Author Topic: People Of Distant Indian Ancestry  (Read 20270 times)

Offline Moma_porcupine

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People Of Distant Indian Ancestry
« on: March 30, 2007, 11:42:32 pm »
I was going to post this in one of the threads about "people who recently discover they have Indian ancestry " but I realized what I am saying is more about Persons Of Distant Indian Ancestry ( PODIAs) , in general , and not really if they recently discovered this . I'm suprised to see there doesn't already seem to be a thread on this subject .

I apologize beforehand if this is long and preachy . I feel I have some understanding, of these types of situations , but still this is mostly just my own opinion and observations . And I obviously DO have opinions on the subject !!! If other people have a different understanding ,or opinions of their own , or if people feel I am incorrect in any of this , I hope they will share this , or correct me . 

There seems to be a lot of confusion around BQ and claiming a Native identity. People often point out that the CNO has people enrolled who are only 1/64 or 1/128 and the ECB has people enrolled that are
only 1/16 , so  why shouldn't other people with that same BQ who don't meet the standards of these tribes also be able to claim their Cherokee / other Native heritage and be recognized as a tribe .

The thing that is being left out of this equation is cultural continuity .

How I see it , generally speaking , if someone's family has not participated in, or contributed to a recognized Native community for two or more generations,  that person is a PODIA . I don't think a persons BQ is really the deciding factor in this .

If people have been disconnected from a relationship with a tribe for a few  generations and they have a low BQ , I don't mean to suggest it is not possible to have a personally meaningful connection with this part of their heritage . If a person has any Native blood , no matter how far back , and they live on this continent , the fact is , they have thousands of generations of ancestors who lived here . I don't think that is something people ever entirely forget .  But if people have a feeling this part of their heritage is important  , I think it is vital if this is expressed in a way , that does not shame or exploit the memory of these ancestors , but that honors them.

Way too often , what people do in response to some distant Native heritage, would probably be more of an embarrassment to these ancestors , and way too often these PODIAs actions only work to alienate and disconnect them from having any positive relationship with the tribe their ancestors came from .

If people are a PODIA and they want to express this part of their heritage , I think they should first really consider what it is they are hoping to get. ( presumably there IS something ) Carefully considering if this is a realistic expectation , before you start jumping to the conclusion you are entitled to something , is probably a good idea . Is what you are hoping to get, something that a tribe could sustainably offer to all your similarly mixed blood cousins ? Considering the big picture and long term , would fufilling the hopes of people like yourself weaken or strengthen the long term health of the tribe you wish to claim a relationship with ? If the long term effect is going to be weakening the identities of tribal Nations maybe you need to reconsider what you are hoping for , and what responsibilities you have towards the tribe you hope to have a relationship with .

Before joining any group , it seems a good idea to try to find out what the tribe they are claiming to be affiliated with , thinks of them . If the tribe doesn't support them I would follow the lead of these recognized tribal authorities . Joining a  group of PODIAs  that are insisting on their right to to be legally recognized as a tribe or getting involved with people who imagine they have an inherent right to conduct traditional tribal ceremonies , when the recognized tribal authorities do not support these activities , is a really good way to become completely alienated from your true indiginous roots  .

The politics of a bunch of PODIAs getting together and calling themselves a tribe always makes me wonder . 

I mean , I bet most PODIAs are at least 3/4 English or Irish or Scotish or French or German or Spanish , but I NEVER see European people who have assimilated into American culture a few generations back , getting together and declaring they an independant English /Irish / Scotish / French/ German /Spanish
Nation . All these nationalities have populations that were wrongly displaced from their home lands a few generations ago. But I notice no one is ever insisting they are a Person Of Distant European Ancestry and should be entitled to be recognized as a English / Irish Scotish / French / German / Spanish citizens and they should be entitled to  English / Irish / Scotish / French / German /
Spanish medical services and social security .

If people behaved like this,  right away we would assume they were a fring group composed of flakes .

So I have to  wonder why it is ,that it is only when it comes to Indians , that people assume lands,  culture identity and the right to Nationhood government and $$$$ for funding , should be up for grabs .

In many situations this seems really disrespectful of Indian peoples and tribal soverienty .

Of course , if someone who had ancestors from England / Ireland / Scotland / France / Germany / Spain , simply had a love of that part of their heritage , and looked for ways to support these countries , it wouldn't come across as opprotunistic and exploitive at all. It's just when you start getting into that list of entitlements it begins to seem a bit warped   

In my opinion ( and I DO have opinions !!! )it would be a lot more constructive if these people with some distant Native heritage could organize into groups that specifically looked for ways to advocte for , and support, either the tribal people they descend from , or the tribes residing in their local area .

I would think asking tribal communities what an organized group could do to help the tribal community,
and listening to what they have to say , maybe lobbying for social justice , maybe working as liasons and advocates within the non native community ,  maybe looking for ways to create culturally sensitive employment and mentorship programs , would be a lot more satifying and be a lot more likely to leave your children and grandchildren with a positive relationship with a tribe, than dressing up in feathers , and trying to live in a group fantasy that denies the largest part of your heritage .

Though many PODIAs get used by exploiters to further monetary and political agendas , i don't think most PODIAs intend to be exploiters or abusive of this part of their heritage . From what I have seen , many PODIA's honestly feel like they don't completely belong in or are misunderstood by the non
Native community . If PODIAs are wanting to be validated and understood , I think it is important to be really careful what they do , when they try to to find this feeling of belonging and being validated and understood, or they can just make things worse for themselves  .

One thing that can make things worse , is not being really careful who you talk to about feeling a connection with a distant Indian heritage . If it hurts to have this negated , ridiculed or trivialized ,  one of the easist ways to avoid this is by not talking about it to people who won't understand it .
From what i have seen , the people who will recognize you , will do so without you even having to explain your ggreatgrandmother ( or whatever ) was an Indian . Even if this recognition doesn't happen very often , when it does , it will be a very validating and powerful experience .

When people feel this part of who they are is negated and unrecognized , it seems there is often the temptation to make an effort to be understood . To try and get recognition , it seems some people resort to pointing out every ancestor who was ever born with straight black hair who could shoot and eat a squirrel , or they start talking to anyone and everyone about very private personal experinces that they felt showed they were still connected with their distant Native heritage . Unfortuanantly this type of indiscriminate sharing usually just gets more negative reactions , which leads to a deeper feelings of disconnection and a need for validation .

In my experience , even if you meet an Elder , if that Elder is able to tell you something , they
will usually bring it up themselves . It seems best to at least wait until you have a comfortable long term relationship before bringing up your deepest questions . Listening without a pressing personal agenda , and without pushing can bring suprisingly positive results  .

I can't think of anything that would feel worse than having your tribe deny they knew you , so I can never understand why people who are PODIAs , would do things that would give their distant ancestors tribe,  a cause to do this . 

One thing I see that can raise a lot of objections from tribal people is if someone who is a PODIA ,
but, who is not eligible to be enrolled in the tribe , and who has no living relatives that know them in the tribe , self identifies as being a member of that tribe . Rather than setting yourself up for the painful experince of having some tribal members tell you, you are NOT Cherokee or whatever tribe you are claiming , it seems it might be less contentious to just claim Grandma or Greatgrandpa was a member of the tribe , and leave it to the tribal members to call you one of their own - or not. If you aren't eligible to be enrolled , you probably don't want to set yourself up to try and convince those who say you are NOT a member of that tribe , that you ARE a member of that tribe . From what I have seen , this is just a good way to get hurt  , and alienate people who in time might otherwise have been willing to informally recognize you .   

Some people , who have never felt they entirely belonged in the non native community sometimes try and connect with the Native community their distant ancestors came from thinking they are going "home ". When they recieve a cool welcome , or run into problems , they find it really disappointing and confusing . 

The reality is , a lot of Native people have had a lifetime of really bad experinces with non native people , and PODIAs attempting to reconnect with a Native community will meet *some* people who will see them as primarily non native and a part of the people and culture that did this damage .  This isn't always "fair" , especially if you or your family have also been deeply affected by surpression and prejudiced , from the non native community  .  But it is the reality .

If people are trying to reconnect with their Native community , they should be prepared to meet
with some ghosts of past pain , and to understand that these consquences of the past will probably never be entirely healed in our life time . I believe returning PODIAs should be prepared to listen and examine themselves for ways they may be unconsciously reenacting these past abuses - and not expect to forget their non native heritage - if this is a large part of who they are .  If people react to you in a negative way that feels unfair , it would be good if you are willing to examine yourself for attitudes and actions that give the message you are assuming some White / dominent culture privilege
you may be unaware of . Even if this doesn't seem to be true or fair , getting defensive and upset about this probably isn't going to help . And maybe you just aren't seeing something that is as obvious as a slap in the face to someone else . Don't expect people who have been hurt much worse that yourself to be able to understand the importance of your own injuries . Maybe some will , but don't expect this .

I thought the movie " Crash" did a really good job of illistrating how past traumas can continue to echo through peoples lives , and watching it might help people be more patient and less reactive when they run into these ghosts of past bad experiences .

PODIAs have a choice in whether they look for ways to stop the damage being passed on to the next generations by quietly finding ways to cooperate with Native communities to everyones mutual benifit , or they can choose the illusive alure of immediate self intrest , as has been the tendancy of their non native forbearers,by looking for ways to exploit his connection . 

PODIAS who allow themselves to be used by exploiters who are looking for money or a fancy title of "Cheif" or who are using people with distant Native heritage as a political football , are allowing themselves be used in a way that divides Native peoples , creates mistrust and erodes public understanding of true native identities and soverienty .  I hope folks will think long and hard before participating in any more damaging relationships .

Sorry for the long rant . I've been grinding my teeth with all these Cherokee PODIAs that have been posting here lately as it reminds me of situations I have seen in other places .   A very small amount of Native heritage seems to be a big issue for a lot of people . And as foolish as these white looking people with strange names and feathers might look , I think there is often some sincere searching behind the silly behavior .

Maybe people have some other thoughts on this  !
« Last Edit: March 31, 2007, 01:11:13 am by Moma_porcupine »


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Re: People Of Distant Indian Ancestry
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2007, 01:45:32 am »
Nicely said MP. I think the disconnect many times is evident. I have heard many say their gg grandmother or grandfather, g grandmother or grandfather or just grandmother, or grandfather, but no mention of which parent. I have seen NDN people suggest they reconnect with their Nation by just calling and seeing if their is anything they can help with, visit, offer help with a program and help with grass roots projects if needed. Then if they can reconnect they can learn after a period of time. I have never seen much response. It would be a lot of hard work and time consuming. And no instant gradification plus they would have to have permission. frederica

Offline Diana

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Re: People Of Distant Indian Ancestry
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2007, 03:03:00 am »
Thank you Momma Porcupine for an articulate and cohesive essay. I can't believe you took the words right out of my mouth, although, I could never in a million years write as elegantly as you do. Is it OK to e-mail your posting to a friend?

« Last Edit: June 16, 2007, 12:13:20 am by Diana »

Re: People Of Distant Indian Ancestry
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2007, 03:34:45 am »
Wow, you covered so much and so clearly!  Do you mind if I print this out to give to the PODIAs I often encounter at work?  The ones who will listen, anyway?

Offline Moma_porcupine

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Re: People Of Distant Indian Ancestry
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2007, 01:55:47 pm »
If some of what I've learned from noticing my own mistakes and those of others , might be helpful to someone somewhere else , by all means pass it along, with a link to the thread here . I'm grateful I haven't had to make ALL these mistakes myself, so maybe if someone reads this , they won't have to either. :)

I'm relieved all that managed to come out more coherently , than just a frustrated AAAARRRGGG . It's been building for a while . 

Offline wolfhawaii

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Re: People Of Distant Indian Ancestry
« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2007, 08:52:39 am »
Nicely put, Mama Porcupine! So how many of those mistakes did you make yourself? ;) Wadv, Steve

Offline Maggie

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Re: People Of Distant Indian Ancestry
« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2007, 02:57:00 pm »
Nicely put MP.

Being of mixed blood myself, I can agree with a lot of what you have said, and have experienced the "cool shoulder" many times.

My Grandfather was Haudenosaunee. He raised himself from the age of 14 on running away from the Reservation after his mother died. He was self educated. Married my Grandmother, who was disowned by her family for marrying him. He did whatever he could to "fit" into the white world. His wife demanded that their children be raised Catholic. To get back on the good side of her family she pretty much abolished any discussion etc. of my Grandfathers heritage. She refused to honor his requests on his death bed as to how he wanted his remains disposed of. She burned all of his native american belongings that were in his trunk, saying they were devil worship. All my life speaking of his heritage was off limits because "people would think we were all a bunch of lazy alcoholics", as I was told. Even today, his last surviving daughter, my Aunt, has disowned me because she feels I have no right to shame our family by bringing back a heritage that they were ashamed of. How sad as the stereotyping, brainwashing, of years ago, still lives.

I am dedicated to bringing the heritage back to a place of honor in our family.

Offline Moma_porcupine

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Re: People Of Distant Indian Ancestry
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2007, 09:20:26 pm »
Hi Maggie

Thanks for sharing a bit about your own experince .

I know of other situations where people have grown up having some members of their family expecting them to act like they don't know the other part of their family . It can be really hard when there is family bonds , mixed with prejudiced to find a way to get along with everyone . Being brought up with
messages from non native relatives that a person is an embarrasment because of their mixed blood and the expectation that this should be lied about or denied , can all can be crazy making , and have serious consquences on peoples general well being .

It's probably small compared to what a lot of Native people have gone through , who stayed in their communities , but it isn't like the affect isn't there. Especially , if it comes from peoples own families and starts at a very young age , the affects can go very deep . Because it is often invisible , I think people living with these affects often find themselves misunderstood . Some of what people do to try and bring that part of who they are , out of the closet, may be really silly and swing way too far in the other direction . Probably , it is important to embrace all parts of our heritiage , and find a way to express all of them in a positive fashion , not just one part .

I haven't figured out how to answer wolfhawaii's question about how many of those mistakes I made without sharing more personal information than I am comforatable sharing . I don't mean to be antisocial , and I would really like to be able to share more from a personal perspective - but - there is other things I need to consider that stop me . I wish I didn't feel that way , but I do .

One thing for sure , I have made a whole lot of mistakes ! I still do sometimes . It's something I'm very good at .  ;D Lots of experinece . LOL 
« Last Edit: May 03, 2007, 02:15:20 am by Moma_porcupine »


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Re: People Of Distant Indian Ancestry
« Reply #8 on: May 03, 2007, 01:35:48 pm »
I am 100 % Swedish, my family came through Ellis Island in the early 1900's.
On my wedding day I introduced my wife, her mother and grandparents to my parents.  As they walked away, my mother made a comment that was in a question form, but by the tone was not pleasant.  She asked  "What nationality are those people?" My wife hearing this turned back around and answered "Those people are Indians".
Through the years I felt myself caught between a rock and a hard place.  My mother tried very hard to be intrusive into how our children where to be raised and taught.

My wife wanted our children to be taught both sides of who they were, so they would never feel struggles of their idenity. my mother on the other hand was very determined that they would be just "white" and went so far as to taking our children to the barber while they were visiting her one weekend.  But my wife  God Bless her, kept quiet and respectful, yet continued to teach them their maternal side of the family and not to be ashamed of who they were.
I was told that there was a time in her family  when Indian people became ashamed of who they were because of how they were treated in society and it was commonplace to be a "Closet Indian".
I must say it has taken me many years to understand that how my family treated my wife's family was disrespectful and demeaning.
However my in-laws never spoke or showed any hostility toward my mother and other family members.
 When in her presence  they always showed kindness and respect, which maybe she didn't deserve, but perhaps did so for the sake of our kids.
I would like to think that it was how they reacted to her actions, that was the real lessons.

Through all of it I would like to think, our kids will take all the lessons, good and bad, to respect all races and religions, show dignity when confronted with the ugliness in the world and never forget or be ashamed of who they are.


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Re: People Of Distant Indian Ancestry
« Reply #9 on: May 03, 2007, 10:53:56 pm »
To try and get recognition , it seems some people resort to pointing out every ancestor who was ever born with straight black hair who could shoot and eat a squirrel

You don't mean the Welsh, right??

Anyway, if you really want ot understand, see the awesome power of alienation and social isolation that plagues industrialized societies. Philosphers like Marx and Kierkergaard saw this deeply, as capitalism emerged.

Humans are social animals. Denied instinctive ape-bonding scenarios, they feel alienated. Social connection is a massive need for most apes. Denied it, they are psychologically affected. Humans, having conceptual abilities, seek connection to "cure" that dis-connect. They do that in many ways, one of which is to explore genetic heritage. Or, some times they join groups, religions, cults etc.

Seeing that, compassion for that is what is needed. Like many things, the issues you highlight are symptoms of a much deeper, wider phenomenon.

Unfortunately, other issues become sucked in to it, one of which is racial purity. Another is cultural continuation. The two aren't the same thing, and they each have their own, unique potential trajectories. Choose wisely.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2007, 10:58:02 pm by educatedindian »


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Re: People Of Distant Indian Ancestry
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2007, 04:00:41 pm »
And sometimes the choice they make is inspired by pure capitalism. frederica


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Re: People Of Distant Indian Ancestry
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2007, 01:15:14 am »
Apropos of nothing:  My ex-hub was supposedly one-somethingth Absaroke.  He seemed to want validation of this, but when he tried to look up his roots it proved  difficult, so after one day spent in the local library he bought a pipe and "prayed" several times a day using a script he got out of a book instead.  I think he conned himself into believing he was Doing Something Spiritual, but it never made him a better person, because he was not willing to do thirty seconds' worth of introspection or change one thing about the way he was living.  To me, that's the test of any religion:  Does it make you a better person?  Do you have more integrity?  Do you treat others with more respect?  Have you been forced to examine your own faults?  In short, does it make you uncomfortable?

He still doesn't understand why I filed for divorce.  I didn't leave him solely because he was a wannabe, but I do feel his wannabe-ism was a sign of deeper problems.  He expected somone else to "fix his life" for him, and he didn't care who.  If I couldn't do it, maybe his messed-up version of "The Great Spirit" could.

The really sad part?  We quit smoking together.  Guess who went all Injun-Spiritchul when it became an excuse to run upstairs and suck tobacco whenever I said something that upset him? 

Offline debbieredbear

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Re: People Of Distant Indian Ancestry
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2007, 01:47:11 am »
That's just sad. But kinda funny too.;) Also sooo typical. I see that with the followers of the local "shame man". They don't want to do the work. They want it handed to them on a silver spoon and sugar coated but do not ask them to work at it.


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Re: People Of Distant Indian Ancestry
« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2007, 01:30:06 pm »
Yeah, it's funny now, but it was mortifying then.  I don't think any of the folks he hassled at pow-wows were amused either.  Then again, maybe they were.  He was probably famous as "that ignoramous who keeps asking Lakotas about Crows."    ::) 

I think a significant percentage of people who leave their religion of origin, or who try to combine religions that don't go together [cough"CHRISTOWICCA"cough], are doing so because they don't get that spirituality involves work at all.  Many Christian denominations don't seem to ask much of their followers except church attendance.  I was a Buddhist for many years, and I couldn't get over how many people wanted to be Buddhists but didn't want to do that meditation stuff because sitting still and shutting up for 15 minutes or more is so haaaaaaaard.  It made them examine their own thoughts and some of those thoughts are so icky!

Offline wolfhawaii

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Re: People Of Distant Indian Ancestry
« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2007, 07:30:24 am »
Sorry to reply so late but my internet access is sporadic.....Mama Porcupine, you don't need to answer any questions you don't want to, I was just grinning a little having made some unproductive detours myself along the way. One thing I find around here is that those who claim Cherokee don't really want to hear that what they are doing is not really looked on with favor in Cherokee communities. As long as they never go to actual Cherokee communities they can do whatever they want and call it "Cherokee". Ah well.....