November 01, 2006

Tired of phony Indians

Going Native

Kathy Dickerson is fed up with people pretending to be American Indians.Kathy Dickerson grew up in St. Louis in the 1970s, a time when it wasn't "cool" to be an Indian. "The kids in the schoolyard teased me terribly," Dickerson recalls. "They called me a savage. I wanted no part of my Indian blood."

Three decades later, the 43-year-old Dickerson has embraced her ancestry. The daughter of a full-blooded Kiowa Indian woman from Oklahoma and an Italian man from St. Louis, Dickerson spends her days curing animal hides with cow brains—a natural way of tanning leather—and crafting ornate moccasins and jewelry out of her south-city home. When her fingers and eyes grow tired, Dickerson pushes aside ancient traditions and logs on to her Web site,

Originally designed to market her handiwork, the site now serves as Dickerson's main tool for exposing people she believes are masquerading as Indians. These frauds, says Dickerson, distort the true heritage of Native Americans and rob them of what little income they can generate by selling craftwork and participating in demonstrations.


Rob said...

As you may have heard, the federal government terminated a lot of legitimate tribes. If a tribe can pass the feds' stringent criteria to become recognized, it deserves our support. The majority of tribes seeking recognition fail to get it, which proves the criteria is tough. That's why every tribe (including the Kiowa) accepts the validity of the recognition standard.

Meanwhile, the Chickasaws whom you denigrate have an unbroken record of both heredity and history. So what's your criteria for recognizing a tribe as valid? Is it based on blood quantum? Or what, exactly?

Anonymous said...

I think what Ms. Dickerson is trying to say is that she is sick and tired of white people with no Indian blood or with minuscule Indian blood playing Indian. These people are a blight on Indian society, not to mention their behavior is often fraudulent. I came across this article in ICT which is exactly what Ms. Dickerson is talking about. These people claim Indian decent and have formed their own tribe in Lakeland FL. They allow anyone to join who believe they have Native American ancestry. Not only do they let anybody in, they have ingratiated themselves into the school districts giving talks to children in full regalia because "kids respond to exotic attire." Please go to this web address and judge for yourself.

Rob said...

I'm tired of white people with no or a minuscule amount of Indian blood playing Indian too. On the other hand, many "white" or "black" people with a small amount of Indian blood are legitimate members of legitimate tribes such as the Cherokees--and Pequots.

So what's the difference? The only difference that comes to mind is that some tribes have achieved federal recognition. This standard may be flawed or arbitrary, but it's about all we've got. It's better than saying everybody or nobody is an Indian.

If Russ has defined a standard for determining who's a legitimate Indian--a verifiable standard that includes him; excludes Chickasaws, Pequots, and wannabes; and doesn't rely on blood quantum--I must've missed it. When I see such a standard, we can discuss it.

P.S. I thought I was already the final arbiter of what's stereotypical and what isn't. ;-)

Unknown said...

My father was L'nu (Mi'kmaq) and Mowhawk. My mother was Cherokee. Both their families hid their heritage to avoid persecution. One story tells of the clan chasing my gg Grandfather in his wagon after a trip to town for supplies. He escaped and never went back to town. I was raised with little to no knowledge of my heritage, yet at 14 I left home and found my way onto several reservations and learned what i could about the cultures. I have made many friends all over and am now living in North eastern Nebraska with my Yankton Sioux and Northern Ponca with. We have 7 children all of who are card carrying members. They attend Youth group meeting and we are doing all we can to share what knowledge we have with them. I am really saddened that anyone could judge another by the AMOUNT of blood they carry. It just goes to show that whites are not the only ones guilty of unjust judgment.By what right does anyone decide who is Aboriginal? We are all related (Msit Nokamaq)(Mitake Oyasin) means the same thing in all three tongues. Just because a person was treated badly when young does not qualify them to make judgments. If that were true i would be able to judge anyone who drinks, drinks and beat their kids, drinks and drives, is just plain mean for the sake of being mean, and even just being a jerk. People get over it! what is done is done. What a waste of time to sit and worry about who is and isn't native. There are better things to do. Get involved and teach the younger generation before the knowledge is lost. One last thing regaurdless of how the world views you, you are either proud of your heritage in the face of bigotry or you hide it. one does not hide who they are because it's unpopular then suddenly claim it because it has become the in thing. If you are not willing to be who you are and face those who hate or oppose you then you should not claim it when the danger has passed. The great Chief and warriors fought even after they realized they would not win, and only surrendered when they realized their people would be wiped out if they did not. they accepted their fate and now we are here because they choose this path for us. We as Aboriginal North Americans have more opportunities now than ever in our history and we should use our intelligence to gain what land and monies we can to further the survival of our ways. Hope this is received in the spirit intended and may the creator bless all who follow his way.

Rob said...

Re "What a waste of time to sit and worry about who is and isn't native":

For my response, see Determining Indians = Waste of Time?