July 30, 2010

"Absentee Shawnee of Ohio" wannabes

Playing Indian

Group presents Native culture with fake fires and tipis, phony tribal ID

By Stephanie Woodard
The cardholder confirmed that several years ago the clan mother of the tribe’s Bear Clan in Cleveland passed out five or six of these IDs, which purport to be issued by the state of Ohio, where Robert Taft was governor from 1999–2007. However, there are no state recognized tribes in Ohio, according to its attorney general, whose representative said, “We are not aware of recognition of this group--even temporarily.”

Indeed, the “Absentee Shawnee of Ohio” appear not to exist there or elsewhere, except perhaps in the mind of the clan mother and her acolytes, though the name closely tracks that of a federally recognized tribe in Oklahoma.

The card was duplicated onto copies of a letter passed out during a 2009 board meeting of an Iowa American Indian community organization, Native American Coalition of the Quad Cities. The letter included the cardholder’s request to demonstrate “the Native way of the Sweat Loge [sic]” to the group and described her credentials: Life on the “Tuba City Navaho Reservation [sic],” where her Apache adoptive father taught her “the ways of the pipe and the sweat loge [sic].” Eventually, she became a “gifted pipe carrier” of the Navajo, her adoptive mother’s people, and the Shawnee.
And:ICT:  Tell us about the phenomenon the letter and ID represent.

Apala-Cuevas:  There have been many offenses to our peoples and cultures, and these are yet more. The desire to show us how to run a sweat lodge is an example of non-Natives feeling they can present Indian life better than the Indians. These people promulgate a mishmash of misinformation gleaned from Hollywood movies and similar sources. Believe me, being an Indian is the hardest thing anyone can do, and they are not up to it.

ICT:  What about the letter’s culturally related errors?

Apala-Cuevas:  A Pueblo professor from the University of Illinois wrote to NACQC after watching one of the hobbyist group’s members describing to a thrilled audience his school, church, and boy scout demonstrations, which included an electric fire and tipi. She told us she shuddered at the thought of the fake fire and tipi and the stereotypical Indian imagery he affirmed.

ICT:  The imitation Indians claim to be well-meaning.

Apala-Cuevas:  As the professor wrote in her letter, we’ve suffered under centuries of good intentions. People who play Indian are a problem countrywide. I see it as mental illness--a mass hysteria. An elder told me they have genetic memory of the genocide, so they carry fear within them and claim these relationships and this knowledge to alleviate the stress. Wilma Mankiller once sat next to Bill Clinton at a lunch, and the first thing he said to her was that he was part Cherokee. So you see, it’s from the president on down.
Comment:  This reminds me of the wannabe I wrote about in "Native Religion" for Indians Only? These people can do whatever they want in the privacy of their homes. But no one wants to be an Indian in private. "Playing Indian" is all about telling the world how authentic and sincere you are. How you're in touch with your roots and the land and the spirit world.

These people don't just practice their beliefs and customs among themselves. They want to share their phony "culture" with others. They want the appreciation and acclaim from naive school, church, and boy scout groups. "Oh, you're a genuine Indian?" they hope audiences will say. "How brave and noble your people are! You've suffered so much, yet you're still here, still trying to reach out to us. Let us make a generous donation to your tribe."

For more examples of wannabes, see Anti-Government Extremists Pose as "Indians" and Self-Proclaimed "Indian" Secedes from City. For more on the overall problem, see The Myth of the Cherokee Princess and Fraudulent "Cherokee" Organizations. For a history of Americans "playing Indian," see The Political Uses of Stereotyping.


Anonymous said...

Another good article about white people stealing a native identity for their own gain. Thanks Rob for posting so many. Hey dmarks, do you think Rob is trying to tell you something? And please don't ask me to explain the meaning of the word steal again.


dmarks said...

Anon: You never did explain what the word steal meant. As you have no idea. That's clear when you introduced the "theft" concept (not present in the parent post) with your comment.

Next time, think before you post. Perhaps if English is not your first language, you have a good excuse for exhibiting poor reading comprehension and imagination-based word usage.

As for what Rob is trying to tell us, he is quite clear. It's a good post about an outrageous fraudulent claim. However, it has nothing to do with theft, just like it has nothing to do with murder, rape, or arson.

dmarks said...

Also, for those too lazy to check what words mean before using them:


Rob said...

Exposing frauds could be a full-time job. I do it only when there's an interesting twist. E.g. when extremists play Indian to dodge taxes, or when phonies hand out tribal ID cards.

P.S. I'm telling DMarks things in other postings, but not this one. ;-)

dmarks said...

Neither of which is ever counted as theft. When is the last time you have seen a tax cheat called a thief?

The second one could possibly involve theft, if the fake tribal ID cards are used in some sort of explicit misrepresentation/ "identity theft" operation, and the fakers end up getting money or resources that are properly due someone else. But Rob did not detail any of this happening.

Chief Taxpayer said...

How does claiming to be Indian equate to "dodging taxes"?

If anything, natives overpay on taxation. Ever heard of tribal tax commissions? When do non-natives pay for this. And another thing, if a non-native commits a crime on Indian land, tribes have no jurisdiction to prosecute, however, Indians are prosecuted at ALL levels, including tribal courts.

And when non-natives come on the reservation, do they pay tribal taxes?

Someone answer this!

I get sick of people thinking Indians DO NOT PAY TAXES and that Indians are sole recipients of America's benefits or "handouts"!


Rob said...

I don't think this group is claiming to be exempt from taxes. But the people in Anti-Government Extremists Pose as "Indians" and Self-Proclaimed "Indian" Secedes from City are.

These people are wrongly claiming to be Indians so they can wrongly avoid paying taxes. They're taking advantage of the false and stereotypical notion that Indians don't pay taxes.

dmarks said...

Taxie said: "How does claiming to be Indian equate to "dodging taxes"?"

They are not the same. But they are among the many examples of wrong things that are not stealing or theft. That was the only way I was linking the two.

Great points there on the "Indians do not pay taxes" myth.