“She’s so pale”: The good and bad of national exposure

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.39 Comments

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Last week I chatted with a super kind and engaged reporter at NPR. She found my blog because my colleague (thanks Todd!) tweeted her in response to a call for interesting education folks to follow on Twitter. She read through my blog, and came upon a post I wrote a couple years ago–“Dear Native student who was just admitted to college“–and wanted to ask me a bit more about it. So we talked for 15-20 minutes so I could give some context on the post and my doctoral work that has stemmed out of these areas in Native higher ed. She posted an edited version of this convo on the NPR website (I say “like” a lot irl, she kindly took that out, as well as some of my filler/background info), where it has gotten a pretty big response.

Here’s the article. I like it, and think it covers a lot of ground for a short piece.

I was stoked to get to talk about my “other” life in Indian Ed, since I’m still finding my voice in that area (haven’t been blogging about it for five years, though I have been studying and researching for that long…). I think anything I can do to signal boost Native issues in higher education and help shed light on our experiences, struggles, and triumphs in college and beyond is important.

But they included a headshot on the post. One that is the thumbnail every time the article gets shared. I didn’t even think twice about it–most people who know me and the blog know who I am and where I come from, and yes, what I look like. But I forgot, this is the internet.

To be fair, as always, there are tons of positive comments. I’ve received a bunch of emails from students and graduates that have made me happy and heartened. But for those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time, you know this is constantly something I deal with, and this article wasn’t anything new. Ready? Here’s a sampling (Yes I left their real names. They said it on a public forum…):

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and on the article itself (to be fair, it was just one dude…though NPR has pretty strict comment guidelines, so there could have been more):Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 12.37.48 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 12.38.10 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 12.38.44 PM

ETA: Just to show this comes from all sides, there’s also this comment from a Native person (the comments from fellow Natives always sting):

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On both the NPR article, and definitely on the Facebook thread on the NPR page, my identity is being dissected by hundreds of people who don’t know me. Who don’t know how I relate to my Native heritage, the work I do, who my family is, anything. I also think it’s kinda hilarious–do they not realize that, as a blogger, I’m on the internet? Reading their thread?

But y’all know it’s not new. If you need a refresher, read the comments on, oh, any of my “controversial” articles. Or read the drama I went through over Tonto. Maybe the 500+ comments on this Pocahottie article. Or the follow-up I had to do after it. It’s par for the course. I also specifically address my white privilege a fair amount, see the end of that Tonto post, or the annotated version of my Pocahottie letter for examples. I know my white privilege has afforded me protection and opportunities. That’s why I write about it.

I am 98% positive that if this NPR article wasn’t accompanied by a photo, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. There is very little commentary challenging my ideas, or what I had to say about Native students transitioning to college–it’s all focused on how I look.

You wonder why I care so deeply about representations? This is why I care. Because all those people think that Native identity is tied to looking like something off the side of a football helmet.

This isn’t just something that happens to me, either. Last week, the Center for American Progress hosted a forum about Indian Mascots, and an incredible 15-year-old Native student named Dahkota Franklin Kicking Bear Brown spoke to the group. He talked beautifully about the effects of mascots on his schooling experience, and also what it means when fellow students, and even his vice principal, say he doesn’t “look Indian,” and how it is all tied in together. This sentiment is real, and it’s all connected.

One of the other commenters on the FB thread mentioned how I “don’t have a wikipedia page” or even a bio on the blog, so they were skeptical of my credentials–basically waving the wannabe flag. It is true I don’t have either of those things (but um, who wants a wikipedia page?). Honestly, it’s by design. If people are *that* desperate to find out about me, they can google and find all sorts of articles and videos that talk more about my background. I don’t want my phenotype and hometown to color initial perceptions of me and my words. I want my writing to speak for itself–because I have never lied about who I am, and write about it all the time on the blog.

In writing Native Appropriations, I am inviting readers into a community. I want folks to get to know me, know how I think, operate, where I come from, what ideas we share, and where we differ. I love comment chains where we have discussions that push my thinking and help me grow. I love when it’s an equal exchange of knowledge. That can’t happen when I’m summarily dismissed. So I never “got around” to making an “about” page. I’m all up in this thing. It hasn’t seemed to hold us back. But, for better or worse, that’s not the way the internet functions. People want quick, easily digestible sound bites. They don’t want to enter into a relationship (which is the Indigenous way of doing things…). They want to be able to categorize and move on. Which is what happened with the NPR piece.

I have deep, deep anxieties about my new post-graduation life as “Dr. K”–of entering academia with the weight and privilege of Native Approps behind me. I have actual nightmares of folks finding academic articles I write and lambasting my scholarship all over the internet. I worry about not living up to the “hype.” I say weight and privilege–because I know that no matter what my research is probably going to have a wider audience than most, simply because of the blog. That’s amazing, and such a privilege to be able to know that I can push forward conversations about Native students and representations to an engaged audience. It’s also intense, because most young scholars get awhile to find their voice and place in their research, but I know that I’m going to be under a microscope pretty quickly. I honestly try not to take to heart what people say about my blog writing, because I still consider it a hobby, but my academic writing is and will continue to be my life. This gave me a small window into what the next few years of my career might bring, and to be honest, it kinda (ok really) freaks me out.

But, if my picture and my story can bring to light these conversations about Native identity that need to happen, and if I need to be the literal face of that conversation, then I’m ok. Because we need to talk about it. Colonial legacies of blood quantum have real effects in our communities, and these conversations happen over, and over, and over without moving us forward.

Because Native identity isn’t just a racialized identity. Native identity is political. We are citizens of tribal nations. So we can’t just talk about our identities purely in racial terminology. Thinking about our identity as purely race-based is another tool to wipe us out. Cause you can “breed out” this notion of “blood” but you can’t “breed out” citizenship. There’s also a deep power issue here–who has the “right,” especially as an outsider, to determine someone’s identity for them? But these are big topics for another day.

So because this is a topic we’ve addressed before, I’ll just quote directly from the end of my “Real Indians don’t care about Tonto” post, and say this–this is the reason why I continue to fight. This is the reason why I’m still here:

But instead of feeling ashamed, I’m trying now to turn the tables and think that I, instead, am the colonizer’s worst nightmare. Because history has tried to eradicate my people by violence and force, enacted every assimilating and acculturating policy against my ancestors, let me grow up in white suburbia, and erased all the visual vestiges of heritage from my face–but still tsi tsalagi (I am Cherokee). My ancestors gave their “x-marks”–assents to the new–so that I could be here, fighting back against misrepresentations, through a keyboard and the internet.

The underlying motivation behind this blog is not only to critique and deconstruct representations of Natives, but also to be able to openly explore what it means to be a contemporary Native person. And more specifically for me, what does it mean to be a millennial, nerdy, doctorate-holding, mixed-race, Cherokee woman?

Moving forward, I hope these are questions we can continue to answer together, through the blog, my research, my teaching, and ongoing conversations on and offline. This NPR article has shown us that there is power in getting our stories out there, but that we still have a ways to go. And that’s ok. These were conversations that weren’t happening openly in public forums just a few years ago. It’s a journey, one that has brought me incredible joy and challenged me in incredible ways. I’m happy to keep rolling along, learning, making mistakes, and figuring out what it means to be me, but also, what it means to be us. Because learning about the ways we relate to one another, Native to Native and Native to non-Native, is at the heart of all of this work.

As always, wado for being here with me on this path,



NPR: Q&A: How Is The Native College Experience Different? (7/27/14)


PS- I’m going out of the country for the next four days to hide from the paparazzi, Beyonce style (j/k), so the comments are yours to debate my face at will. I’ll be back on Friday night. 



    Don’t hate the haters… If they wish to live their lives as that of a iskitini alia then such is their right… I am a Chahta ohoyo who, unless I have been in the sun, looks white, my children are for the most part blonde haired and blue eyed and yet also tribal members with their CIB/CDIB’s… We were raised to respect our ancestry, to be proud of who and what we were on my Grandfather’s side… His wife, my granny, her family hid their Native ancestry 🙁 She has been difficult to trace… My grandfather is in the mid-300’s on the Dawes rolls and therefore easy to find as is his father before him. Why does it matter if someone looks white? It does not!!! What matters is their outlook, their beliefs, their heart and I would say that the author’s are all going in the right direction unlike many who posted against her!!!!!

  2. Chelsea Hawkins

    “Colonial legacies of blood quantum have real effects in our communities, and these conversations happen over, and over, and over without moving us forward.”

    Thank you so much for writing this article; I’ve been following Native appropriations for a few years now but haven’t felt compelled to comment until now. As a mixed-race/white-passing indigenous woman, I’ve lived with this kind of ignorance for far too long. My grandfather is Duwamish and my mother made a point to raise us with an understanding of our native roots and our community’s continued fight against colonialism. But I’m only “a quarter,” and as a result I’ve been made to feel that’s simply not Native enough. It’s important to recognize the involvement people have within their communities and culture, not just how dark their skin happens to be.

    As you mentioned, this all goes back to ideas about exactly what a native person looks like and what their culture may appear to be — it’s always startling to me to see how many people are unaware about the tribal differences even within the native community.

    Again, thank you for drawing attention to issues of representation for all these years — it’s been important to me as I negotiate who I am as a native woman and it’s been so useful in helping unpackage difficult subjects.

  3. Zenka Wistram

    The first time I heard about blood quantums, as the mother of Native kids, I was so horrified. All these people so concerned with them – white AND Native, did they not see this was a tool meant to de-identify people, to separate them from their community and their heritage – just a quiet, intractable tool to accomplish assimilation?

    1. Dana

      This is why the Cherokee Nation is doing so well now. They never went in for blood quantum. If you have an ancestor on the Dawes Rolls, and you can prove it, that’s all she wrote.

  4. Katelyn Avery

    I think you should show them your card. To show that enrollment doesn’t come from saying oh look I’m a part Cherokee. You actually have to be Cherokee, or whatever your tribe is.

  5. Cante Tenza Win Goodface

    Screw those people. Thank you for standing up for our people on your blog, and bringing our people up with you by getting a good education. Lower Brule Sioux who lives in San Francisco.

  6. Mallory Whiteduck

    Funny – as a longtime reader of your blog, it’s taken me until this article to realize you don’t have an About page! You’re totally right, you’ve shared so much with your readers about who you are, where you come from, your identity as Cherokee throughout your posts that I haven’t found that I know less about you than bloggers who have extensive bios.

    You have immense strength to be able to withstand these incredibly misinformed remarks on your identity. I think it hurts a lot of us when our identities are questioned in one form or another – I can’t imagine having that experience splashed across the internet!!! I’m sorry you’ve had to face that, but again, I hope you’ll be stronger for it.

    Also, I just wanted to say that your articles on identity are some of my favourites! It’s such a complex and personal matter, so thanks for sharing, being open and always giving me things to think about.

    Just wanted to squeeze an academic question in here too – have you, by any chance, written a book review or know of any good ones on X-Marks? I’ve read it and I’m always interested in others’ opinions about it. They always seem to be intense, one way or the other.

    You are the colonizer’s worst nightmare Dr. K!

  7. rosilandjordan

    Ugh. This is the same crap people use to try to define who is “black” enough. It’s all about demeaning people and invalidating their contributions to society.

    Ignore the haters.

  8. Sarah Dybdahl

    As a mother who is about to send my beautiful, fair, skinned – Tlingit/Blackfeet daughter off to college – into an environment where her identity will be questioned immediately, I find your words reaffirming my thoughts and comments to give strength to my daughter. Thank you for sharing. An elder of ours once spoke about trying to rent a home for his family. When they realized he was native, they told them they could not rent. Our elder said, “I felt sorry for them.” I think about his statement often and realize that he may have felt sorry for them for being small minded and if every person in this world would look beyond our skin and take the time to know and understand we would be better off.

    1. Wynter Troy

      I am fair skinned, but joining the native community at my university was highly accepting. Sadly, too many people are closed minded and feel entitled. To me, it sounds like your daughter will be fine and is already more open minded than most people in my generation. I pray she excels in whatever she does. 🙂

    2. Jena

      I hope she finds a supportive community where she is going. I was very glad to come to the Northeast, where blood quantum is rightly seen by a lot of people as the divisive tool that it is. I’m a fair skinned Cherokee and have come to embrace it and ignore the negative comments, when they occasionally still get made. Let her know there are a lot of Natives who look “too White” or “too Black” and knowing how silly those statements are, we stand behind her!

  9. Dana

    The irony of using blood quantum to judge someone’s degree of Cherokee-ness is… Cherokee DO NOT RECKON by blood quantum. They reckon membership by whether you have an ancestor on the Dawes Rolls.

    We saw this same stupid argument with the Veronica Brown case.

    I’ve seen people use blood quantum as a basis from which to make some ridiculously stupid argument or another that basically came down on the side of the colonizers and was anti-Native in the final tally. It was like they were saying “I’m Indian so my point of view is valid on this issue.” Because they had some ancestor or another–probably didn’t even know the ancestor’s name. I read them the riot act when they do that. Because you can have all the blood you want but if you’re working against your own people and don’t even live anything like them… what have you got really?

  10. Trish

    Ah, the Ndn eye roll. I get that a lot, too. I may have gray eyes and long, straight black hair, but that is where my native ancestry ends. My dad was white as the driven snow and it shows on me. My mom ‘looked’ very ethnic. Hazel eyes, very dark skin, black hair and the attitude. Yet, because of her other nine, mostly European, blood lines, she presents as undetermined ancestry to look at her. Her hair is very curly due to her Jewish, Greek and Spanish lines. Yes, despite her dark hair and skin, she is mostly Norwegian and probably cooks the best Lutefisk in the world. Depending on the eye of the beholder, she has been called black, Hispanic, native and other. Her father had similar issues when he was young. She comes from a very proud native bloodline. As a matter of fact, our blood line in online for everyone to see. Just look up Little Big Man and his twin sister True Flesh. As you follow the blood line forward you’ll find my grandfather, my mother and me. It gets old, after awhile, having to prove your nativeness. Doesn’t matter I grew up on the reservation or that my father was born on the reservation. Yeah, ironic that it is my white father who was born and raised on the reservation and not my native mother. But you can blame the government’s efforts at ‘civilizing’ the natives for that. My grandfather and his brother were taken away at the age of 6 and put in private Catholic schools until they graduated. Didn’t matter their mother was white or that they didn’t even live on the reservation at the time. Blood quantum worked against you big time back then. He feared his own daughters would be taken away, so he did not register them with the government. Smart. Those laws didn’t change until my mom was 9 years old and her sister 15. Yes, I pass as white, but I identify as Native. And no judgmental white or native person can take that away from me. Or you.

  11. Wynter Troy

    Hey a-holes! I am Native American, but you guys would never think it. Maybe you think it is morally wrong for me to be registered or have your own ideas of what is fair or not fair. Who are you to say it’s not fair? My grandpa likes to say he full native (I think he is only 1/2) who worked the trap lines during WWll, my dad is only registered as 1/4 because my grandpa married a white lady. Therefore I am registered as 1/8. Everyone and their mom tries to claim being native american. “I am 1/16 Cherokee, but I can’t claim it/won’t register”. I was registered after I was born, because that’s what my tribe does. I get a weekly newsletter and updates about our community and casino. There are times I have to call the tribe to take care of stuff and end up speaking to them for hours.

    Now what really upsets me is that if the situation was slightly different people would be more accepting. For example, someone can be 2/3 white and 1/3 black but can claim being black, even if they don’t look it. Some Mexican’s or Latinos are born with blue eyes and blonde hair, does that mean they aren’t what they are?

    Honestly, I feel like my generation is doomed, because we don’t accept people for who they are. Please open your eyes, if you haven’t noticed most people are interracial dating. Crossbreeding is a result of interracial babies allowing people to not fit the typical stereotype.

    ADRIENNE KEENE, keep doing what you are doing. No ones opinions matter except your own. Unfortunately I know you will care, because it’s human. Take this into consideration though, you were published therefore your article was approved and accepted by higher educated officials. Now look at the people commenting with their rude and unnecessary remarks. You are doing something right.

  12. stashastasha

    Thank you Adrienne K. You are taking this important conversation further along than I have witnessed so far. I really appreciate the discourse that seems to be opening up more about being of a mixed descent.

  13. Carmen Elizabeth

    This article really resonates with me. I attended an all Native boarding
    school my last two years of high school. Prior to my attendance there, I
    never questioned my Native identity. I grew up engaging in many of my tribe’s traditional cultural practices, my family regularly uses Creek words in conversations, and my father is active in our tribe’s government. In my eyes, I am Native, but to many of the kids I went to school with, I was just another “white girl” with a card. It was not rare to be asked “How much are you?” and then scoffed at because I “should be darker for being a quarter Creek.” My brother is far darker than I. His Native identity has never been questioned by others. I am regularly condemned for the physical characteristics I received in the genetic lottery twenty years ago. Why is it the darkness of one’s skin is considered a direct correlation to a person’s Native
    identity? There is more focus on skin color and blood quantum than what a
    person is doing for his or her tribal nation or for Native people as a
    whole. The funny thing is, blood quantum is a colonial construct. It was
    a tool used in an attempt to wipe out Native people. The individuals who operate
    with the more-Native-than-thou-based-off-of-blood-quantum mindset need
    to stop and educate themselves on the history of blood quantum. Indian-on-Indian racism blows my mind. As a whole, Native people are struggling. Why bring down those who want to use their knowledge, experiences, etc. to benefit Native
    communities? In order to succeed, we need to support one another in our
    positive endeavors, not tear each other apart for petty things such as phenotypical identity or blood quantum.

    1. T.C. II

      Great comment, Carmen. This article really resonates with me
      as well. As a Cherokee descendant who has a low blood quantum, I struggle with the fact that my family chose to dilute our Native blood. I am 1/64 Cherokee, and I don’t even like posting that fraction because of the mockery that ensues from Natives and non-Natives alike. I was not brought up with any aspect of Cherokee culture, and the only reason that most of my family members have their cards is so they can get all those “Indian benefits.” As a person with only a small amount of Indian blood, I have to tread lightly when it comes to Native affairs, even though they are very important to me. Like the idiot who left the comment that Adrienne is “milking it,” I wonder how many people would think the same thing about me if they knew my blood quantum.

      Despite all of those things, I try to do my best when it
      comes to being involved with Native issues. Adrienne is doing the same thing, and her work is appreciated. As a citizen of a tribe that is filled with many thin-bloods who are only “Indian” for the “hand-outs,” I think it is incredibly refreshing to see a Cherokee who is doing a fantastic job in supporting Native causes.

  14. Cherie Duge Paul

    ‘That’s funny – she doesn’t LOOK Jewish”:-/ Remember when that was commonly heard and joked about even on TV? I guess the U S of A hasn’t come very far, have we? So sad. I do see hope however:
    Last spring my (very caucasian looking & 1/16th Algonquin) 8-yr-old daughter told us school stories for weeks about a little boy and never once mentioned he was “brown” until someone else pointed it out. This was totally irrelevant to her. I pray this is a good sign, that the young ones aren’t growing up immediately classifying everyone based on looks and color.

    1. Chris Allen

      I understand your feelings, and I felt the same about my son: when he was in kindergarten, he knew nothing of “race”—the other kids were just kids, and skin color etc. only came into it if he was asked “So what does this kid look like?” We were very happy about that.

      But then, school started covering races and racism, and his questions started. At that point we were very assiduous in teaching him about racism and the oppression various minorities have faced in the past, and face today. That education is still on-going, and I’m glad we did—school doesn’t always teach accuracy, or all there is to know. In particular, school lends an air of “that was in the past” that whites pick up and capitalize on.

      I ran across a very good article the other day on why it’s important for parents to teach their kids about race and racism (I’ll post a link here); but it was their first point that really struck home with me: “If you don’t teach your kids about race and racism, someone else will—they’ll fill in any holes you leave,” with the inference being “and what they teach your kids may be very wrong.”

      As a white person, I’m well aware that our family has the *luxury* to teach or not teach about racism… unlike minority families whose children face it from day 1. We can’t help that we were born with white privilege; what we *can* do is *use* that privilege to try to teach other whites, and to do what we can to support minorities struggling for rights, and we hope our son grows up to do likewise.

      Okay, here’s the link:


  15. Ebs

    I had a very similar experience when an image of me at a protest went viral earlier this year (I thought I had blogged about it but can’t find it so I’ll have to retro blog now). It sucks that colonialists still want to be the arbiters of OUR identities and that we are often sought to JUSTIFY our existence as Indigenous peoples.

    All I can say to you, my already strong sista, let it roll like water off a duck’s back. You are a game-changer and honey, the best revenge is your success <3

    Big love

  16. Cecelia Rose LaPointe

    My family is multi-racial — Ojibway Native American, African American and European. Our skin tones, hair and eye color span the entire spectrum. Some of my Ojibway cousins are more by blood and have blue eyes. Our name is big in the Anishinaabe community in the the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. There was a band of Ojibway with our last name. Often I get mistaken for Latina or something else but when I am in Anishinaabe Territory or around my own people know that I am Native of mixed heritage.

    As Native people we have a right to self determination. The dominant culture tied in with the colonial mindset has NO RIGHT to define who we are. It is about living the culture without appropriating it, being respectful and being traditional.

    I have written several poems about blood quantum. Feel free to share these poems and please give proper credit. Miigwech!

    Ode to All of the Insults and Cultural Insensitivity — http://www.anishinaabekwe.com/2013/11/poem-ode-to-all-of-insults-and-cultural.html#.U9rOIqNjPPo

    On Being a Fake Indian – http://www.anishinaabekwe.com/2013/09/poem-on-being-fake-indian.html

    I Guess I’m Not Indian Now — http://www.anishinaabekwe.com/2013/09/poem-i-guess-im-not-indian-now.html#.U9rO5KNjPPo

    Racist Dissection — http://www.anishinaabekwe.com/2012/10/poem-racist-dissection.html#.U9rPCKNjPPo

  17. Alicia Vector Field Harris

    Oh man. This post hit me deep. My master’s thesis tried to delve into the topic of “passing” in both the Native and European worlds, and the identity that comes out of that passage. Your words resonate with me very much- I can’t count the many many conversations where I have had to account for or justify my Native heritage to some very ignorant people because I “look white…”

    On a related note: I got enrolled in my tribe this year. I decided to do it because it gives some authority and weight to my scholarship and to my work. As distasteful as it is, the reality is the people believe your point of view as an Indigenous person if you are legally affiliated with a tribe.

    In working towards enrollment, I had discussions with several members of my tribe (Fort Peck Assiniboine shout out!), who used BQ as a means to determine who is “in” and who is “out.” I left those conversations so frustrated. They always wanted me to remember that it was the tribes who determined blood quantum; and they are historically accurate. We DID determine the limits of our sovereignty- under the mandate of the US Federal Government. My Assiniboine kushi was one of the only elders who argued against BQ. I wish her voice had been easier to hear.

    So my question is this: How do YOU (Or anyone) respond when members of your tribe/indigenous community argue FOR Blood Quantum?? I don’t want to go off on an academic rant about how they are regurgitating colonialist rhetoric that ultimately serves to exterminate our people… But at the same time, that is true. So how do you handle the situation when our people aren’t educated on a topic like this? I understand that there are financial considerations to take into account when discussing enrollment, and I try to make sure that they know that I am not interested in enrollment because of money- rather I am interested in belonging, legally and culturally, to my family.

    Any thoughts??


    1. Layloe Mineur Medley

      You answered the question yourself. You ask how could indigenous community member argue FOR bq, but then you went out of your way to enroll in a tribe to gain more weight to back up your scholarship and your thesis, of which, neocolonial/neoliberal professors, academic institutions, use people like you to “infiltrate” nativism. They benefit when they offer scholarships to natives who have tribal affiliation. Like the natives who argue FOR blood quantum, the objective is to “divide & conquer”. Be it, academically, socially, paper work, or just hiring informant “natives” to go in and cause drama within native tribes.

      Please tell me you don’t believe that colonial agents like the CIA aren’t hiring “natives” to corrupt us all. I myself am an indigenous nomad, mostly because I see it happening, I see tribal corruption, I see how these neocon-colonialist are “educating” our people to believe that what they are doing is good for natives. I’m not sure if you’ve read “Decolonizing methodologies,” or “Decolonizing the mind,” but essentially, be weary of those, whom, especially in academia, egg you on to use your “native identity” to push for “progress.” Because the illusion of progress is that…a masterful illusion. The fact of the matter is this… college institutions should be free, by praising these neoliberal rhetorics of “education is key,” yet they benefit when we have to work 30 hrs a day just to take a few classes. Unlike indigenous education, where it was essentially free.

  18. T.C. II

    I posted a response to this blog entry on Facebook, but I’ll
    post it on here as well. Here it is:

    “Great work, Adrienne. If every citizen in the Cherokee
    Nation did half the amount of work that you do—instead of many of them just
    waiting for the next place where they can get some “hand-outs”—we would have
    nowhere near the amount of problems in the CNO that we do today. As a tribe
    that has intermarried with Caucasians for centuries, we have many citizens
    whose Native blood is extremely diluted. That is the choice that our families
    decided to make, and we have to live with it. Despite that, we can do what we
    can to become involved with Native issues. You have certainly done your part,
    and your work is appreciated.”

  19. Natalie

    I don’t get it… First of all, in my eyes you look native (but Im from Germany, so I might not have the right eye for that) but second, why does it matter? Even if you were not native at all, you could still write this blog do all the awesome work you do and be passionate about it. I am really really white and really far away from you all but I still care and am passionate about this topic.

  20. Katie 'Kate' Chapman

    So many people with white privilege get stuck in the guilt and anger stage- I think more conversations need to focus not only on the existence of white privilege, but the ways in which it can be used for good. You are a prime example. You have leveraged your skin privilege in order to build and amplify your voice, so that others are now hearing you talk about social justice issues. Becasue you are native you avoid the thorny issue of allyship that white activists often face, but your work is a prime example of the good people can do with their privilege.

    1. Layloe Mineur Medley

      but where there is white privilege, there is also the media, such as NPR, who select “role models” for whatever agenda they have. And this one being to convince more natives not to be ashame of going to college.

  21. Phillip

    Thank you for the post about Native students in college. I’m a grad student in student affairs and would appreciate learning more about how I can promote student success. What do you see as unique challenges Native students face and how can I be most helpful?


    This is ridiculous to begin with. The only reason you were given grief to begin with was due to your tribe.

    I find it entertaining that if someone is of a “lower quantum” and are enrolled in any tribe but one of the three recognized cherokee tribes (EBCI, CNO, UKB) than they are given the ole punch in the arm and welcome to the club kind of greeting.

    The reason for the grief is less your appearance and even less of who you are. It is due to cultural appropriation by unegs all across the country who pop-up with a new “cherokee tribe” and state they are the keepers of ceremony, ways, etcetera.

    This has become damning to those who are enrolled cherokee, those who speak the language, keep ceremony etc. Our children today feel no pride, see no future because not only are we closed in and treated like second class citizens (note I live on the qualla boundary cherokee rez in the Big Cove community in NC) by the unegs (whites) here but outside in ndn country we are treated like a second class variety show, a walking punch line if you will. It doesn’t matter if your card reads 4/4, 7/8, 3/4, 5/8, 1/2 and so on we are still treated as less.

    This game of blood quantum and colonization is the biggest culprit of it all. Today you find natives whose only sense of tribal identity comes from a government issued card that says 4/4ths. They have no knowledge of language, ceremony, way etc, they just posses a card.

    In the Cherokee ways after contact we took in whites, blacks and everything in between. If they lived with us, danced withus hunted with us, farmed with us, they in turn were seen as Ani Giduwagi.

    We as Cherokee have a story where 7 men went to the top of clingmans dome to fast and pray for seven days. On the seventh day Unethlunvhi came down to them and gave them the ways that we still live by today. We state that the mother fire that we dance around and send our prayers up in isn’t just for a certain group, it isn’t just for a certain clan, it isn’t just for our tribe only but is in fact for all mankind. He gave us these ways and those who wish to live, eat, work and take our ways with us are most definitely aloud at that fire.

    These ways and our people were never a people to tell you no, or that you are wrong. We have no word for hate, we dont even have a word for love we have a word “Gadugi” which means everyone coming together to lift each other up.

    It’s high time everyone starts implementing gadugi into their lives.

    1. T.C. II

      Excellent post, ᎤᏥᎷᎩ ᎦᎳᏅᏛ.

      I agree with you on how badly wannabes have damaged our tribe. I cannot type the phrase “Cherokee ancestors” without thinking of Chuck Norris’ stupid ass pretending to be a Native on Walker, Texas Ranger. That angers me greatly, because I actually do have Cherokee ancestors whose legacies have been tarnished by these idiots who have suddenly become Native now that it is “cool” to be one.

      A perfect example of this damage is found in any story posted by Native News Online on Facebook that features the CNO. Usually, you will see a lot of phenotypically white individuals in the pictures that come with the story, and instantly people will start posting crap in the comments section making fun of Cherokees (“1/16 Cherokee,” “Cherokee Princess,” “Look, they’re white. Ha ha,” etc.). These comments come from Natives and non-Natives alike.

      Whenever a story is brought up about another tribe, the comments are nowhere near as numerous and hateful as those directed towards Cherokees, even if the people featured in photos for those tribes don’t “look” Native, either. The idiotic wannabes are assaulting our identity constantly, which further diminishes our credibility as Natives and
      Native descendants. Our credibility is already damaged due to our tribe having no blood quantum requirement. This has opened our rolls up to many individuals with low blood quanta who only become Cherokees for the “benefits.” They have no interest in the culture, they view themselves as white people, and they marry Caucasians and dilute their Cherokee blood even more. I would support any Cherokee—no matter how low his/her blood quantum is—who becomes interested in anything that pertains to his/her Cherokee forebears, but I am disgusted by the
      behavior of the “Only-Indian-for-the-Benefits” people that I mentioned above. I have to put up with these individuals on a regular basis, and they play a big part in the bad perception that many other tribes have toward us.

      With all of that typed, let me say hello to you, oginalii. I plan on visiting our homelands at some point in my life, and it is good to hear from one of our relatives in the east.

      1. Chris Allen

        Again, it sounds as though you truly aren’t interested in the BQ, but rather in whether or not a person has learned and embraced and lives the tradition of the Tribe… which isn’t about BQ, but rather about attitude, knowledge, experience, and acceptance when those things are demonstrated.

        You say “Our credibility is already damaged due to our tribe having no blood quantum requirement. This has opened our rolls up to many individuals with low blood quanta who only become Cherokees for the ‘benefits,’” which makes it sound as though you support BQ, and sends a mixed message. I *think* what you meant is that the use of BQ *instead* of knowledge and tradition and lifestyle etc. has led to a corruption of those things by those who want to use BQ to “join up” without knowing or caring about what being Cherokee *is*.

        In my opinion, it is *there* that credibility gets damaged—not from whether or not someone is on the rolls, or had an ancestor on some list, or has a certain BQ—but because there are people claiming to be Cherokee who no nothing of, and simply don’t care about, the traditions and the way of inner and outer life. It’s an *appropriation* where BQ is used, much in the same way that non-Native people who’ve never studied with Natives read up a bit on a culture, then set themselves up as “shamans” and hit up new-agey people for money as teachers and well, gurus.

        Am I making sense here?

        If so, maybe it’s time the Cherokee and others reconsider what they use as a qualification to determine who is Native and who is not, *without* using some system white men invented. ??? It’s just an idea I’m tossing out there as a possibility to be considered. 🙂

  23. Wendy Page

    ….this is a beautiful article ALL NDNs should read. The fact that someone is fairer skinned than what you might expect or is not an enrolled member of a tribe does NOT mean they are not Native, or “not Native enough.” My family never landed on the rez because they were quick and quiet (and lighter skinned) and *disappeared* into the mainstream, and therefore were not included in the Dawes roll. But NOBODY can take my heritage or my blood away from me. P.S. I don’t need any casino money or commodity cheese, thank you. You keep it.

  24. kymi johnson rutledge

    You are doing wonderful things that will have a lasting impact on our world for our children. There are many people who simply have to have something “shocking or clever” to say, and a lot of the time they are so culturally and educationally limited, they just don’t know. And, they are not quiet long enough to actually learn anything because they are thinking/talking about their opinion. Keep doing what you are doing. My grandbabies need people like you to educate those who need it most. Thank you for all you do!

  25. Laura Lind Glebocki

    I am 50% native from my mom who is mi’gmaq but my dad was Norweigen and I picked up all of his traits, fair skin light hair and eyes, my son who has less native blood picked up all of my mom, dark hair skin and eyes, can’t judge a book by its cover

  26. Stephanie Big Crow

    It’s disheartening to read how other natives feel they have the privilege of speaking down or to another relative.. As a Lakota woman who was raised in the district of Wakpamni located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation I was to understand a way of life and how you choose to live that life by honoring our relatives and our ways as The people . Clearly it’s not anyone’s decision as to how your spirit guides or nurtures one, it’s up to the creator, not man. It is one of our best virtues as Lakota is to, “Honor our relatives..” Not condemn or criticize… Who gave you that right? The creator? No matter who you are or where you come from the bloodline and the DNA that flows throughout your human body will guide your spiritual being throughout your life journey..

  27. Chris Allen

    I look at it this way:

    Many Native tribes had a tradition of adopting other people into their tribe, whether it was a captive or a foundling, whether it was someone from another tribe or a white. There’s references to this all over in white culture, from Zane Grey’s books about his ancestors to the movie “Little Big Man,” and books like those by Mari Sandoz (and historical accounts for those who bother to look them up). My point is, isn’t it up to the tribe in question to decide who is one of their citizens? Certainly, it shouldn’t be according to some rules *white* people made up.

    Perhaps the problem is, race and tribe membership tend to get entangled with authenticity and experience, when they should be two separate questions. If you weren’t raised on a reservation and have never been to one, it’s fair for those who have to point out that their experiences differ (likely a lot) from your own. That shouldn’t be a bar to you speaking out, but rather be an invitation to you to come and speak with, and learn from, them. Or, if for whatever reason you can’t go spend time with them, you can learn from their voices, or, you can limit your own writing to something more specific to what you yourself know and have experienced (i.e. Natives in academia, Natives not raised on a reservation, etc.). I’m absolutely NOT trying to tell you what to do, nor to say what is or is not valid; instead, I’m offering suggestions that might help heal what seems at times to be a breach between Natives who’ve grown up and/or live on a reservation, and those who have not.

    A huge tactic that’s always been used by those in power (and is still in use today) is “divide and conquer.” We can see that in conversations today about police militarization and police abuses: there is a component in the white community who are supporting this attitude and training in police *because* that’s where their own racism and fears take them… and thus, people who *should* be supporting a change in how our police forces are trained, evaluated, and held accountable, are not—even though at some point they too may become victims of it (or already are and just don’t know it, because those stories rarely make the news these people see).

    Speaking from the outside, I’m far less concerned about rivalries between tribes: the impression I get is that various tribes work together for the most part, to help *all* Natives fight oppression—what concerns me far more is the apparent divide between those who grew up on a reservation (often in extreme poverty) and those who did not (who may or may not have *also* experienced extreme poverty and/or oppression but in a different fashion). When you (plural “you” Natives) talk about differences in experience and knowledge it’s one thing; when you frame it in terms of who is a “legitimate” Native, it becomes something else, something that serves to divide those who might (and hopefully would) otherwise work together, share experiences and knowledge.

    I’m not Native myself. Yes, like tons of people in the South, I have family tales of “Cherokee blood” in our veins, but that doesn’t make me Cherokee. I wasn’t raised Cherokee; I’ve never been accepted by the Tribe as a member (nor have I asked). But that family tradition was always accompanied by a feeling of, well, *honor*—that it was an honor to have that lady as an ancestress, and it pre-disposed both my brother and myself toward a respect for all Native tribes and traditions, and led both of us to support Native rights. Perhaps that appreciation is something my ancestress and her husband instilled in their children to be passed down, and that is a good thing.

    It gave both of us an interest to learn more, to search beyond the stereotypes taught in school and seen in media when we was growing up. My brother went to Tahlequah for a summer and worked in the Outdoor Theater “Trail of Tears” production, made many friends among the Native actors, and learned quite a bit from them; he’s also done additional research into the Lakota and other tribes. I’ve done a lot of research on Native history and in particular modern oppression of Natives—while I’ve only scratched the surface, I do my best to share the little I know with whites whose knowledge *is* limited to the stereotypes they learned. In general, whites have a very bad tendency to insist oppressions were “all in the past”—that’s true for how we, as a race, interact with many minorities, Native included.

    All that is to establish that while I *support* Native Rights and *care* about the issues facing Natives in various tribes, I am not a voice *for* Natives and never could be. I try to pass on what I’ve learned and been told, but am always ready to take any correction needed, if what I’ve repeated or concluded was incorrect or garbled.

    So, what I said above about race/tribe vs. authenticity/experience as two separate issues, where a difference in the latter is often labeled as the former, in terms of “validity as a Native” being a way Natives are dividing themselves, is said from an outside perspective. It might be right, or wrong—it’s not my place to decide it. Instead, I’m offering it as a *possibility* for Natives to think over and determine for themselves. The one thing I *do* know is that those in power are happy when oppressed people fight among themselves.

  28. Chris Allen

    Speaking of genetics, I remember seeing a story about a Nigerian couple who had twins not long ago—and one of the twins was fair-skinned, blond-haired and blue-eyed (but *not* albino). The parents have very very dark skin, and no, the mother wasn’t sleeping around on her husband (for those who wonder)—it was just a genetic quirk, and one that’s fascinating the doctors and medical researchers.

    Humans think we know it all… then Mother Nature says “gotcha!” to us 😀

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