergency preparedness plan within the state’s emergency plan that saved thousands of lives. FEMA uses their plan to this day. Chief fought for better access to health care services. She lobbied for cleaner drinking water, held the state’s first health fair in conjunction with their POW-WOW festivities that drew hundreds. As I said before, I can go on-and-on about this wonderful tribe. If you want to know more just call me. The number I gave is my direct line.

    • Anonymous

      There are Chahta/Choctaw. That has been cleared up. But this woman is claiming a band of Chahta that is not federally recognized. Chahta is one of the tribes that have a Dawes Roll and also one of the slave owning tribes, so she could be Chahta. But there are many bands of Choctaw and only a few are federally recognized.   Just because you have a distant ancestor does not mean you get to speak for all of Native Country. 

  • pokedex

    man i am so sick of this shit.  can we just get this woman to willingly submit to some sort of geneology test, and be done with it?

    STAYLOR in AUSTIN…why would u feel silly claiming those ancestors, if u know u are descended from them?  just curious.  cuz i’ve seen white and other folk claiming 15x removed samoan grandmas, and 100x removed native uncles.  not that i don’t agree with u, i just want to know what’s stopping u.

    in this world, but especially in america, u can’t be native, irish, chinese, etc., but u can be black.  wtf?  just wow, it still boggles my mind how perceptions of race work in this country.  if u are non black, claiming any other ancestry apart from ur obvious phenotype, u are seen as getting in touch with ur roots/exotic/noble…appearing to be black and doing the same makes u a desperate, fraudulent, grasper?  let’s just get to the crux of the matter here folks.  fraud or no fraud,  this woman is phenotypically black, and therefore she will be viewed with contempt and extreme suspicion for claiming native roots.  honestly i can’t blame native people who have been duped before, for being skeptical about ANYONE; but once again, let’s put the dirty grimy on the table…generally, most other groups don’t like to be blood tied to black folk.  i’m not going to go into why, but it is what it is.

    *NEWSFLASH: not all black people claim to have a native/white/asian/whatever grandmamma/daddy, nor do we want one.  matter fact, some of us know FACTUALLY that we have some “others” in the bloodline, but like dead owls, don’t give a hoot.  stop flattering urselves, we don’t all want to be or be a part of u.  and most of u feel the same, let’s keep it 100 plz.  i wish we had something equivalent to a dawes roll for black people, but we know that’ll never happen cuz black folk still ain’t learned.  Steve Russell…we get weary too, and we shake our fucking heads at the stereotypes being levied upon us in these comments…

    Latoya, i’m not trying to start any shit on ur blog, but i’m just sick to death, of people speaking in coded terms, and ignoring hella obvious social structures related to how we interact with and perceive one another.  i don’t know how u do it, day in and day out, bleeding on the floor for these strangers, tracking and acting on important issues that benefit us ALL, and then catch ire for some shit that ain’t got nothing to do with u.  u really are the better woman, and this counterpoint should exhibit why people should know when to apologize, and take several seats.

     

  • Anonymous

     

    Yet we see the Cleveland Indians, not warriors, caricaturized
    ridiculously. Indians are the only ethnic group that are caricaturized
    as a people.  Caricaturizing WOPs and the Yellow Peril or anyone else is
    unthinkable.

    Not to take away from the important information about Indigenous history you provide, but I have to challenge this part of your comment. White supremacist stereotyping of non-Indigenous brown people is still alive and well in the US, as last week’s story over the racist “Popchips” brownface ad demonstrates. Anti-Asian, anti-Black, anti-Arab racism ad nauseaum in advertising, media, academia, and everyday speech still plague the minds and bodies of people of color nationwide.

    Seriously folks—we have got to stop assuming that other POC communities have it better or worse than our own. This assumption is exactly what leads to nonsense like cultural theft and appropriation, as many folks believe this “Queen” Chief Warhorse person is doing. When we try to speak for anybody but ourselves, we will end up silencing and invisibilizing millions of people who are already invisible. Really, do we really want to end up regurgitating the same uninformed stereotypes that people like Chief Warhorse perpetuate?

    I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any person of color to deal with the repressed rage that I live with every day of my life. Nor do I want any person to experience psychic harm because of some uninformed claptrap that I spewed. We can do better, folks.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not weird, it’s basic media literacy.

    We are, in many ways, just a blog. *Any* form of media (paper, TV network, blog, tumblr, LJ, what have you) is forced to gain credibility in a variety of ways. Blogging and it’s offshoots are still considered heavily controversial because of the nature of the form. Anyone can put up a blog. It took us six years to build the kind of credibility we now enjoy, just like it took Snopes.com years of showing their work through reporting and evidence before they were considered an accredited source.

    The MSM is not perfect by any means, and they screw up a lot of things related to nonwhite America, that’s for sure. But too many people don’t understand how to find a credible source. I was amazed in researching this post how few *native media* outlets had articles on these topics. You need to be able to check the sources – only one of the tumblrs I found made an effort to prove what they were saying (by comparing what she wrote on her myspace page, with screengrabs). You shouldn’t believe what ANYONE is saying (not us, not anyone) based on what is printed. I could anonymously throw up a post right now that KatKDLM kicks puppies and have people think that about you. That doesn’t make it true. Evidence makes it true. What people are hearing and what people think is not tantamount to evidence (see: The Chandra Levy case).

    I’ve posted 4 different takes on the same situation because we are building a case. Each writer links to their own evidence – the audience can decide if the evidence we point to is compelling enough to believe. And that is our job – we do not do reporting here, due to the cost and nature of it, but we do point to the evidence that is available. You can doubt me on Peggy Seltzer, but you can follow my outlinks to the controversy and summary and decide for yourself. You can doubt Deb, but you can follow her outlinks to the books and videos she discusses and decide for yourself. It’s not snobbery to require that there is some form of true, verified information, regardless of the source.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JGBRGCT2IKYELPLVLEQ4DYQQNM Joe Commuter

    Thanks for a great post. I am an east coast Native of mixed heritage so this post really hit home and “wopajo” made me feel for that writer. There is never an easy answer when it comes to NativeIndian heritage. As far as I know, we are the only ethnic group in America that has to produce printed proof of said ethnicity. This proof must be aquired through the federal or ( in the case of my tribe) state governments because of the problem this post illustrates. There are people in this world who will game the system for benefits. This is easy because media has taught America that Indians must look like the ones that are portrayed in fiction. The direct result of this was my entire tribe being displaced from our ancestral lands because my Grandfathers and Grandmothers did not look Indian enough for the presiding judge. Our land was given to the railroad and to create an estate for a wealthy friend of the judge. Pan-tribalism was a movement that was halted before it truly took off due to Ruby Ridge. As it stands now, there are tribes fighting among their own for federal crumbs. Blood quotas and corrupt councils seem to rule the day now where you can be expelled from a tribe or not even accepted in the tribe despite having an unbroken line of  Indian ancestors. Now, add in a dash of conflict between traditionals and non-traditionals and you are just starting to scratch the surface of life on the Red Road.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JGBRGCT2IKYELPLVLEQ4DYQQNM Joe Commuter

    Thanks for a great post. I am an east coast Native of mixed heritage so this post really hit home and “wopajo” made me feel for that writer. There is never an easy answer when it comes to NativeIndian heritage. As far as I know, we are the only ethnic group in America that has to produce printed proof of said ethnicity. This proof must be aquired through the federal or ( in the case of my tribe) state governments because of the problem this post illustrates. There are people in this world who will game the system for benefits. This is easy because media has taught America that Indians must look like the ones that are portrayed in fiction. The direct result of this was my entire tribe being displaced from our ancestral lands because my Grandfathers and Grandmothers did not look Indian enough for the presiding judge. Our land was given to the railroad and to create an estate for a wealthy friend of the judge. Pan-tribalism was a movement that was halted before it truly took off due to Ruby Ridge. As it stands now, there are tribes fighting among their own for federal crumbs. Blood quotas and corrupt councils seem to rule the day now where you can be expelled from a tribe or not even accepted in the tribe despite having an unbroken line of  Indian ancestors. Now, add in a dash of conflict between traditionals and non-traditionals and you are just starting to scratch the surface of life on the Red Road.

  • Steve Russell

    I’m about to take on the implications of the case where the Supreme Court has affirmative action in its sights. Naturally, I write from where the interests of Indians and African-Americans intersect, and readers here might find it of interest.  http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/ict_sbc/indians-and-diversity-part-1

  • Anonymous

    Latoya—my response is up at my site. It is too long or a comment. It also includes two videos.  http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2012/05/is-queen-chief-warhorse-native-and-who.html

  • queerhapa

    Wow, I am shocked about the Andy Smith stuff. Are there any other links you can share?

    Also, I’d love to hear how this relates to the story about Elizabeth Warren’s claims to Native ancestry: http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/02/warren-ad-highlights-her-ties-to-obama/?ref=todayspaper

    • Steve Russell

      She’s a white girl from Oklahoma who, like many Oklahomans, in fact has Indian ancestry.

      If she had traded on that ancestry, she should be ashamed of herself, but I’ve seen no evidence she has.  HARVARD has, and Harvard should be ashamed of itself.  They claim on one hand that her heritage had nothing to do with her hiring or promotion and on the other hand they deserve diversity points for hiring her.  They do deserve diversity points for the fact that not many women get tenured in her legal specialty, but the idea that she’s a twofer is ludicrous.

      You know, I signed a petition in favor of Andrea Smith’s tenure at Michigan in spite of the fact that I’m outraged by her fakery.  Her academic work is what it is, and if she is not occupying an “Indian seat,” then only her work matters.  That work is blind reviewed.  Ward Churchill had no such record.  His publication record was lengthy, but contained almost no anonymous, peer-reviewed work.  That kind of work is supposed to be the coin of the realm.  Churchill had nothing but his fake tribal identity and Colorado should not have tenured him whether he was Indian or not.

      I’ve sent campaign contributions to Elizabeth Warren in spite of the fact that I don’t live in her state.

      This would be because she is the most effective advocate for the 99% who has any chance of being elected, and I am of the 99%.  My interests, and the interests of my extended family, including my tribe, are at stake in her election.

      If I found out she had traded on a fake tribal identity, I would be pissed at her.  Nothing suggests that at this time.  But I would not regret any part my piddly contribution played in getting her elected because the economic issues facing the country are bigger than my personal pique.

  • Gyasi Ross

    Thank you for the counterpoint, Latoya.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000540514151 Teresa Harris

    I am a mixed race kid. I try to explain that I’m 2/4 Native, since tribes are not some interchangeable group. I grew up dancing powwows, eating fry bread and having long-drawn out crushes on drummers that I never spoke to.  I also have virtually no rhythm, a portion of nappy Irish hair, and think sage smells bad. I vaguely remember one black woman who was on the same circuit I was who had a bizarre dance regalia and no discernible tribal affiliation. And when I grew up, I would frequently hear from black families about a great-grandmother from the Cherokee tribe (And yes, it was always a great-grandmother and ALWAYS from the Cherokee). But to promote yourself as a spokesperson for a race that you’re too lazy or indifferent to actually learn about is galling. I don’t doubt that Ms. Warhorse may have some Native blood, but I am put out by her attempt to market it and her disrespect to educate herself about her supposed ancestors. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cocojams-Jambalayah/100000590546331 Cocojams Jambalayah

    My apologies for my poor cut and paste in my previous post. If you can delete the duplicate quotes, please do so.  As to whether descendants of  Choctaws who remainded in the South and mixed or further mixed with African Americans, White Americans. and/or others are “Native”,  I suppose that depends on who you ask.  However, just because people indicate that their race is x, y, and/or z, doesn’t mean that people within those groups, and outside of those groups will accept them as that race or races.  However,  according to the Census, race/ethnicity is self-determined, right?

    Also, a person doesn’t have to have knowledge about the history and traditions of their people in order to be a part of those people. And besides, traditions can change over time, and particularly if members of the group are removed from the source group.  However, populations which are apart from “source” cultures, such as Black African Jews in Ethiopia and Lemba people in various South African nations have retained some Jewish traditions that help substantiate their “Jewishness”.   I don’t get the sense that that is the case with the Chahta tribe, Tchunfuncta nation.  Instead,  my sense from that article about the Nevilles whose link was given in the your post, Latoya, was that the Chahta tribe, Tchufuncta nation is relatively newly formed of people with mostly anecdotal stories of their ancestors being Choctaws with very little knowledge about other Choctaws traditions, and stereotypical knowlege of American Indian  cultures in general. .With regard to that group being a part of the Mardi Gras Indian cultures of New Orleans,  I don’t know if the Chahta tribe, Tchufuncta nation is a part of the Mardi Gras Indians, but the Nevilles are known to be a part of that tradition. It appears from my online research that a person doesn’t have to be a descendant of a federally recognized or unrecognized Native American  tribe in order to be a member of a New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian tribe.  And it also appears that people can join one Mardi Gras Indian tribe, and then switch to another tribe, or start a new tribe. Also, there’s no doubt that Mardi Gras Indians use the titles “Queen” and “[Big] Chief” and that may have  influenced the adoption and use of those titles by that the group that Queen Chief Warhorse leads.   By the way, there are other African American groups whose leaders use royalty titles. The two that come to mind are the Kingdom of Oyotunji African Village, a Yoruba village in South Carolina which was founded in 1970 and whose current leader is King (Oba) Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I    http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/11601 and the Gullah Geechee people of South Carolina whose Head of State is  Qyeen Quet http://web.me.com/gullahgeecheenation/Queen_Quet/Chieftess_and_%22The_Art-ivist%22_Bio.htmlI wouldn’t be surprised if those communities influenced that Chahta tribe’s choice of the “Queen” title for their leader.

    As to the rest of her name “Chief Warhorse,  although  she and other people associated with her may consider it a name that speaks to strength, it seems to me that  it was an unfortunate choice as gives ammunition to charges of her (and her group) being stereotypical in their representation as Indians.     

  • http://twitter.com/KiaAhatia kia ahatia

    About the “queen” issue, just because pre-colonial societies didn’t have royalty doesn’t mean that the title is necessarily inauthentic. For that matter is “chief” actually an Indigenous word?  In my country in pre-colonial times we never had royalty but when we were colonized by the English in the name of their queen an inter-tribal resistance movement responded by coming together and appointing a royal leader, in order to compete on equal terms with the English royal family. They fought a war against the colonizers and they created a society of restistance which lasted as a real alternative to the colonizers society.  This royal family still exists, the current king isn’t the king of all the tribes in the country or even a king in the feudal European sense but he’s an important leader and his title is totally authentic.   Some white people reject his authenticity because he didn’t exist in primordial times but “authentic” doesn’t mean frozen in time at the moment decided by white people.  If an Indigenous nation finds it useful to appoint a Queen, if it helps their resistance or serves some purpose for them, that’s up to them. 

  • Guest

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this thread.  We also seem to have forgotten Forrest Carter who wrote The Education of Little Tree and Outlaw Josey Wells.  He was, in fact, Asa Carter of Alabama ardent segregationist and speech writer for THE Governor Wallace.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cocojams-Jambalayah/100000590546331 Cocojams Jambalayah

    Latoya, one of the links in your post is to a 2009 New Orleans music article about Queen Chief Warhorse and Cyril Neville “Cyril Neville named ambassador of Chahta Indian tribe”. Because I was aware that the Neville Brothers have publicly been associated with the Mardi Gras Indians, my first thought on reading about the youngest Neville Brothers’ association with the Chahta Indian tribe was that that tribe was one of New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian groups such as the Wild Tchoupitoulas, the Flaming Arrows, and the Wild Magnolias. Some of the Mardi Gras Indians have names that are the same as or similar to federally recognized Native American nations, for instance the

    Black Seminoles. the Golden Comanche,  and the Mohawk Hunters. Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mardi_Gras_IndiansFor what it’s worth, neither the Chahta Indians or the Tchufuncta Nation are included in this list of ”Mardi Gras Indians”. But I wonder if that tribe which is represented by Queen Chief Warhourse and Cyril Neville “mass” and otherwise  participate in  Mardi Gras Indian customs & events. The linked article in your post about Queen Chief Warhourse and Cyril Neville indicates that Neville had always been told by his family that they were descendants of the Chahta people and that “Chahta” was how they said “Choctow”.    

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choctaw indicates that ”The Choctaw
    (alternatively spelled Chahta, Chactas, Chato, Tchakta,
    Chocktaw, and Chactaw) are a Native American people
    originally from the Southeastern United States (Mississippi,
    Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana). 

    During the American Civil War, the Choctaw in both Oklahoma and Mississippi
    mostly sided with the Confederate States of America. In a
    new treaty after the war, the US required them to emancipate
    their slaves and
    offer them full citizenship; they have become known as Choctaw
    Freedmen. After the Civil War, the Mississippi Choctaw fell into obscurity
    for some time…Today the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
    are the two federally recognized Choctaw tribes; Mississippi recognizes another
    band, and smaller Choctaw groups are located in Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas…

    For generations
    Choctaw Indians lived in Mobile and Washington Counties in southwestern
    Alabama. These Indians traced their lineage to two groups
    of Choctaw that settled the area in the early 19th century…Despite achieving
    official recognition as a Native American tribe by the state of Alabama, the
    MOWA Choctaw were still fighting for federal recognition in the 21st century.”-snip-Is the Tchufuncta Nation represented by Queen Chief Warhourse & Cyril Neville one of the “smaller Choctaw” groups in Louisiana that is not [yet] federally recognized and not [yet] accepted by the larger Choctaw group (nation)?  Btw, with regard to the name “Tchufuncta”, through Google, I found that there is a Tchefuncte Middle School in Mandeville, Louisiana.  Also, thanks to Google, I found this article:http://www.insidenorthside.com/07MayJune/0507int.htm “The name “Tchefuncte” is derived from the Choctaw word “Hachofakti,” meaning a type of shrub oak tree that produced a small edible nut called “chinquapin,” which is similar to a chestnut. During the early Indian days, these trees lined the banks of the river. The Tchefuncte Indian culture can be traced to small scattered settlements along the river from as far back as 600B.C.; it continued to flourish there until A.D.200.” The accepted spelling is “Tchefuncte” (pronounced Che-funk’-tuh),..” -snip-In summary, whether Queen Chief Warhourse and other members of the Lousiana  Chahta tribe, Tchufuncta nation are descendants of 19th century or later Choctaw peoples, it seems clear to me that that is what they are ascerting. And if they are indeed descendants of Choctaw peoples,  the years apart from other Choctaw peoples would certainly explain the differences in their customs from the federally recognized Choctaw people, and would also explain that group’s adoption of “pan Indian” customs and African/ European titles such as “Queen” and “Ambassador”.   

    During the American Civil War, the Choctaw in both Oklahoma and Mississippi
    mostly sided with the Confederate States of America. In a
    new treaty after the war, the US required them to emancipate
    their slaves and
    offer them full citizenship; they have become known as Choctaw
    Freedmen. After the Civil War, the Mississippi Choctaw fell into obscurity
    for some time…Today the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
    are the two federally recognized Choctaw tribes; Mississippi recognizes another
    band, and smaller Choctaw groups are located in Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas…

    For generations
    Choctaw Indians lived in Mobile and Washington Counties in southwestern
    Alabama. These Indians traced their lineage to two groups
    of Choctaw that settled the area in the early 19th century…Despite achieving
    official recognition as a Native American tribe by the state of Alabama, the
    MOWA Choctaw were still fighting for federal recognition in the 21st century.”-snip-Is the Tchufuncta Nation represented by Queen Chief Warhourse & Cyril Neville one of the “smaller Choctaw” groups in Louisiana that is not [yet] federally recognized and not [yet] accepted by the larger Choctaw group (nation)?  Btw, with regard to the name “Tchufuncta”, through Google, I found that there is a Tchefuncte Middle School in Mandeville, Louisiana.  Also, thanks to Google, I found this article:http://www.insidenorthside.com/07MayJune/0507int.htm “The name “Tchefuncte” is derived from the Choctaw word “Hachofakti,” meaning a type of shrub oak tree that produced a small edible nut called “chinquapin,” which is similar to a chestnut. During the early Indian days, these trees lined the banks of the river. The Tchefuncte Indian culture can be traced to small scattered settlements along the river from as far back as 600B.C.; it continued to flourish there until A.D.200.” The accepted spelling is “Tchefuncte” (pronounced Che-funk’-tuh),..” -snip-In summary, whether Queen Chief Warhourse and other members of the Lousiana  Chahta tribe, Tchufuncta nation are descendants of 19th century or later Choctaw peoples, it seems clear to me that that is what they are ascerting. And if they are indeed descendants of Choctaw peoples,  the years apart from other Choctaw peoples would certainly explain the differences in their customs from the federally recognized Choctaw people, and would also explain that group’s adoption of “pan Indian” customs and African/ European titles such as “Queen” and “Ambassador”.   

    • Anonymous

      Thank you – personally, I am wondering if that is what happened.  I mean, look at what happened with pan Africanism.  I can understand why people who have been robbed of a part of their past might hold on to anything they could find.  But does that make her Native?  Does it not?

      • Anonymous

        I think she’s Native, I think a lot Black folk are Native and there is this huge denial about it.  I have the right to embrace all aspects of all my culture that are part of me be it phenotypically or genotypically.  So don’t be surprised when my Black ass shows up in Scotland in the McIntosh tartan claiming the part of my birthright of the man who fathered by great great grandmother and yes you WILL see me at the POWWOW this year in whatever regalia I can get together because I don’t have the time or the money to pay someone to sew me some Piscataway regalia by June 2nd.   Next year I will be “authentic”.   

        I think its time we seriously looked at the fact that you cannot ignore the cultural infusion of African culture into southern Native Tribes especially since many of them fought slavery together.

        • Anonymous

           The fact that some Blacks have NDN ancestry in no way means that this particular Black woman has such ancestry. However, as Deb pointed out, this is not solely about ancestry. It is also about connection to a culture, which Ms Elwin Gillium clearly does not have. The rest of your post is disturbing, as you equate Scottish people with NDN people, ignoring the fact that one has seen much more recent discrimination than the other (and this from me, who has lived 5 years in Scotland). That equation that you make is the same of those jerks who argue for the existence of ‘reverse racism’. 

        • Anonymous

           The fact that some Blacks have NDN ancestry in no way means that this particular Black woman has such ancestry. However, as Deb pointed out, this is not solely about ancestry. It is also about connection to a culture, which Ms Elwin Gillium clearly does not have. The rest of your post is disturbing, as you equate Scottish people with NDN people, ignoring the fact that one has seen much more recent discrimination than the other (and this from me, who has lived 5 years in Scotland). That equation that you make is the same of those jerks who argue for the existence of ‘reverse racism’. 

    • Anonymous

      Thank you – personally, I am wondering if that is what happened.  I mean, look at what happened with pan Africanism.  I can understand why people who have been robbed of a part of their past might hold on to anything they could find.  But does that make her Native?  Does it not?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=766172695 Chris Love

    I want to preface my post with I LOVE LATOYA as she is truly one of my favorite writer on race.  I even stopped following Jezebel after her issues there.  I also want to disclose that Gyasi and I are friends, and as such, I support him when he’s right and have no problem telling him when he’s dead wrong.

    Having said all that . . . 

    Although the issue of racial identity is always complicated, Native American identity is even moreso than most due to the fact that it carries ethnic as well as legally defined political connotations.  It’s not as simple as the 1-drop rule because many tribes define who is and is not a member by quantum or proof of lineal descendancy back to the Dawes Rolls.  It’s not as easy as phenotype because tribal people intermarried and mixed (like most Americans), or in the case of some tribes, brought black folks into the fold by treaty.  As such, I think both authors have strengths and weaknesses in their arguments. 

    In the counterpoint, there are some foundational misunderstanding about the nature of Native identity that I find unsettling. Being Native American is very much political and being recognized by others, specifically the federal government, is an important factor, legally and politically speaking. Take for instance my home state of North Carolina.  There is 1 federally recognized tribe (Eastern Band of Cherokee), several tribes recognized by the state, and a few recognized by neither.  Only the federally-recognized tribe has any power as a political entity — they have a recognized tribal government, a casino/resort, access to federal funds, a reservation, etc.  The others are severely limited — they are not sovereign nations with their own recognized tribal governments, they do not qualify for federal programs and funding, they cannot take land into trust, etc.  As a side note: the process of federal recognition is laughable.  On the one hand,  our government had a disturbingly effective policy of tribal extinguishment.  On the other hand, the same government now requires the tribes which it extinguished to meet an impossibly high burden of proof to be recognized as a tribe.  It’s ridiculous, but it requires a lot more than having a meeting at the White House or being recommended by a local political official as a Native authority. 

    I know Latoya had a hard argument to make, but everything about Queen Chief Warhorse is bothersome.  If Native identity has a political component (which it does), then how did she end up as a Native representative in this instance?  I think it would be incumbent upon Racialicious to find a speaker/participant who carried some bona fides — and yes, her name should’ve been a dead giveaway.  Now, I’m not saying that all representatives of Natives need to be members of a federally-recognized tribes (please see what I said about recognition and ridiculousness above).  However, Gyasi has a very legitimate point in that the person should at least be recognized by the larger community.  I’m pretty sure Queen Chief Warhorse is not (except to the Neville Brothers).  Queen Chief Warhorse’s “tribe” is not recognized by any state or the federal government, and was only organized in 2009.  Therefore, her “tribe” is not a sovereign nation and without other information, inquiries into her identity are legitimate.

    However, I have some real issues regarding Gyasi using Mittens and Young Black Teenagers as parallel examples of appropriation.  Neither Mitt or YBT legitimately believe(d) their claims to minority-ness and neither based their claims on ancestry.  I don’t have Queen Chief Warhorse’s Ancestry.com report, but as a black person, I know a lot of my people wholeheartedly believe that they have some Native ancestry.  Most of those claims are illegitimate, but it’s not for lack of sincere belief.  I think Latoya provides better examples for Gyasi’s point. But lets keep in mind that Queen’s “tribe” claim to be descendants of the Choctaw, which has Freedmen rolls.  Therefore, her claims to Native ancestry may not be as farfetched as one would imagine.    

    I have some work to do, so I’ll tap out here.  I really enjoyed these articles and the topic.  Thanks to Gyasi and Latoya for an interesting conversation.

    • Anonymous

      Hello, 

      Good points.  

      To clarify, we did not have any control over the speakers (hence why I was a bit pissed at Gyasi) – I was live covering the conference, so I tweeted everyone’s remarks. Chief Warhorse was an invited guest – after asking around, I found she was recommended by the Mayor of New Orleans.  Gyasi started sending me messages in the middle of the coverage, which lead to this conversation. He thinks we should have been able to spot her as a fake – that’s why I asked exactly how were we supposed to spot check.  I, personally, had no idea about the whole red flags with royalty thing-  most of the folks who approach us here don’t mention anything like that and I had frankly never heard of it.  

      Gyasi also mentioned that it isn’t *just* about federally recognized or state recognized tribes, that there are other tribes in conversation with Indian Country.  So I tried to figure out what else is going on.  Warhorse had made a comment at some point talking about intragroup racism, so I wondered if that was playing a role in her rejection, particularly since Gyasi’s first points via twitter were mainly about her phenotype and her clothing (note – she is not wearing the plains headress in the video from the event I posted with Deb’s post.) Ultimately, as someone who is not involved with Indian Country, if I just had google for verification, I would not have been able to say conclusively that she was a fraud.  Shady? Sure.  But when taken with all the other examples, it looks like a pattern.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=766172695 Chris Love

        Recognition generally comes with money attached, so understandably, folks tend to do the whole crabs in a barrel thing.  Given the limits of financial resources, of course people will be suspicious when all of a sudden visibly black folks claim Native ancestry (Pequots anyone?), and I can’t speak for Gyasi’s motivations, but I do know there is plenty of internal racism in Native communities (check out the Cherokee Freedmen issue) and that could be an issue for some folks who question Queen’s credibility.  I have my own feelings about such things (it’s really ok to just be black, and no, your high cheekbones don’t mean a thing), so Queen Chief would get a rise out of me for similar, yet different reasons.  I just find it hard to believe that the organizers (not Racialicious — thanks for the correction), couldn’t find one Native woman with bona fides to fill this particular role.  It strikes me as lazy and insensitive.

        • Steve Russell

          Speaking of stereotypes, I was born Cherokee in Oklahoma.  While there were some disadvantages to that, I still await the pecuniary advantages.  Let’s see….last year, I got a speaking fee from the Cherokee Nation that I probably would not have gotten had I not been a citizen.  It was the smallest speaking fee I earned last year.

          Yes, there are some tribes that have become wealthy and have buttoned down enrollment for that reason.  It’s amazing the conclusions people will draw from that factoid, when most tribes do not have casinos and among those that do, most do not distribute the proceeds.

          Since I grew up and left Indian country, I’ve not experienced any racist rants against Indians generally.  But what I have experienced is all stereotype, all the time.

          You have to understand….we get weary.

        • Anonymous

           I have enjoyed reading this entire thread, from Debbie to Gyasi and Latoya’s response. Your comments are the ones I have enjoyed reading most. I agree with you completely.

  • STAYLOR in AUSTIN

    I’m always a little
    afraid to write something here I know many will disagree with and attack, but
    this is something that’s always fascinated me

    Is being a “Native
    American” today like a positive version of the “one drop rule”
    as it applied to blacks? It seems anyone can claim native heritage based on the
    most strained and tenuous family associations

    One of my grandmothers
    was Half North Carolina Cherokee / Half Former -Black Slave mix. My other
    grandmother was Half ( born in Ireland)
    Irish / Half Pittsburgh Black guy. I would feel uncomfortable and silly
    claiming that I was Irish just because my grandmother was born there, just as I
    would feel uncomfortable claiming I was Native American because of my other
    grandmother who was half Cherokee

    I can’t imagine the
    hardships and danger my Black /Native American and White Irish / Black
    relatives at the beginning of the 20th century experienced, but the Irish and
    Native American “culture” didn’t magically imprint themselves to my
    genetic code. This doesn’t mean I can’t learn Cherokee or Gaelic or learn about
    both cultures, but those acts would be more about cultural discovery, not being
    subsumed by a modern interpretation of  a
    culture that may or not be the culture that was practiced generations ago

    I always get the
    impression that Americans often believe the trope that Native Americans are not
    people who are people, but are instead magical beings with secret knowledge of
    the land, nature, et al ( watch the documentary Reel Injun which still may be
    on Netflix)

    Iron Eyes Cody is the
    perfect example of a non-Native fabricating a Native history embodying the stereotypical
    Native tropes. He did support positive Native American causes, which was
    fantastic, but you don’t need to “become” Native to do that. I
    support women’s rights and I haven’t had to become a woman to do that

    Heritage and culture are
    an interesting things that don’t necessarily have anything to do with your
    direct or distant genetic history. I fully support Native Americans and hope to
    end the sad conditions that many find themselves in

    I often feel that those who
    for whatever their personal motivations might be, attention, money,
    etc, “become Native Americans” take away from the plight of actual Native people

     

    I’m always a little
    afraid to write something here I know many will disagree with and attack, but
    this is something that’s always fascinated me

    Is being a “Native
    American” today like a positive version of the “one drop rule”
    as it applied to blacks? It seems anyone can claim native heritage based on the
    most strained and tenuous family associations

    One of my grandmothers
    was Half North Carolina Cherokee / Half Former -Black Slave mix. My other
    grandmother was Half ( born in Ireland)
    Irish / Half Pittsburgh Black guy. I would feel uncomfortable and silly
    claiming that I was Irish just because my grandmother was born there, just as I
    would feel uncomfortable claiming I was Native American because of my other
    grandmother who was half Cherokee

    I can’t imagine the
    hardships and danger my Black /Native American and White Irish / Black
    relatives at the beginning of the 20th century experienced, but the Irish and
    Native American “culture” didn’t magically imprint themselves to my
    genetic code. This doesn’t mean I can’t learn Cherokee or Gaelic or learn about
    both cultures, but those acts would be more about cultural discovery, not being
    subsumed by a modern interpretation of  a
    culture that may or not be the culture that was practiced generations ago

    I always get the
    impression that Americans often believe the trope that Native Americans are not
    people who are people, but are instead magical beings with secret knowledge of
    the land, nature, et al ( watch the documentary Reel Injun which still may be
    on Netflix)

    Iron Eyes Cody is the
    perfect example of a non-Native fabricating a Native history embodying the stereotypical
    Native tropes. He did support positive Native American causes, which was
    fantastic, but you don’t need to “become” Native to do that. I
    support women’s rights and I haven’t had to become a woman to do that

    Heritage and culture are
    an interesting things that don’t necessarily have anything to do with your
    direct or distant genetic history. I fully support Native Americans and hope to
    end the sad conditions that many find themselves in

    I often feel that those who
    for whatever their personal motivations might be, attention, money,
    etc, “become Native Americans” take away from the plight of actual Native people

     

  • http://twitter.com/mcclearysarah Sarah

    If I:

    said I had Native ancestry

    declared myself Queen Chief of a group I created

    drew followers and collected everyone’s social security numbers and medical history ( source: http://www.nola.com/community/st-tammany/index.ssf/2011/11/white_house_pays_tchefuncta_na.html – about 3:44 mark)

    got US census to assign my group a census #

    applied for grants

    spoke disparagingly of legit federally recognized tribes

    dressed in playing Indian type garb including pseudo Lakota warbonnets

    tried to bolster my claims of group legitimacy by publicizing & touting contact with non-native fed & state governments…………

    I really hope I would be throughly researched and debunked.

    Different story if I research the shared heritage of myself and others, maybe form a heritage interest group, promote good scholarship, teach folks how to learn their genealogy, enjoy shared heritage & culture.

  • http://twitter.com/mcclearysarah Sarah

    If I:

    said I had Native ancestry

    declared myself Queen Chief of a group I created

    drew followers and collected everyone’s social security numbers and medical history ( source: http://www.nola.com/community/st-tammany/index.ssf/2011/11/white_house_pays_tchefuncta_na.html – about 3:44 mark)

    got US census to assign my group a census #

    applied for grants

    spoke disparagingly of legit federally recognized tribes

    dressed in playing Indian type garb including pseudo Lakota warbonnets

    tried to bolster my claims of group legitimacy by publicizing & touting contact with non-native fed & state governments…………

    I really hope I would be throughly researched and debunked.

    Different story if I research the shared heritage of myself and others, maybe form a heritage interest group, promote good scholarship, teach folks how to learn their genealogy, enjoy shared heritage & culture.

    • Anonymous

      well i guess saving people’s live in your community during Hurricane Katrina doesn’t count.  Owning land for years albeit unknown to the larger world and having a thriving community that seeks healthcare and clean water for the residents doesn’t count.    The State of Louisiana doesn’t debunk her.  I look at her deeds, her good deeds, and then I will judge.

      • Anonymous

         Trust me: It is possible to marginalize legit NDN groups and be a plastic shaman (see http://newagefraud.org/) and still “save people’s lives during Hurricane Katrina” (what did she do exactly BTW?). Those two things are NOT, repeat are NOT, mutually exclusive.

  • Steve Russell

    You are mistaken about the issue in Andrea Smith’s case.  It’s not about enrollment.  She’s not a descendent.  She’s not a resident of a Cherokee community.  It really does not matter which credential you accept.  She’s a fake and in spite of the understanding Richard Allen of the Cherokee Nation government and I thought we had that she would quit making the false claim and we would quit bringing up her name…the fakery continues.

    This should not matter where the currency is blind refereed publications, but accepting a speaking gig to give the Native point of view is a different matter entirely

  • Steve Russell

    You are mistaken about the issue in Andrea Smith’s case.  It’s not about enrollment.  She’s not a descendent.  She’s not a resident of a Cherokee community.  It really does not matter which credential you accept.  She’s a fake and in spite of the understanding Richard Allen of the Cherokee Nation government and I thought we had that she would quit making the false claim and we would quit bringing up her name…the fakery continues.

    This should not matter where the currency is blind refereed publications, but accepting a speaking gig to give the Native point of view is a different matter entirely

    • Anonymous

      Ah.  Thank you for clarifying.

    • Anonymous

      Ah.  Thank you for clarifying.

  • Rufina

    Don’t forget Ward Churchill.  The man turned out to be a total fraud on both sides of his family.  He’s just a white man making money by selling himself as a native-american speaker/historian.

  • http://twitter.com/Shaina_Shainala Shaina

    I think you make a very good point about the tendency, especially among the tribes of the Southeast to have rejected the children of mixed African and indigenous heritage, even as they might have embraced those of mixed white and indigenous heritage.  Such was the legacy of slavery, and perhaps an expedient choice given  the role some of the tribes played in siding with the Confederacy during the Civil War.  To a certain extent this robbed the children of unions between Southeastern Native people and Black people of an intimate knowledge of the native communities and customs.

  • http://twitter.com/mcclearysarah Sarah

    Questions and research of someone’s public claimed Native identity don’t automatically equal an attack. The person being questioned may characterize the questions as outrageous attacks, but sometimes that is just an effort to shut down the discussion.

    I’m non-native and I believe it is good to question,  research, and learn. I think that is part of learning how to be a potential ally.

  • http://twitter.com/watchinginkdry Dr Skylaser

    YAY.  I don’t have any answers for what should have happened (or opinions on what did happen, for that matter), but so far, I love the way y’all are handling it.  I look forward to more–hopefully a response from Gyasi specifically about your Counterpoint, and one from y’all specifically addressing his Point.