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  • Musings-Warning: Long

    I've had this question rolling around in my head for a couple weeks now so bear with me. See, I am at a wall with my family research, wherein it's so long ago that records aren't much help. There are conflicting accounts of one ancestor's heritage (Ojibwe? Menominee? Odawa? All of the above) among her contemporaries and another's heritage, while known, doesn't give me any more specifics, i.e. her clan.

    The Menominee offer services to research family and I am fortunate in that my grandma's family is pretty well documented as they were "famous" fur traders in what later became Wisconsin. So it's not a question of if there's Native heritage there, though they may be able to provide some more detailed info. Especially since some things just aren't written down.

    But I keep thinking to myself, why am I so intent on finding out so much? I'm very much a "mutt" as far as I can tell; with several European groups' heritages as well, so why not have this same drive for them?

    And what's more, what is my end goal? I know of people in the Menominee nation who share my grandma's surname, so, technically relatives, yes? But then again, with such a tenuous connection what's the point? Plus, what would I even say? "Hi, we are super distant relatives, how's it going?"

    I think part of it is the circumstances in which my ancestors integrated. Basically, Wisconsin became a state and for the state census you had to register as white OR "Indian." There was no allowance for "mixed-bloods," and if you chose "Indian" you committed yourself to living on the Reservation. My GGG-grandpa chose "white" for himself and his family; the end. So I guess it feels like I was robbed?

    I am afraid that, in all actuality, I'm just another "wannabe" searching for connection, a sense of belonging, etc.

    Can anyone else relate? If you have successfully nailed down your heritage, what happened next/what did you do with that knowledge?

  • #2
    Allow me to share some musings from my years teaching and my experiences with wannabes. I'm not necessarily talking about you in particular.


    I think a lot of young people in the dominant culture are culturally adrift. Their families are often fragmented, almost always displaced, and frequently without elders. More and more they are raised without exposure to a religious community. Despite the fact that education system is overwhelming oriented to the indoctrinating them into the dominant culture, they come away with but a superficial understanding. Most of the non-Indian young people I work with know less about their culture than I do. Indeed they see themselves as having no "real" culture.

    Further within the academy and among the creators of pop culture, there have been real and perceived attacks on dominant culture institutions and values. While we can discuss the need for changes in dominant culture institutions and values, it does leave a bunch of these kids with a formless sense of shame. When they start to explore who they are and look for roots to anchor their lives, they have nothing to grab. Culture to them anything other than what they have. They seek Indian identity to have something.

    I think the difference between a wannabe seizing the shirttails of a distant ancestor and a thin-blooded mixed blood seeking reconnect is their definition of Indian identity. So the question in your case comes down to what does being Indian mean? How does it translate in your life?

    I can't offer a strict analog, since I never had the discovery phase, I was told who I was and what it meant. I did go through an absolutely cringe worthy round (with fashion nightmare) of trying to visibly and vocally assert my identity during my late teens and early twenties. (There will be no pictures, so don't even ask.)

    For me the process included:

    Accepting that for some folks I was always going to be on the wrong side.
    Accepting that there were going to be barriers erected by history, worldview, and racism.
    Understanding that as a fair mixed-blood, I had been the recipient of various privileges that my darker kin hadn't had, and that this has consequences.
    Learning to support rather than lead.
    Learning to be humble -- still need work on this.
    Learning to give and not expect thanks, because being Indian meant to give to help the People.
    Making peace with a terrible legacy of violence, loss, and death and being part of both sides.
    Seeing hope.
    Last edited by OLChemist; 12-16-2019, 02:03 PM.

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    • #3
      [MENTION=4221]OLChemist[/MENTION], as always you’re a font of wisdom. (And I sincerely mean that). Thank you once again for your insight. I’m going to ponder your words a bit today before making another reply.

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      • #4
        I think that I , as well as many others , are a product of the "in-between" generation ! Our parents went through that time period that was the times that nobody wanted to admit they were "Indian". Mixed bloods were looked down on. I can remember asking my Grandmother about my NDN side and she told me: "That's just something we don't talk about , don't be telling anyone about that." To which I'd ask why and she'd reply:"It's just not good to tell folks about that !" Now that was my white Grandma. My Mom and Dad divorced when I was 4 and Mom took us back to Missouri , a long way from ndn country . My curiosity brought me back. I thought different than all my "white"cousins , I was always darker skinned in the summer and as I got older , year round. So I set out on this journey of learning. To find out what I should , but didn't know I had to "learn" to be ndn !I see lots of younger people going through what I did 40 years ago. Finding out who I am and where I come from. Found my Dad when I was 23 , started learning , started going to powwows , being around our people and helping out where ever I could.Learning patience ! Starting dancing and learning respect ! Hard on a rebellious youth !Took a while so as you start this journey , remember 1 step at a time and there will be setbacks and heartaches ! Just keep going. You'll find it eventually ! My brother n law told me I needed to decide if I wanted to be a powwow ndn or a religious ndn , and I wanted to be a powwow ndn. What he didn't tell me is that 1 always leads to the other , no matter which one you choose first ! Just the musings of an old guy ! LOL
        I believe blood quantums are the governments way to breed us out of existance !


        They say blood is thicker than water ! Now maple syrup is thicker than blood , so are pancakes more important than family ?

        There are "Elders" and there are "Olders". Being the second one doesn't make the first one true !

        Somebody is out there somewhere, thinking of you and the impact you made in their life.
        It's not me....I think you're an idiot !


        sigpic


        There's a chance you might not like me ,

        but there's a bigger

        chance I won't care

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        • #5
          Originally posted by wardancer View Post
          I think that I , as well as many others , are a product of the "in-between" generation ! Our parents went through that time period that was the times that nobody wanted to admit they were "Indian". Mixed bloods were looked down on. I can remember asking my Grandmother about my NDN side and she told me: "That's just something we don't talk about , don't be telling anyone about that." To which I'd ask why and she'd reply:"It's just not good to tell folks about that !" Now that was my white Grandma. My Mom and Dad divorced when I was 4 and Mom took us back to Missouri , a long way from ndn country . My curiosity brought me back. I thought different than all my "white"cousins , I was always darker skinned in the summer and as I got older , year round. So I set out on this journey of learning. To find out what I should , but didn't know I had to "learn" to be ndn !I see lots of younger people going through what I did 40 years ago. Finding out who I am and where I come from. Found my Dad when I was 23 , started learning , started going to powwows , being around our people and helping out where ever I could.Learning patience ! Starting dancing and learning respect ! Hard on a rebellious youth !Took a while so as you start this journey , remember 1 step at a time and there will be setbacks and heartaches ! Just keep going. You'll find it eventually ! My brother n law told me I needed to decide if I wanted to be a powwow ndn or a religious ndn , and I wanted to be a powwow ndn. What he didn't tell me is that 1 always leads to the other , no matter which one you choose first ! Just the musings of an old guy ! LOL
          Good musing.


          Why must I feel like that..why must I chase the cat?


          "When I was young man I did some dumb things and the elders would talk to me. Sometimes I listened. Time went by and as I looked around...I was the elder".

          Mr. Rossie Freeman

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