November 06, 2006

Faux "Indians" at risk?

From the Asheville Citizen-Times, 11/6/06:

Help a unique tribe hurt by Hurricane Katrina:  Mardi Gras IndiansThe Mardi Gras Indian culture dates to the 18th century, when African-American slaves escaped into the swamps of New Orleans.

Aided by the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Blackfoot and other American Indian tribes, the former slaves and free men of color expressed their respect for their benefactors by “masking” as Indians during Mardi Gras.

The Mardi Gras Indians are organized into about 35 neighborhood-based tribes. They spend all year working on their elaborate beaded, feathered and plumed suits. Most of them live in the lower sections of New Orleans and lost their suits in the floods accompanying Hurricane Katrina. They’ve been scattered around the country, Mann said, putting their dancing and self-decorating at risk of disappearing.
Comment:  The Mardi Gras Indians' names, costumes, and actions are riddled with stereotypes. I say good riddance to bad imitations.

To see me explain the difference between real Indians and phony Indians to clueless Mardi Gras supporters, go to Mardi Gras:  "To be an Indian is a very special calling."


Rob said...

No one can "become an Indian." The issue is recognizing people who are already Indians but can't benefit from their birthright.

That's why we have the federal recognition standard. In theory, only tribes that pass the feds' rigorous tests can be recognized as Indians.

How would you reestablish the sovereign status of tribes that the US terminated through no fault of their own? Is it your position that no more Indians can join the club you belong to?

For those who don't know, here's some basic info on termination:

In the 1950’s the U.S. government ‘terminated’ approximately three percent of the country’s Indian population. Termination was the process whereby the government ended the federal trusteeship with the tribes. This termination was an effort to assimilate Indians into mainstream America. Although the intent of this action was emancipation, the net effect to the terminated tribes was cultural, political and economic damage. Of the 109 tribes and bands terminated, 62 were native to Oregon. During the past thirty years, terminated tribes have actively and vigorously sought to restore the trust relationship.

Rob said...

The Kickapoos too? I'm sure Arigon Starr would be surprised to hear that her tribe isn't a real tribe. Perhaps you could list all the tribes in Oklahoma and elsewhere that don't meet your standard of Indian-ness.

The Pequots were terminated by social circumstances beyond their control. The 109 tribes mentioned above were terminated by government action. Either way, they deserve the same shot at reversing their non-governmental status. If they pass a stringent series of tests, they deserve to be recognized.

In other words, this isn't just about the Pequots. You've denigrated the federal recognition process no matter who has applied. My termination argument shows the importance of allowing tribes to (re)gain recognition.

Since you didn't answer my question, I'll simply repeat it. How would you reestablish the sovereign status of tribes that the US terminated through no fault of their own?