January 30, 2009

Rob doesn't understand "mutts"?

Someone named Allysha wrote a long, thoughtful response to Are You a Reeeeeeal "Part" Injun? Here are some excerpts and my responses:I understand where you are coming from, but there is one thing you have to understand. Some people are just mutts. Furthermore, Heritage is heritage whether or not the culture is a part of your life. When I say I have Cherokee ancestry, I mean it and I know it and I can tell you all about it because my family has done extensive genealogical research.I don't think I've ever criticized someone for having Cherokee (or other Indian) ancestry. Or for stating that fact accurately. I'm all about defining things as accurately as possible.

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?Do you realize that quite often you are criticizing these people that know nothing about the culture of the people from which they claim to descend, when the reason they know nothing is the consequence of the choice of a distant ancestor? The reason many of these "white, blonde haired, blue eyed" people UNKNOWINGLY offend you by offering physical features as proof of their heritage is that it's all that they have left as proof of from whence they came. Would you deny a black person's their claim to African descent? I highly doubt it.As I indicated above, the people I criticize are usually the opposite of the ones you describe. They're people with a tiny fraction of Indian "blood" who claim to be full Indians based on something they read in a book or learned from a "shaman." In other words, wannabes.

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?Furthermore, I'm hearing a lot of "I hate when white, blonde haired, blue eyed girls say 'yadda, yadda, yadda.'" I have very fair skin, blonde hair and gray eyes. It's kind of harsh to criticize me for my coloring. I have an inverted breast bone, large earlobes, almond shaped eyes, lustrous smooth thick hair, second toes longer than my big toes and a big gap in between them, a slender, athletic figure, "shovel teeth", crooked pinkies and, yes, I even have high cheekbones. These physical features are all MEDICALLY and SCIENTIFICALLY considered indicative of Native American Heritage.Ironically, I just posted something on Chauntal's Doritos Commercials. She's a fair-skinned blond who is "Choctaw/Osage on her mother's side." Since her peers accept her as an Indian (again, see "Actual Indian" Defined), so do I. I generally don't criticize Indians (e.g., John Herrington or the Mashantucket Pequots) for not looking "Indian" enough.

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.


dmarks said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rob said...

dmarks said...

If Allysha can indeed document her Cherokee ancestry, she should be able to enroll in the tribe (Western Cherokee), right?

"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."

This reminds me of the discussion of Joseph Gribble of "King of the Hill" at http://www.bluecorncomics.com/redcorn1.htm. With a full-blooded Indian father (John Redcorn), he would almost certainly meet the first of your requirements, which is all that is necessary according to you, as it is before the first "or."

From Wikipedia: "The Ute require a 5/8 blood quantum, the highest requirement of any U.S. tribe, while the Miccosukee of Florida, the Mississippi Choctaw and the St. Croix Chippewa of Wisconsin all require 1/2 "tribal blood quantum."

Unless the Redcorns' fictional tribe turns out to be the Utes or a tribe just like them, and if the fictional tribe is "typical," then Joseph's 1/2 blood quantum is more than enough to make him an Indian, whether anyone knows about it or not.

Back to "If they have the blood quantum or the tribal enrollment or the acceptance of other Indians, I consider them Indians."

Does this include completely white wannabes who have been accepted by other Indians in modern times, or the white men who "married into the tribe" in older days? Do you count these completely white men as Indians because they are accepted by a tribe?

Rob said...

Yes, you're probably right about Allysha.

For my answers to your other questions, see The Joseph Gribble Case and Are Pure-White Indians Possible?