Who is an NDN? and Other Oddities in Native American PoliticsI think I better warn you that I don't know where I am going with this. Ah hell, when do I ever know where I am going when I sit down to write? I was once told by a friend that I am a stream of consciousness writer, which reminds me of that fuckhead TRex telling POC that they are useless crappy writers unless they write in a linear fashion. I guess he will never be a fan. *sigh* It also reminds me of belledame222. Which probably will horrify her that I think of her hot on the heels of thinking of the biggest racist/sexist asshat in the lefty blogosphere, but no, it's not that. It's the way she multiple posts her comments. I think that is also stream of consciousness, you can see the way her mind is working by following one connection after the other, and I like that about her.
The reason I don't know where I am going with this is because Native American politics are extremely confusing, our identity is extremely confusing, especially the farther east you go in Canada/US. I imagine it is similar for our brothers and sisters in Mexico/Central & South America, but I can't speak to that and will step off the soapbox to let them have their say, if they wish. I am Wabanaki, which means People of the Dawn, you can't get much farther east than that. The eastern tribes are the first to come into contact with the Europeans, we're some of the most mixed race you will find and the most colonized. We've lost alot of our language and culture to those Europeans. Some of this is simply adaptation, but also residential schools or other ways of beating the "savage" out of us.
That sets the stage for what I am going to say next. Over at The Primary Contradiction there is an interesting and heated exchange going on between Yolanda and Pony, but what really interested me was something BrownFemiPower said:
I think that metis is a contested identity, just as mestiza (what I am) is. I am native too, mixed with white and from mexico and all that comes together to make una mestiza. And a Mestiza is very much a contested identity within native/chicana circles, in ways that mestis identities are as well. the largest arguement that native peoples (in canada, the U.S. AND latin america) have about mestizas and metis is that the “native” part of the identity is a generalized” identity. That it completly over writes a tribal identity.
This is true, even in Canada. Pony is also correct that the Canadian government does recognize Metis as a legitimate people and culture...but that there is the problem. Many native communities do not. They are so far and away from the original native cultures and people that they sometimes are not recognized as "real" NDNs, but they sometimes are. Part of the argument is why should we let the white Canadian government tell us who and who is not an Indian? Another part is the new agers and part time Indians. In the US these are the white people with a great great great great grandmother who was a Cherokee princess. We've got similar white people in Canada too and they generally identify as Metis. So you can see why someone who identifies as Metis would immediately get the suspicious looks from someone who is Native American in Canada.
Another problem we have is sorting out who is and who isn't Native American within our own communities. My mother is a rez born and raised Maliseet, but she made the mistake of marrying my white father and lost her status. During this time if any white woman married a Maliseet she would officially be Maliseet too. This was official Canadian policy according to the Indian Act until 1985. If you want to see the patriarchy in action, both in Canada and on the rez, read this excerpt on Sandra Lovelace, a Maliseet woman who was instrumental in getting the Indian Act changed and who also happens to be a very good friend and distant cousin. As you can see there were alot of Native American men who were resistant to the change, I think alot of it was fear of their wives and children losing their status (this did not happen) and the fact that on reservations there was/is EXTREME poverty, which means there already isn't enough resources to go around and the fear was, how would they handle the influx of native women and their families returning? But what you don't know is that there were alot of men who wanted this change too, remember, it is their granddaughers, daughters, and sisters who became persona non grata. I don't recall alot of sexism on my reservation when I was there, I really don't remember anyone treating me like I am less than the men or treating any women around me like that. I think it is still there only because it is harder as a woman to be elected to the council, but there may be other factors to that too. I notice the social butterflies tend to get elected be they man or woman, and sometimes using a popularity contest to elect your chief or councillors is pretty stupid, yeah, we've had some doozies.
There are some loopholes to the Indian Act/tribal law even now. For example, I have status as do my sisters, but since we all married white guys none of our children do. But there is a really big weird loophole, if I had married a Native American man from another tribe and he also happened to be second generation, our children would still likely lose their status. I better explain something else, part of the change was that Canada now gives more or less guidelines and the tribes themselves are free to make some adjustments in deciding their own citizenship. My kids could possibly get their status now if we moved back to the rez and lived there a year or two, the council would have to vote on it, and there are third generation kids who do have their status this way. On the other hand I understand that some tribes were matriarchal (actually so were the Wabanaki but as far as I know none of the rez's did it the way I am about to explain) and they have decided to continue that tradition. So in my hypothetical I could have married a man from one of these tribes and our children would lose their status because of the matriarchal lineage being broken on his side and because with my people I'm second generation. So neither tribe would recognize them. Sounds stupid since they would have more native blood than I, a status NDN has, eh? I told you it's complicated.
And we haven't even gotten to the United States and those peoples and the way Washington DC sorts them all out or how they sort themselves all out. I don't actually know enough about it to give you the run down, but I do know it's more fucked up than Canada, if you can imagine that. I bet we could get steam erupting from MB's (my Abenaki sista) ears on the recognition, or rather lack of it, of the Abenaki people in the US. By the way, the Wabanaki are the Maliseet, Abenaki, Mi'kmaq (Micmac), Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot. The Wabanaki is a confederacy like the Iroquois.
I'll leave this for now since I think I've given the multitudes who read this blog enough to chew on. Multitudes I tell ya!