This blog was added to the Top 50 Native American Literature Blogs. Scroll down to the "Rest of the Best" after the Top 5

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Identity (Article Excerpts and Links)

Contemporary Views of Traditional Identity

I would not say that Native American identity is shaped by ethnicity, rather Native American identity was and continues to be shaped by specific tribal cultures and traditions. American Indians do not form an ethnic group, they are composed of thousands of independent nations, communities, and cultures that have very different and specific identities.

Similarly, I would not say that American Indian identity has been shaped by sovereignty, rather American Indian cultures and identities have informed and supported the use or appropriation of the Western concept of sovereignty. If we mean by sovereignty the right and power to make our own decisions, then sovereignty has been a part of Indian nations from time immemorial.

Tribal citizens have cultural, kinship, often spiritual ties to a tribal nation and to its history, goals and values. Tribal citizens uphold and obey the laws and traditions of an indigenous nation. Tribal citizenship carries a political commitment to take on the responsibilities and benefits of tribal government and tribal nationality. However, tribal citizenship requires cultural understanding of the indigenous nation, and knowledge of the history of self-governance. Indigenous nations are holistic with overlapping cultural, political, kinship, economic, and community relations and identities. Tribal citizens take on time-honored obligations to respect kinship, community, nation, and ceremony, all of which are overlapping and holistic.

Pseudo Science to Get Rid Of
Some excerpts below

Want to know what someone's like? Get to know them, or talk to a lot of people who know them. Handwriting won't tell you anything, unless the letters are written in blood. If you think someone's posture indicates their character, I wish you an uncomfortable chair for the rest of your life. And as for deciding that someone's body shape is an indication of what they're like inside - we got taught to know better than this in kindergarten, people. Get it together. I have no doubt that there will always be new forms of this crap floating around. Some charlatan will always find a way to claim physical characteristics indicate moral character. Give it the hydra treatment. Chop off its head and burn its neck stump.

Aliens Build the Ancient World
Look, I know it's easier to think that aliens came down to Earth thousands of years ago than it is to believe that the ancient peoples of Egypt or South America and Central America had any skill, brains, or artistry. But you still have to fill in questions like, "Why, of all the things aliens could do with the world, did they choose to make giant stone pyramids?" If you went to an alien world, would you want to build giant stone pyramids, or would you prefer to loot the world of all of its precious materials? (Or, if you were more benevolent, teach the natives how to cultivate penicillin?) While we're on the subject, why did aliens give up their interest in architecture? It's only been a couple of thousand years, and we could really use some help building vertical farms or supercities, or, I don't know, space ships. But I get it: We're smart, ancient people are not. Keep it to yourself from now on.

Genetic Memory
A little sentimentalism about one's ancestors can be quite pleasant. It's interesting to look around an old family house, or take a trip to the "homeland." Things get a little more complicated when people lay claim to the gifts and talents of their ancestors. What works in novels doesn't work in real life, and "innate knowledge," leads to all kinds of pseudo-scientific nonsense. We're not salmon. We don't have a instinct that leads us back to our origins.

Indians Who Aren't Indians
The Federal Court of Appeal has upheld an earlier ruling that says the Métis are Indians in constitutional terms, which implies a higher standard of federal responsibility. It rejected, however, the notion non-status Indians are in fact Indians under the Constitution, although it said Parliament could grant such status under some circumstances.

They may look like Indians, identify as Indians, associate with Indians, participate in Indian cultural affairs and pass on their Indian oral histories, they may even speak an aboriginal language, but as far as the federal government is concerned, they aren't Indians.

This paradox and historic injustice traces its roots to the 19th century and the beginning of the treaty system. A status Indian was someone registered under the Indian Act as an Indian, but for a variety of reasons many aboriginals never registered with the authorities.

Some aboriginals avoided the process out of mistrust, while other names were simply not recorded. Aboriginal women who married non-Indians lost their status, although that injustice was eventually reversed by the courts. Other aboriginals lost or gave up their status for a variety of reasons.

The Métis have a process for determining membership in their group, including self-identification, acceptance by the Métis community and records that verify ancestry.  A similar method could be used for non-status Indians who want to reclaim their heritage and their rights.

On Card Carrying Indians and Those Indians Who Don't
Warren Petoskey in Native Condition. 
This is the historical trauma no one wants to talk about. We, as Native people, take it as a badge of honor that we have been issued cards qualifying us as citizens of our respective tribes. My number is 0322. That number registers me with my tribe and with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington DC. Every tribal member in the United States and Canada has an identification number in addition to our driver's license number and our social security number among other numbers.
I have often thought of withdrawing my membership in my tribal club association if it were not for daughters who struggle with diabetes and need the medical services to control the disease. Neither can afford the test strips, the medicines, or the continuing need for medical care.

The tribe who so generously allows me to have one of their cards does little to address the conditions that have developed that are intended to end our legal existence and the federal government's obligations by treaty to us. If they are allowed to determine when we will suddenly disappear because of the lack of their standards for blood quantum than we, as tribal members, have done little to establish and protect our origin of sovereignty. Sovereignty was and is not the gift of men, but the gift of the Creator. Somehow we have allowed me to dictate who we are or who we aren't. This is prejudice at its highest effort.

I think of the many tribes the federal government terminated. In essence the federal government was and is saying these tribes no longer exist or have any legal status in the United States or Canada. That is like telling the Creator that they are going to take the lead in saying who is and who isn't! So they have usurped the authority of the Creator and took matters into their own hands.

After five hundred years of threat to our existence in which nearly 100 million of our people were exterminated and we were determined to be less than human, this little crumb from our master's table giving us a card to carry validating us as citizens of our own tribes is an indication of their lack of honor and respect. But we, as a people, have bought into it all and practice that level of oppression on our own people and stick our heads in the sand when other members of our Red Race is determined not to exist.

9 Things America Needs to Understand About Native Values
  1. Honesty and Integrity 
  2. Prioritizing Who Is Paid Well For What  
  3. Appreciation for Women 
  4. Natural Law 
  5. Respect
  6. Kinship and the Relationship Between All Beings  
  7. The Sacredness of Life and Intention
  8. Generosity
  9. Mother Earth
Authenticity: Ethnic Indians, non-Indians and Reservation Indians
The cultural complexities of contemporary Indian communities tend to confuse non-Indians who are expecting and often demand traditional cultural expression and personas from contemporary Indian people. If a person does not look and act like an Indian—usually a stereotypical image of a Plains Sioux Indian—then many non-Indians doubt the Indian authenticity of tribal member.
Reservation Indians usually have very secure identities, and so when non-Indians or ethnic Indians doubt their authenticity, reservation Indians often find these circumstances amusing.  Ethnic Indians can be defined as persons of Indian descent who are not members of a tribal community and often their families have not have had contact with a home community for generations. For reservation Indians, authenticity is confirmed within the local reservation community. While for many ethnic Indians and non-Indians, Indian authenticity is determined by stereotypes and images that are common within American society.
There are more non-Indians in the U.S. than reservation Indians, and generally the views of non-Indians prevail. Non-Indian views of Indian authenticity drowned out reservation understandings of Indian authenticity. Before the 1980s, some times Indians often conformed to U.S. images of authenticity by dressing in Plains Indian clothes and headdresses, partly because otherwise they could not be recognized as Indians. Southern California Indians, for example, do not traditionally have powwow dances, but have dances and songs based on their tribal creation teachings that narrate an epic migration of ancestral birds who end by establishing the homeland of the people. Unfortunately, much contemporary discussion about Indian authenticity focuses more on U.S. definitions of authenticity than tribal understandings, which are less well known and understood by the U.S. public and many ethnic Indians.

Trapped in Our Ancestors Old Ways
From TLC: “The series chronicles the dramatic and emotional journey of Mary, Frank, Tamara, Qituvituag (also known as Q) and Nuala, as they embark on their high-stakes ‘escape’ from Alaska to explore the world outside their villages and small towns. Although they love their families and take pride in their heritage, they are yearning for more fulfilment and different experiences. Escaping Alaska captures their brave journey as they leave their sheltered lives behind.”

Native People, in All Their Glory: 20 Portraits by Ryan Red Corn
Working with Buffalo Nickel and on his own, Red Corn has built up a substantial portfolio of portraits of Natives; his subjects include entertainers and athletes, politicians and activists, kids and elders. Basically, everyone -- view gallery for a selection of some of his recent shots.

I am Not Pocahontas 

The word "Pagan" is a problem when applied to Native Americans 

Beyond Assimilation and Nationalism: Walking in Two Worlds Is Necessary 
Indians use a variety of strategies to manage their life prospects and identities. The old stereotypes of opposing traditionalist and progressive strategies do not capture the complexity of contemporary life choices, nor the consequences of tribal identity and commitments to sustaining tribal nations.