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  • Half A Native Is Still A Native

    Half A Native Is Still A Native
    By Alfred Walking Bull
    Reznet News - 26 January 2009
    Half A Native Is Still A Native | Reznet News

    One week ago, American history added a new chapter with the inauguration of President Barack Obama.Though far more than being the first African American president, Obama's election and inauguration showed that America can look beyond someone's skin and even beyond the fact that someone has two parents of two different races to see the leader inside.

    Unfortunately, Indian Country is less than stellar in its track record with people of mixed race. Our languages have names for these people, all having various definitions, but the translation is always the same insult: half-breed.

    The Lakota word for someone of mixed race (usually Native and white) is, "iyeska." While most accept this as a blanket term as an insult for "half-breed," the etymology of the word reveals far more than most realize. The word, "iyeska" translates as, "translator." It's a compound word for, "iyemiciska," which means, "they will talk for me."

    In our first relations with non-Native peoples, our ancestors looked to those of mixed race who were taught two languages in order to communicate. They placed trust in these people who knew two worlds and two peoples, they relied on them as bridges for the coming changes ahead. Sadly, not all of our ancestors' sentiments were conveyed and not all of the stipulations of treaties and compacts were explained. Our ancestors then felt the sting of betrayal and began referring to anyone of mixed race as untrustworthy.

    It is a momentary mistake from which, we have never recovered.

    While the younger generations, as they always have done, prove that mixed race is no barrier between friendship there are always those who seek to continue the blame on those who are judged as "less Indian" because of one abstract concept: blood quantum.

    With the Dawes Act of 1887, Natives around the country were rounded up and placed on tiny parcels of land in the hopes of, "civilizing" us. Along with that measure came a need to determine who was eligible for membership, therein whether voluntarily or not, came the concept of blood quantum. Based upon whether or not one's parents were of mixed heritage or full bloods, one was given membership and allotted land. But when the land allotments ceased, the practice of blood quantum did not. While to some, blood quantum is a source of pride, it is also our downfall as a race.

    See, the thing about blood quantum -- the thing you'll want to write down -- is that it can never be increased, only decreased. Even if someone with a 4/4 degree of Indian blood marries and has children with someone of 2/4 quantum, their children will only be 3/4. And even if those children marry and have children, they will only be a further divided fraction of being "Indian enough." As a result of adopting blood quantum, most of our Native nations can never restore the rock, we can only pile one stone upon another.

    When discussing this subject with a friend, she made a grim comparison that chilled my own blood. During the Third Reich, the Nazi Party would decide who was Aryan and who was Jewish. One ancestor too many who professed the Jewish faith and one would be sent to the camps and, tragically, would almost certainly be killed. It is a short jump from pride in one's heritage to the extermination of an entire people.

    The fear of tribal membership is understandable, at what point is someone "Indian enough" and when do we start hearing stories from a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Native who claims their great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess. But there again, the fault is ours. When we practice the internalized racism against one another, we drive away those who are made to feel less than human, based on an abstract concept of blood purity. They are jaded and they have no desire to be united with their ancestral relatives.

    In the days before the reservation, Natives knew no such dividing lines.
    We lived in a world where we were at the mercy of animals four times our size or who could run and attack at speeds faster than an arrow. Nothing was ever certain. So, when returning from a long trip, family members -- regardless of their blood -- were ecstatic to see one another, cried tears of joy and offered prayers of thanks to the Creator for just one more day with their loved ones. Since then, with the advent of blood quantum, the generations pass on their distrust and even hatred of mixed blood Natives. We've lost sight of the importance of family and the thanks and praise we should be giving for just one more day with our loved ones.

    Frustratingly enough, outsiders have been little help in uniting our people.

    Whether through the mission boarding schools or governmental policy, we've been pitted against one another, whispers in our ears of who is better than whom, based on how white or how Native one was. All throughout, our ancestors have been trying to lead us in a better direction.

    From time to time, we will invoke the concept of the seventh generation, in other cultures, we must think ahead seven generations to consider what impact our actions now have on the future. But in Lakota culture, seven generations ago, our greatest prophets saw the coming of the oppression and the hopelessness our people feel on a daily basis. They saw in this current generation, the spirit of our ancestors beginning to rise again to restore our people to prosperity and happiness by taking up the mantle of leadership.

    In all these prophesies, there was never a mention of blood quantum, never a prejudice for those whose parents were of different or mixed races. It is time for us to put behind us all the resentment of the years in between then and now.

    Therefore, it falls to this generation to decide what is more important: a continually decreasing amount of full bloods as a source of momentary pride; or to unite as one people to help our elders, to care for our young and defeat the hopeless that alcohol and drug abuse brings in order to restore honor to the memory of our ancestors. It is our responsibility to embrace those who have been scorned simply because of the concept of blood quantum and instruct them in the traditional thought and philosophies our of people so they may better understand the vision of our shared destinies.

    We talk of honoring the traditions, but we fail to realize those traditions will soon die out unless we embrace one another, free from judgment and pass those traditions onward, so that our story will endure.

    (Alfred Walking Bull, Sicangu Lakota, is a graduate of the Freedom Forum's American Indian Journalism Institute and a former Reznet staff writer.)

    *******

    What's your opinion?

    "Be good, be kind, help each other."
    "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

    --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)

  • #2
    Thank you that was beautiful -my mother was a breed- grandda born on rez i only claim his blood and my youngest and i follow the red road many thanks for the words shadow

    Comment


    • #3
      I can't imagine this argument being stated any more eloquently than this gentleman has.

      It's a delicate balance to maintain, embracing those of true NDN heritage and yet protecting traditions from being "hijacked" by those who have no NDN ancestors at all. In our "protecting," though, how many true descendants have we turned away?

      I have come to conclusion that as a mixed blood I will never be NDN enough for some folks, and I just have to accept that.

      Comment


      • #4
        Being a "half-breed" myself I have witnessed first hand the prejudice of this, especially in boarding school.
        LOL
        And going to public school, I was never totally accepted by the Caucasians.
        I am of both Worlds and never felt I belonged until I grew older and realized that I dont need the acceptance of others.
        I have an ancestry that stretches back far into the past and am very proud of that

        So to read these words that this man has written only enforces what took me years to discover
        We are in this together and its time to move on and make this a good place for our kids...

        Good words to live by...
        ᎠᏂᎩᏚᏩᎩ - Anigiduwagi
        Till I Die!

        Comment


        • #5
          Good words indeed

          Comment


          • #6
            very good words....
            I posted this on another thread but it works here too:

            Ok now we are starting to sound like the NDN police amongst ourselves.... who is and who isn't by a line drawn in the sand... you are only NDN if you practice your culture? You are only NDN if you have a certain amount of blood in your veins???

            How can someone who has native blood but didn't know until they were an adult (in the case of adoption or hiding) not be one of us? Should we not be accepting of that person as our brother or sister? Do we fault them for not knowing the ways of their people? Aren't we supposed to help that person along our path? I am not talking about the white folks who want to play at being something they are not.

            Do we vote a brother or sister off the island because they live in the white world? How can we take their birthright because they choose to survive in a white world? I use the word survive here because that is what a great number have done, wanting a good life for their familes, I am not saying a better life but a way that provides for their children.

            Do we throw our brothers and sisters out because they don't fit someone's profile of what a NDN is? I think not. Because when we start that we are no better than the people that have tried to force us out of existance.

            Do you tell a person that has spent years trying to get back the part of themselves that was stripped from them through no fault of their own that they aren't NDN? Once again I am not talking about the white folks.... but the people with native heritage that have lost the teachings along the way.

            I am too, guilty of the prove it or move on train of thought at times. I suppose it's from years of hearing the my grandmother was a princess or my grandfather was a chief. I think that all of us are bone weary of that in whatever form that you have heard it in. But I will not cast my brothers and sisters out into the proverbial cold because they aren't practicing. Maybe they need to feel the call of the Creator, the pull of their ancestors, and how can they come home if we shut the doors in thier faces???

            Racism is alive and thriving in our country. Racism against Native Americans is still out there the only difference is our people are no longer thnking that the "white man" is going to be fair with us, and honor anything.

            I like to play a good drum on the stereo in the mornings when I am starting my mornings. My neighbors don't appreicate good drumming and they like to yell things about fake NDNs and so on. I was told just the other day by one of them that I can't be a Indian because my skin is light. I have the very fair skin of my Irish and Scot bloodline. I didn't get the darker creamy tan skin color that my 2 brothers did. I have the dark hair and eyes, they have lighter brown hair and hazel eyes. We are 7/16th Cherokee. My kids are a bit less than 1/4, 2 blondes with blue eyes and on burnette with dark brown eyes 2 fair one medium. I try to explain that native Americans come in all skin colors, eye colors and hair colors but most people still think that we have to look like the ones on TV or in the movies....Stereotype, Profiling, uninformed or whatever you want to call it. It still reeks or rasicsm.

            It's not our skin color that makes us who we are. It's MY Birthright!!! I was lucky enough to be born with Native American blood in my veins. From both my maternal and paternal bloodlines. Lucky enough to have the written and oral family history to provide the documentation of that blood line. That doesn't mean that my 7/16ths makes a better ndn that a person that has only 1/8 or 1/16, or that I am not as good a one as someone that is a full blood. It just means that I am a Native American just like they are.

            The rest of me is Irish and Scot. My Irish bloodline has been traced back to the for well over 1500 years, that doesn't make me a better Irish person than someone who is only 1/8 Irish. It makes me have Irish blood from a very old Irish family. It also means that my Dad's aunt had way to much time on her hands and way to much money to spend on getting all this documentation together. It is also my brithright. As is my Scot blood taced back to the highlands... None of this makes me a princess darn it!!!! :))
            Another aunt has all these charts on every generation and what fraction each one of us is. She's a bit anal about it. She will even tell anyone that asks and will listen what we'd have to do to "breed the white out".....

            All of my ancestors faced some sort racial punishment for just being born who they were born. I am a proud Native American who has the blood of the Irish and the Scots blended in. I just made a choice to lead the life of a human being, and follow the Native American path. My brothers will just tell you that they are Native American, Irish and Scot and walk off and leave you standing there.

            I know that some of it doesn't apply here on this thread but some of it does.... We need to embrace our family and save it for the generations that follow us, or the experiment to breed us out of exisistance will work....
            Thankful for the blessing from the Creator in my life!!!!

            Life should not be measured by the number of things that we aquire on our journey but by the number of lives that we touch along that road.

            I am a bridge on the red path between my ancestors and the future. I am a bridge between my white heritage and my native heritage. A bridge joins two sides together and provides a way to move on..... A.K. O'Pry-Reynolds

            Comment


            • #7
              chi miigwetch embrace the life the great One gives us with open arms

              Comment


              • #8
                Excellent Post

                Wow, that was an excellent post, Historian. Like some of the other responders, I am also a "breed". My father was half Comanche, and half Kiowa, and my mother is a full blooded German.
                I could understand Josiah's statement about being caught on both sides. I was too indian for the whites, and not indian enough for the full bloods. The good thing that came of this, is throughout my life, the friends I have made, are people who don't care about the various amounts of blood I have, or the pigmentation of my skin.
                I am proud of my heritage, my family history, and my tribal history. I am also proud of my German history, and family. I am proud to say that I teach my children that we are all members of the human race.
                Kio-Manche
                Oklahoma Proud!!!

                Comment


                • #9
                  ayo I'm Alagonquin/abenaki-- german my husband was scot my kids are just people taught to love all two leg beings no matter what color

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Do you tell a person that has spent years trying to get back the part of themselves that was stripped from them through no fault of their own that they aren't NDN? Once again I am not talking about the white folks.... but the people with native heritage that have lost the teachings along the way.
                    Was it stripped or just never taught.. there's a difference you know. If never taught then I don't believe it's something that is missed but rather desired instead. And usually it's desired because people are unhappy with who they are and see it as a chance to be something else.

                    Let's be honest here because what you are talking about doesn't usually pertain to us half breeds. Most of us KNOW who we are and where we come from. We aren't generations removed from the people.

                    Adopted out is another story and I've met many people now, even one from my own people who were half and adopted out to a white family. That's a whole different story of it's own too.

                    I loved this article and it's sentiment. Well thought out and written too. Thanks for posting!
                    Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Blackbear View Post
                      Was it stripped or just never taught.. there's a difference you know. If never taught then I don't believe it's something that is missed but rather desired instead. And usually it's desired because people are unhappy with who they are and see it as a chance to be something else.

                      Let's be honest here because what you are talking about doesn't usually pertain to us half breeds. Most of us KNOW who we are and where we come from. We aren't generations removed from the people.

                      Adopted out is another story and I've met many people now, even one from my own people who were half and adopted out to a white family. That's a whole different story of it's own too.

                      I loved this article and it's sentiment. Well thought out and written too. Thanks for posting!
                      Bear did you read that it was posted originally on another thread???? and that some but not all of it applied here and some did not????
                      Thankful for the blessing from the Creator in my life!!!!

                      Life should not be measured by the number of things that we aquire on our journey but by the number of lives that we touch along that road.

                      I am a bridge on the red path between my ancestors and the future. I am a bridge between my white heritage and my native heritage. A bridge joins two sides together and provides a way to move on..... A.K. O'Pry-Reynolds

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ARTICLE
                        See, the thing about blood quantum -- the thing you'll want to write down -- is that it can never be increased, only decreased. Even if someone with a 4/4 degree of Indian blood marries and has children with someone of 2/4 quantum, their children will only be 3/4. And even if those children marry and have children, they will only be a further divided fraction of being "Indian enough." As a result of adopting blood quantum, most of our Native nations can never restore the rock, we can only pile one stone upon another.
                        How many posts am I up to on this, now?

                        So, we need to define ourselves a different way...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          "We lived in a world where we were at the mercy of animals"

                          We still do. These have two legs, though.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            i like the post for the most part, still there are ppl out there saying bad things about just a little blood and thay seems to me not to feeling anything but what ones has closed the book on.
                            Last edited by 2lineCarrandMorgan; 02-10-2009, 06:47 PM.
                            Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass..It's about learning to dance in the rain. for me and the wolf

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by steelemagnolia63 View Post
                              Bear did you read that it was posted originally on another thread???? and that some but not all of it applied here and some did not????
                              yes.. and ?????? Be a little more clear on what you think actually it has to do with.. point it out. Don't make me have to re-read that again and try to use my psychic powers to figure out what your point is.

                              Like I said, it has very little to do with us half breeds. Did'nt you read that?
                              Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic

                              Comment

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