The recent proliferation of white hipsters wearing stereotypically “native” garb, in its infinite bullshitness, has stirred up my own issues of whiteness and native identity.
Like many white Americans, I can claim a small amount of American Indian heritage in my bloodline. In my case, Algonquin, though which specific tribe in the nation, I don’t know. The reason we don’t know more is because it was a point of shame on my papa’s side for a long time - one of his great(-great?-great?)-grandmothers was an Indian -and he was taught to deny it and never talked about it in great detail.
I’ve had many people tell me this doesn’t count, because it’s so “watered down”. And, obviously, I cannot claim a Native American identity - I am white, no question about it, and fully benefit from the privilege that comes out of that. (Hell, even being able to think about it this way is an exercise in privilege, but I digress.) But I also wonder to what extent denying that part of my heritage participates in the erasure of the integration - forced or otherwise - of American Indian individuals in the white colonization of North America. I feel uncomfortable leaving it out partially because of the history of denial in my family. Is it fair of me to not list that among my nationalities (when people ask) because I’m not “enough” of it?
I’m interested in how other people view this. At what point does any one heritage (as linked to race) become negligible? How does prescribed racial identity play into this? Is it simply admitting the structure of Whiteness, or participating in it?
TL;DR Unproductive white guilt about myself but I’m also interested in hearing thoughts.
BTW if you want to vomit today GIS “hipsters wearing headdresses”.
I actually have these same thoughts. I haven’t asked around much about it but I do know some “crazy” great-great-grandfather married a Native American woman. (“Crazy” is not my word but how the family story describes him. Probably because he had the audacity to marry her.)
I don’t even know how much of this story is legend or even who she was or what tribe she was from. It feels like nobody bothered to remember. I do want to find out though. Anyway, I’m interested in this topic as well.
One of the interesting things that’s been coming out of commercially available DNA tests is that many white families do not have the Native American ancestry they’ve been claiming for generations. There’s even a slang term for it in the DNA testing industry: “American Indian Princess Syndrome.” Companies routinely get angry calls from customers who have received test results that indicate no Native American or First Nations ancestry and are convinced that there must have been some mistake or the samples must have gotten switched, because they have always heard that great-grandma So-and-So was a “full-blood Cherokee princess.” It makes for some interesting customer relations, from what I understand.
I am not disputing anyone’s personal identity or ancestry, but it’s worth pointing out that my own family supposedly had a Cherokee ancestor back a ways. My dad and I did some research when I was in high school and determined that unless she was hanging out in northeastern Germany in the 19th century, no such person had ever existed. Something to think about.
That is very true. Some people think it’s “exotic” or whatever to have Native American ancestry.
I actually do want to look into this more. (And I think she would only be able to be from my maternal grandmother’s side, as everyone else back then was in Europe still.) I think I’ll start asking around the family…
White is the authority and ability and the license to only be “ethnic” when you want to be, when you think it’ll be interesting or make you a FUCKING SPESHUL FUCKING SNOWFUCK.
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