But saying you have Cherokee ancestry is different from saying you are Cherokee. I.e., it's different from saying you're a full-fledged Cherokee with all the knowledge and understanding pertaining to your background. You don't have the same background as someone with substantial Cherokee "blood"--not to mention an enrolled tribal member--so you (probably) don't have the same knowledge and understanding.
In other words, I'm not criticizing "mutts" who say what they are and accept what they are. I'm criticizing "mutts" who claim they're much more than what their fractional heritage gives them a right to claim. The word for these people is "wannabes." They're claiming to be full-fledged Cherokees--as authentic as Sequoyah or Wes Studi or whoever--even though their background is no different from yours.
Criticizing people's ignorance?
There are probably tens of thousands of Cherokees who know little about their traditional culture. The same applies in other regions where Indians were forced to intermarry and assimilate--e.g., New England or California. If I've ever said anything critical about these anonymous Indians, I don't recall it.
In fact, in "Actual Indian" Defined I stated their right to call themselves Indians. If they have the blood quantum or the tribal enrollment or the acceptance of other Indians, I consider them Indians. It doesn't matter to me whether they practice their traditional culture or not.
About the only time I've criticized someone (e.g., Sam Bradford) for not knowing his culture is when others have held him up as a role model. If Sam Bradford wants to be one of the tens of thousands of anonymous enrolled Cherokees whom I know nothing about, I won't say one word about him. I couldn't care less whether he practices Cherokee traditions in the privacy of his home.
But if someone suggests him as a role model for others, then I'll speak up. Winning the Heisman Trophy doesn't make Bradford a great Cherokee, it makes him a great athlete who happens to be a Cherokee. As I've said many times, we should admire Indians who uphold their Native values and give back to their fellow Indians more than those who don't. If someone just happens to be an Indian, that's nothing to admire.
Criticizing people's looks?
If you're referring to my criticism of someone like Johnny Depp, you've ignored the context. I haven't criticized Depp for looking exactly as Indian as he is--which I gather is 1/8th Eastern Cherokee or thereabouts. I've criticized Hollywood for casting him--a Caucasian actor with a bit of Eastern Cherokee ancestry--as Tonto the full-blooded Apache.
If a role called for a 1/8th Eastern Cherokee, I'd be the first to say Depp was perfect for it. But that's not what we're talking about here. Depp doesn't look like an Apache or know the Apache, so he's wrong for this role.
Again, it's not a matter of criticizing people for who they are. It's the exact opposite: criticizing people for who they aren't, not who they are. Depp isn't an Indian by any of the standards I've listed, and he's absolutely not a full-blooded Texas Apache. A major Native role like Tonto, Jacob Black, or Friday should go to someone who matches the role as closely as possible.
For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.
Below: Depp the Apache wannabe.