March 01, 2012

Is Chris Brown Native?

Chris Brown, platinum-selling singer and girlfriend beater, recently tweeted:Just found out I'm from the Pamunkey Indian tribe! Wow, thats awesome!Source: Is Chris Brown Native American? Grammy-Winning Singer Tweets Heritage, Names Tribe

I assume that means Brown found a "Pamunkey princess" or the equivalent in his family tree. The situation is probably similar to this one:

Debating Alesandra Nicole's background
Inked model is Pamunkey?

Indians respect women

A Native columnist weighs in on Brown's identity:

Chris Brown--Your Actions Will Show If You Are Really Indian

By Ruth HopkinsIn 2009, Chris Brown physically assaulted his then-girlfriend, pop superstar Rihanna. Following the beating, pictures of a battered, emotionally-devastated Rihanna were plastered everywhere- online and off. After he pled guilty to felony assault, Brown was sentenced to five years of probation and six months community service. Ostensibly, the public’s memory is short because Chris’ proclivity for woman beating appears to have been all but forgotten--or even worse yet, celebrated. He’s at the top of the charts again, and he’s being hailed a comeback kid.

Is Chris Brown really Native? Who knows. He wouldn’t be the first non-Native person I’ve heard claim that their great-grandmother was a ‘Cherokee’ Princess, and he won’t be the last. I hope his claim of Pamunkey heritage isn’t just another ploy to get him more attention and sympathy. In pop culture, Native stereotypes are ‘in’ right now. One only need watch a music video with some non-Native trollop dancing around in a fake warbonnet, or browse the latest ‘Native inspired’ apparel at a local Urban Outfitters to realize that.

If he is, I’d like to see him sincerely embrace his new-found indigenous heritage. We’re more than beads and feathers. I wonder if Chris knows that one of the most famous members of the Pamunkey Tribe is a woman? Cockacoeske (ca. 1640–ca. 1686) was chief of the Pamunkey Tribe for more than 30 years. She was known for maintaining unity, and led several other Tribes besides her own. She played an active role in the Bacon Rebellion, and negotiated with the British crown as well as European colonists. If fact, she was one of the first of the tribal leaders to sign the Virginia-Indian Treaty of 1677 and 1680. If Cockacoeske were alive today, I bet she’d give Mr. Brown the scolding of his life.

Today the Pamunkey people are highly involved in preserving their culture and natural resources. If Chris genuinely possesses Pamunkey ancestry, it is his duty to support his people in their endeavors. Additionally, Native women experience the highest rate of violence among any other group in the United States. I suggest that Chris find the true road to redemption by turning attention to the plight of native women, as well as women everywhere, who fall prey to domestic violence.
Comment:  Answer to the title question: No, Brown isn't Native. He's not an enrolled member of a tribe. He wasn't raised Native. And he would've said something before now if he had a significant amount of Native "blood"--a quarter or more.

For more on Native identity questions, see Winddancer Called a "Cultural Thief" and Natives Aren't Vanishing in Census.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is Pamunkey the new Cherokee or something?

Yeah, I'll have to look at statistics, but IIRC, Indian women are more likely to be victims of sexual assault by non-Indians, making Indians unique in this regard. (Most crimes are committed by someone of the same race as the victim.) I'd think relationship abuse is similar.