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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Elizabeth Warren - Massachusetts Candidate for Senate - NA Ancestry vs. White Identity

And as David Treuer pointed out in his opinion piece in The Washington Post, many Indians have identified as whites to have access to more opportunities. “From the mid-19th century, the beginning of the reservation period, up through the early 20th century, regardless of how people identified themselves, being classified by the U.S. government as an American Indian automatically curtailed one’s rights,” he said.

This further muddles the picture of Warren’s genealogical past. Just saying one lives in Indian Territory doesn’t make them an Indian. “Anyone could live in Indian Territory at any time,” Norris said. “When the U.S. federal government took the U.S. federal population Census for 1900, Indian Territory was divided into two sections, non-Indian population and Indian population, 61 percent of the Cherokee Nation’s population were not legally considered Cherokee but U.S. citizens who had migrated from other states such as Arkansas, living in the Cherokee Nation.”

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And what about the "one drop" rule that exists for African Americans?

Because it is so deeply ingrained in us, Tallbear has argued, the one-drop rule blots out any other way of imagining racial identity. As a result, the vast majority of Americans have never been able to grasp Native American identity. As the political soap opera continues to unfold, Tallbear said, both Warren’s romanticized claims and the cries of fraud it has unleashed  serve as more proof that we still don't grasp it. 

“When people talk about Native American identity, they talk in the language of ‘I have an ancestor who was this,’ or ‘I have an ancestor who was part that,’ because that’s the way we think of racial identity in this country,” said Tallbear, who is in New England for Sunday’s annual conference of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. Tallbear serves on the governing council of NAISA, which will convene at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Resort.

“If you want to understand Native American identity,” Tallbear said, “you need to get outside of that binary, one-drop framework. Native Americans do not fit in that binary. We have been racialized very differently in relationship to whites.”

How do we know Native Americans are racialized differently, Tallbear said? Because a white person -- say, Elizabeth Warren, for example -- can absorb a Native American ancestor and still maintain an identity as white. If Warren had a black ancestor, that fact would threaten her white identity.
You don't just get to decide you're Cherokee if the community does not recognize you as such."
"Elizabeth Warren doesn't not look Cherokee by Cherokee Nation standards at all," Tallbear said. "Going back eight, nine, 10 generations, there are Cherokee that look Asian, Cherokee that look black and Cherokee that look white."
For more information, read the entire article here: