Author Topic: questionable ndn idenities & tribes  (Read 20671 times)

Offline Moma_porcupine

  • Posts: 681
  • I love YaBB 1G - SP1!
questionable ndn idenities & tribes
« on: September 03, 2006, 11:30:02 pm »
Maybe this has already been discussed somewhere , but I am wondering if there are some general guidelines that people can use, to tell the difference between a tribe that has no official recognition because of unfair government policies or bungling , and a fake tribe .

The common story of many questionable tribes seems to be that some small Native population got seperated from their tribe , and although there was no protected land base , and there was extensive intermarriage with the surrounding non native population  , over several generations , these people somehow have managed to retain enough of their common cultural heritage , to now be able to re-establish themselves into a tribal community based on commonly held traditions and values .

Even recognized tribes with a land base and small populations , have a lot of trouble finding other people in their tribe to marry , and maintaining their cultural heritage , when they are surrounded by a large non native population .  

Does anyone know of situations where a few families , have culturally maintained themselves as a tribe , for several generations , when they are living within an area that has a much larger non native population ? If this sometimes occurs , what does the real thing look like ?  Is there any thing people should know to look for ?

In the areas I am familiar with , cultural traditions are usually almost entirely forgotten within a couple generations , even if there is a few other mixed blood families in the area , and some intermarriage occurs between these families . From what I have seen , Native traditions need to exist within a mainly Native community if they are to be kept going , but maybe someone else has seen something different ?

I don't mean to sound disrespectful towards what ever connection people might feel with a distant Native heritage . Even for people who's families have not lived in a Native community for a couple generations , it is still a part of who people are , and depending on individual circumstances , I beleive this can be an important part . With this sometimes comes a real sense of identity and direction , which can be vital to peoples sense of well being . Families can also carry residual effects of the trauma experinced by their Native forebears . If someones Greatgrandma was abused in a residential school , I don't think it matters if she moved off the reservation , and her descendants intermarried with non natives , and now look
White . In some ways , the effects on a family can still be there , sometimes in a big way .

So , at what point does a genuine need for healing and reconnecting with a part of your families heritage , turn into wrongful cultural appropriation ?

What sort of problems come up when people of mostly non native descent try to reconstitute themselves into an independant tribe , after several generations of being seperated from the original main body of the tribe ?

Are there any situations people know of, where this has been done and worked in a good way ? What factors may have contributed to this success ?

If people are entitled to do this , should any responsibilites to the general well being of the original tribe , come with this entitlement ?

If people are of partial Native descent , and they are not recognized by the tribe , as an enrolled community member , is it respectful for these mixed blood persons , to identify themselves , as being Lakota , or Mohawk , or Cherokee , ( ect ect ) instead of saying it was their Mom , or Grandpa or whoever it was , who was recognized as being a tribal member ?  

Obviously it is wrong for people born into a Native community to be denied enrollment in the band due to blood quantum requirements imposed by a non native government , but at what point is it dishonest or offensive for people with a Native Grandma ( or Great Great grandma ect ect ect  ) to claim Greatgrandma's tribe as their own identity ?  Should there at least be relatives living within the original tribe who recognize them as a family member ? Or is it OK for anyone with any Native blood back there somewhere , to self identify as Indian ?

Would there be a difference depending on which tribe this person came from , and it's history ? Some tribes seem to have enrollment policies that have a lot more people feeling unfairly excluded , than others .

I know a a lot of people fall through the cracks , and it would be interesting to hear peoples opinions of where retaining or reconnecting with cultural heritage crosses the line into being a fake tribe or a fake Indian identity .
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 12:00:00 am by Moma_porcupine »

Offline snorks

  • Posts: 99
  • I Love YaBB 2!
Re: questionable ndn idenities & tribes
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2006, 12:03:16 am »
I would be interested in the answers to this also.

In Bridgeport, CT, there is a group of people who call themselves the "Golden Hill Paugasettes (sp)".  They claim ancestory of a person in the 1830 census who was labeled 'Indian'.  However, many of the people in Bridgeport think that this group is a joke.  

They are trying for BIA recognition though.  And from what I can see, they are deadly serious about being Indian.  However, the whole problem of proving they are is a huge mess.  Since many of them look to be African-Americans, quite a few people don't take them seriously as Indians.  And people think that perhaps casino money has something to do with them wanting to be a tribe.

However, I just don't know much about the various tribes of Southern New England today, since there were so many deliberate killings of them from the 1600s to the early 1800s.  The tribes who have tried to make a comeback seem to have as an enrollment requirement an ancestor from the 1700s.

Offline Ganieda

  • Posts: 114
  • Chaos, panic and disorder, my work here is done.
Re: questionable ndn idenities & tribes
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2006, 08:43:35 am »
These are very good, and difficult to answer, questions Moma_porcupine, and the answers are important to non-natives as well. ? How do we know how to recognize and thus respect if there is no way to tell "fake" from "real"? ?
*May the Sun warm your Heart, The Moon light your Path and Sacred Mother Earth embrace and protect you always.*

Offline educatedindian

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 4754
Re: questionable ndn idenities & tribes
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2006, 02:49:22 pm »
I remember something I heard from Darryl Baldwin, who runs the language immersion program for the Miami Indians of Indiana. "Does every family reunion become a tribe?" Most of these would be tribes out there are closer to family reunions of distant relatives.

And the Miami should know quite a bit on the subject. They kept a community together, largely in secret, for almost two centuries. They won federal recognition after having it taken away in the 50s, then had it taken away again by Bush Jr's people. Are they NDN? I saw a meeting of theirs, plus heard several of them speak several other times. They certainly have a strong sense of identity as NDN and as Miamis. Have they lost a lot, culturally? Yes, which is part of why their federal recog was taken away twice. Do they "look Indian" to outsiders? Most them, no. Some, yes. But part of what struck me about them was that even blond and fair skinned Miamis have rez accents not too different from what I heard from NDNs from Michigan rezzes.

I also know of another group, the Appalachee, who went into hiding and passed themselves off as French (made easier since many of them already intermarried with the French) since the 1720s. They didn't reveal who they were to the outside world until the mid 1990s.

I also don't want to take anything away from PODIAs who are trying to connect with what they've lost. That's something I think we should always encourage. To me at least, someone with low BQ who is part of an NDN community *is* NDN. And a PODIA who immerses themselves in the culture, tries to do something for that community, IDs as a member, and gets accepted by least part of it, *is* NDN.

Looks shouldn't matter. In New England, lots of the NDNs intermarried with the free Black population three centuries ago. They had little choice, no one else who would give them refuge from the wars of extermination. Are they NDN now? For some of them, like the Pequot and the Mashpee, definitely yes. I don't know enough about the Golden Hill group to be able to say.

Guidelines to know the fake tribes from the real ones? How about everyone gives their opinion? Here's what I think:

1) Federally recognized tribes should always be seen as legitimate (in the sense that one can be sure the members are actually Native). They have a longstanding community and treaty relations with the feds in most cases. And the more recent recognized tribes have been put through the wringer and lived up to standards most non Native people or groups could not match to prove who they are.

2) State recognition usually means little or nothing. States can't make treaties. They are usually quite hostile to *actual* tribes. The claimed "recognition" often is little more than the state version of giving the key to the city to someone. Often there are commercial motives clouding the issue.

3) Non-Natives should be aware that most would be tribes are actually heritage groups. Not dangerous or trying to harm anyone, but not tribes either.

4) Do their closest alleged relatives recognize them? This is important. The Miami in OK recognize the ones in Indiana, for example. I don't mean just the rez govt. Do actual elders recognize them?

5) How close are they culturally to the groups they claim? If an alleged Cherokee tribe does sweats and talks about Atlantis (Yes, Edwards, I mean you.) don't walk away, RUN.

6) What about the character of the leaders? Are the groups dominated by Jim Jones types? Do they take advantage of their followers? Do they pressure them into sex? Do they bar dissent?

7) Do they charge for enrollment or pressure people for "contributions"? Another red flag!

8) Who does this would be tribe associate with? Militia groups? Nuagers? Only other dubious would be tribes? Another red flag. And if they have nothing but contempt for the federally recog tribes, that should be a warning sign too.

What does everyone else think? I want to try and turn this into a list of guidelines.


  • Guest
Re: questionable ndn idenities & tribes
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2006, 08:18:28 pm »
Looks good to me. I think the lack of political, community, cultural continuity is the major factor.  And even though some specify they are a certain tribe, they are intertribal. frederica

Offline JosephSWM

  • Posts: 174
  • I love YaBB 1G - SP1!
Re: questionable ndn idenities & tribes
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2006, 02:16:26 pm »
Number 1 can be a sticky one to deal with. Some tribes, like the CNO, base it on direct descendcy from an enrolled family member. This means that someone with 1/64 or even less can still be enrolled and politically be considered an Indian. Some Mohawk Reserves ar trying to and/or already have set up blood quantum levels and in Canada (I may be mistaken) there is some rule about whether your father or mother was Native and who they married, if they were Native and if they were male or female, etc. etc. So you could end up culturally and racially being an Indian but politically not an Indian at all.

Its not that I disagree with number 1, its just isn't simple. But nothing is simple anymore these days.


Offline Moma_porcupine

  • Posts: 681
  • I love YaBB 1G - SP1!
Re: questionable ndn idenities & tribes
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2006, 03:11:24 pm »
I do understand the concerns when a federally recognized Indain tribe has no blood quantum requirement , especially if this gives people who have never lived in the community the right to vote on community affairs . Still , I don't think the CNO is a fake tribe , and probably all tribes have some members that some people would consider fake Indians , for one reason or another.
I found some intersting discussions about blood quantum and culture in the link below ;
One of the main arguements for focusing on community and culture instead of blood quantum is that it is estimatated that by 2080 , with the current rates of marriage outside of the tribe , the segment of the currently federally recognized Native population with less than 1/4 blood quantum , will be close to 60% .

There is also an issue raised by research into the racial origins of peoples DNA , which is revealing most
populations in the US are a lot more mixed than people assume . What this means is , down the road , tribes that use blood quantum as a criteria for tribal membership might be tested and told they have few members that meet this blood quantum requirement .

On the other hand , DNA research shows the average Native American blood quantum in Western Hispancic people is high enough to qualify them to be considered Indians  - except they arn't , because culturally their tribal identities were lost many generations ago . ( the research is explained in the links )

In Hispanics of the Southwest, the Native American DNA fraction ranged from 34 percent to 58 percent. In Hispanics of Eastern U.S., Amerind DNA ranged from 0 percent to 21 percent.  1/2 of the "White" students tested in Pensylvania had dectecable Native American DNA , on average about 6% , or 1/20 blood quantum .

Perhaps this gives some insight into the widespread phenomena of Wannabes.

There is also the problem that different tribes have different expectations of blood quantum .  If the United Keetoowah have a 1/4 blood quantum requirement , and the Eastren Cherokee 1/16 , does that mean all the people who are 1/8 and enrolled in the Eastren Cherokke arn't really Indian ? Some bands have a blood quantum of 50% , so does that mean that a person who is 3/8 and enrolled with the United Keetowah is not really an Indian either ?

As you say , it is a complicated issue , and considering all this , I agree with Frederica that cultural continuity is probably one of the most important factors for the survival of Native peoples into the future . A broken branch can sometimes be grafted back on to a living tree but a bunch of broken branches cannot get together and recreate a living tree . This is true even if the reasons these branches got seperated from the tree were wrong . Which is why I personally believe it is important that both
enrolled and unenrolled people find ways to work together to strengthen and protect the Native communities that HAVE managed to survive up till now , even if people disagree with some of their internal politics .

This understanding that it is the community that makes a person Indian , seems to be a principal even the feds have been able to understand .

"This FD concludes that the STN [Schaghticoke Tribal Nation], including the presently unenrolled
portion of the community, meets the requirements of [25 CFR] 83.7(b)."(5) 83.7(b) is a criterion for Federal acknowledgment.  "A predominant portion of the petitioning group comprises a distinct community and has existed as a community from historical times until the present.(6)"

"The Native American Programs Act of 1974, creating the Administration for Native Americans, operates under regulations with a very broad definition of Indian: 'any individual who claims to be an Indian and who is regarded as such by the Indian community in which he or she lives or by the Indian community of which he or she claims to be a part.' "(9)"

In another discussion , Al mentioned that a warning sign is when an alleged tribal history that does not fit with other recorded history , and I would add that to the list of warning signs.

If people claim the tribal history is documented , they should be willing to refer you to a tribal historian
who will have copies of this documentation along with sources which explicitly name what archives or library houses this , along with information naming the exact record collection and page the information can be found on . Doing historical research is hard work and anyone who does this makes careful notes on what they found and where they found it . Do your own research before getting involved with an unrecognized tribe . There might be a very good reason it is not recognized ! I would recomend that people take notes and check out how it fits with the facts . It is true many things are not documented , but people who are being honest will usually just explain that this is oral tradition , and no records have been found , if that is the case .  People who do genuine historical research are not secretive and are generally very happy to find someone who is interested .  

Native people who publicly present themselves as Indian , are generally full of stories about their relatives and their lineage . If a person claiming Indian identity has no obvious connection with their tribe or extended family which is obviously related to a tribe, and if this person gets offended, defensive , or evasive when asked about their family and tribe , that is usually a warning sign something is wrong .
People who aren't being honest usually have personal problems and can be dangerous if threatened by reality.

Sorry my posts are so long . It is complicated , and I find it hard to discuss with just a couple sentances though other people manage to do this a lot better than me !

Offline snorks

  • Posts: 99
  • I Love YaBB 2!
Re: questionable ndn idenities & tribes
« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2006, 05:33:52 pm »
I understand completely Mama P.  

I had one of those DNA tests which showed me, a white person with both African and Indian DNA.  However, DNA really doesn't mean diddly when dealing with real life.  I supposed I could say I am a mixed race person since I and my son are 'dark'.  But we are not anything but white.  So that is what we put on our census forms.

 The funny thing is that I have family histories that go back to the 1600s.  Everyone of them came from an European country.  Where does the DNA fit in?  I don't have any relations with any Indian tribe nor do I know anything about any of them.  So, why should I ingratiate myself in with a group that are strangers to me?  I am happy the way I am.

Perhaps, wannabes are people who dislike who they are.  So they take a thread of something in the past and try to make it family.  

But how do you tell the difference between a group of 'serious wannabes' and actual tribe who remained hidden to preserve their lives, but ended up mixing in with everyone else?  That is where I am confused.

Offline Moma_porcupine

  • Posts: 681
  • I love YaBB 1G - SP1!
Re: questionable ndn idenities & tribes
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2006, 06:57:23 pm »
Snorks , I am not sure if those DNA tests generally distinguish between Asian biographical markers and Native American so people with Eastren European ancestors probably have some Asian DNA through distant Mongolian ancestors . I think they can make some very general statements about the genetic makeup of group based on the information found in mtDNA and YDNA together with biographical markers , but this does not work for individuals because mtDNA and YDNA is only a tiny fraction of an individuals genetic makeup . I don't really know much about this, and trying to read through those rersearch papers gave me a headache . Personally , I would not assume a commercial DNA test showing someone had Native American DNA was completely conclusive .  And I think you have a good point,  that the wannabe phenomena probably has a lot more to do with social issues than DNA .

I think the points Al and Frederica made are all good guidelines to use for making at least a tenative judgement about which groups are trustworthy .  
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 12:00:00 am by Moma_porcupine »