Why? Because I am an Indian. I grew up Indian, look Indian, even speak Indian. So it offends me to come east and to see how “Indian” is defined in this state that I now call home.
What offends me? That on the outside (where it counts in America’s racially conscious society), Indians in Connecticut do not appear Indian. In fact, the Indians in Connecticut look more like they come from European or African stock. When I see them, whether they are Pequot, Mohegan, Paugussett, Paucatuck or Schaghticoke, I want to say, “These are not Indians.” But I’ve kept quiet.
I can’t stay quiet any longer. These are not Indians.…
There are no remnants left of the Indigenous Peoples that had proudly lived in Connecticut. What is here is all legally created. The blood is gone.
As I understand her position, Connecticut Indians are not Indians because they do not look like her, do not act like her, do not speak like her, do not—well, you get the picture. (They also do not have cool names like hers, but she forgot to mention that.) Expect to see Ms. Red Shirt trotted out every time some white people want to say something ugly about Indian people but dare not do so because they would be labeled as racists.
I think we brown-skinned, black-haired Indians had better be careful about what we say about New England Indians. There are fewer and fewer full-bloods among us. If being Indian means looking a certain way, then most tribes are only two or three generations from extermination.
The New England Indians did what they had to do to survive. They intermarried and accommodated the overwhelming presence of non-Indians. Yet they persevered and maintained themselves, some of them, as distinct social, political and cultural communities. Are they the same as the Indians who greeted the English and Dutch settlers in the 17th century? Of course not. But then few if any tribes closely resemble their pre-Columbian ancestors.
For more on tribal identity, see Tribes Need Citizenship Tests and "Minimal Bloods" = Greedy White People?
Below: Kevin Gover.