“Western Zombies and Their Killers: Exceptionalism, the Empty West, and Mixed Race Families” a lecture by Dr. Anne Hyde

Posted in History, Live Events, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2014-11-15 17:59Z by Steven

“Western Zombies and Their Killers: Exceptionalism, the Empty West, and Mixed Race Families” a lecture by Dr. Anne Hyde

Colorado State University
Cherokee Park Ballroom, Lory Student Center
Fort Collins, Colorado
2014-12-04, 16:30-18:30 MST (Local Time)

Please join us for a public lecture and book signing/reception by Dr. Anne Hyde, William R. Hochman Professor of History at Colorado College. The title of her talk is drawn from her prize-winning book, Empires, Nations, and Families: The North American West, 1800-1860, which won the 2012 Bancroft Prize and was a finalist for a Pulitzer…

For more information, click here.

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Pigmentocracies: Ethnicity, Race, and Color in Latin America

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Economics, History, Mexico, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Social Science on 2014-11-07 19:07Z by Steven

Pigmentocracies: Ethnicity, Race, and Color in Latin America

University of North Carolina Press
October 2014
320 pages
59 figs., 4 maps, 23 tables, notes, bibl., index
6.125 x 9.25
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4696-1783-1

Edward E. Telles, Professor of Sociology
Princeton University

and

The Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America (PERLA)
Princeton University

Pigmentocracies—the fruit of the multiyear Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America (PERLA)—is a richly revealing analysis of contemporary attitudes toward ethnicity and race in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, four of Latin America’s most populous nations. Based on extensive, original sociological and anthropological data generated by PERLA, this landmark study analyzes ethnoracial classification, inequality, and discrimination, as well as public opinion about Afro-descended and indigenous social movements and policies that foster greater social inclusiveness, all set within an ethnoracial history of each country. A once-in-a-generation examination of contemporary ethnicity, this book promises to contribute in significant ways to policymaking and public opinion in Latin America.

Edward Telles, PERLA’s principal investigator, explains that profound historical and political forces, including multiculturalism, have helped to shape the formation of ethnic identities and the nature of social relations within and across nations. One of Pigmentocracies’s many important conclusions is that unequal social and economic status is at least as much a function of skin color as of ethnoracial identification. Investigators also found high rates of discrimination by color and ethnicity widely reported by both targets and witnesses. Still, substantial support across countries was found for multicultural-affirmative policies—a notable result given that in much of modern Latin America race and ethnicity have been downplayed or ignored as key factors despite their importance for earlier nation-building.

Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. The Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America (PERLA): Hard Data and What Is at Stake
  • 2. The Different Faces of Mestizaje: Ethnicity and Race in Mexico
  • 3. From Whitened Miscegenation to Triethnic Multiculturalism: Race and Ethnicity in Columbia
  • 4. ¿El pals de todas las sangres? Race and Ethnicity in Contemporary Peru
  • 5. Mixed and Unequal: New Perspectives on Brazilian Ethnoracial Relations
  • 6. A Comparative Analysis of Ethnicity, Race, and Color Based on PERLA Findings
  • Notes
  • References
  • About the Authors
  • Index
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Marni Soupcoff: A law that bans ‘mixed race’ couples? Yes. In 2014. In Canada

Posted in Articles, Canada, Law, Native Americans/First Nation on 2014-11-07 16:20Z by Steven

Marni Soupcoff: A law that bans ‘mixed race’ couples? Yes. In 2014. In Canada

National Post
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2014-11-06

Marni Soupcoff, Deputy Comment Editor

A Canadian woman falls in love and joins her life with that of a man of a different race. As a direct result of this union, she is harassed, receives notice of eviction, and is told she must leave her home.

What century are we talking about? This one, I’m afraid; and the culprit is not some errant racist landlord trying to throw one tenant out of a building. It’s the Kahnawake Mohawk council, which has a law that bans all “mixed race” couples from living anywhere in its Montreal-area territory.

Waneek Horn-Miller is half of one of those “mixed race” couples who has been told to get out. Horn-Miller may be a Mohawk, but because her common-law husband (and the father or her two children) is white, the aboriginal activist and former Olympian is no longer welcome or permitted to live on Kahnawake territory.

This is happening in 2014. Which, to put things in context, is 47 years after the United States Supreme Court ruled anti-miscegenation (or race-mixing) laws unconstitutional in that country

Read the entire article here.

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Conceptualizing, and Re-conceptualizing, Mixed Race Identity Development Theories and Canada’s Multicultural Framework in Historical Context

Posted in Articles, Canada, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation on 2014-10-29 17:51Z by Steven

Conceptualizing, and Re-conceptualizing, Mixed Race Identity Development Theories and Canada’s Multicultural Framework in Historical Context

SFU Educational Review
Volume 1, Number 1 (2014)
ISSN: 1916-050X
18 pages

Samantha Fischer
Department of Psychology
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

“Racism is like a fleet-footed bedbug that runs for cover under a sweet-smelling duvet stuffed with politeness and tolerance for multiculturalism” (Hill, 2001, p. 155).”

Scope of the topic, and paper organization

This paper will examine the most prominent theories of identity development of mixed race people in Canada from the late 1800s to the present day in the emergent multicultural context. It will examine the theories and contexts related to all mixed race people rather than focusing on a specific group.

This paper will commence with a discussion of the relevance of the topic, and an overview of multiculturalism policies in Canada. In the second part of the paper, the history of concepts relating to mixed race identity development in Canada will be analyzed in historical context and, when possible, related to the Multiculturalism Policy. In the third section of this paper, the current theories of mixed race identity development and multiculturalism will be addressed. Finally, the need to re-conceptualize race and/or mixed race identity, and current proposals for re-conceptualization will be outlined. When selecting this topic, it was assumed that identity development theories would need to be adapted to suit multiculturalism; however, it was found that the current theories addressing mixed race individuals were comprehensive, and enough empirical and theoretical evidence existed to suggest that they meet the needs of mixed race people. Thus, to address the incongruence between mixed race identity development models and multiculturalism, the focus will be placed on the latter, but a few ideas that are in accord with existing theories on Mixed Race Identity development and the empirical research to address the discrepancies will be suggested. Then, a theory of reconceptualization will be argued as the most appropriate, and the implications for research, the challenges/disadvantages, and the remaining challenges will be addressed.

This paper will be somewhat limited in its ability to discuss identity theories in an exclusively Canadian context, and it cannot accurately reflect the unique situation of the Metis peoples of Canada, or other multi-racial First Nations Peoples. This is not because this topic is unimportant. However, given the remarkably unique socio-cultural position of the First Nations Peoples in Canada, while some of the content of this paper may apply to multi-racial First Nations Peoples, it is beyond the scope of this paper to explore in a manner that would be both appropriate and comprehensive (this remains a critical direction for future work). Although the body of work on Mixed Race identity development in a Canadian context is growing, most of the research on this subject has largely been done in the United States (Taylor, 2008). When possible, exclusively Canadian sources are used, but they are supplemented with American sources interpreted for a Canadian context. Furthermore, due to space constraints, not every development model could be included; however, the most commonly cited, influential and representative ones have been added…

Read the entire article here.

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Whiteness as Property

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2014-10-23 15:36Z by Steven

Whiteness as Property

Harvard Law Review
Volume 106, Number 8 (June 1993)
pages 1707-1791

Cheryl I. Harris, Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Professor in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
School of Law
University of California, Los Angeles

Issues regarding race and racial identity as well as questions pertaining to property rights and ownership have been prominent in much public discourse in the United States. In this article, Professor Harris contributes to this discussion by positing that racial identity and property are deeply interrelated concepts. Professor Harris examines how whiteness, initially constructed as a form of racial identity, evolved into a form of property, historically and presently acknowledged and protected in American law. Professor Harris traces the origins of whiteness as property in the parallel systems of domination of Black and Native American peoples out of which were created racially contingent forms of property and property rights. Following the period of slavery and conquest, whiteness became the basis of racialized privilege—a type of status in which white racial identity provided the basis for allocating societal benefits both private and public in character. These arrangements were ratified and legitimated in law as a type of status property. Even as legal segregation was overturned, whiteness as property continued to serve as a barrier to effective change as the system of racial classification operated to protect entrenched power.

Next, Professor Harris examines how the concept of whiteness as property persists in current perceptions of racial identity, in the law’s misperception of group identity and in the Court’s reasoning and decisions in the arena of affirmative action. Professor Harris concludes by arguing that distortions in affirmative action doctrine can only be addressed by confronting and exposing the property interest in whiteness and by acknowledging the distributive justification and function of affirmative action as central to that task.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • I. INTRODUCTION
  • II. THE CONSTRUCTION OF RACE AND THE EMERGENCE OF WHITENESS AS PROPERTY
    • A. Forms of Racialized Property: Relationships Between Slavery, Race, and Property
      • 1. The Convergence of Racial and Legal Status
      • 2. Implications for Property
    • B. Forms of Racialized Property: Relationships Between Native American Land Seizure, Race, and Property
    • C. Critical Characteristics of Property and Whiteness
      • 1. Whiteness as a Traditional Form of Property
      • 2. Modern Views of Property as Defining Social Relations
      • 3. Property and Expectations
      • 4. The Property Functions of Whiteness
        • (a) Rights of Disposition
        • (b) Right to Use and Enjoyment
        • (c) Reputation and Status Property
        • (d) The Absolute Right to Exclude
    • D. White Legal Identity: The Law’s Acceptance and Legitimation of Whiteness as Property
      • 1. Whiteness as Racialized Privilege
      • 2. Whiteness, Rights, and National Identity
  • III. BOUND BY LAW: THE PROPERTY INTEREST IN WHITENESS AS LEGAL DOCTRINE IN PLESSY AND BROWN
    • A. Plessy
    • B. Brown I
    • C. Brown II
    • D. Brown’s Mixed Legacy
  • IV. THE PERSISTENCE OF WHITENESS AS PROPERTY
    • A. The Persistence of Whiteness as Valued Social Identity
    • B. Subordination Through Denial of Group Identity
    • C. Subjugation Through Affirmative Action Doctrine
      • 1. Bakke
      • 2. Croson
      • 3. Wygant
  • V. DE-LEGITIMATING THE PROPERTY INTEREST IN WHITENESS THROUGH AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
    • A. Corrective Justice, Sin, and Whiteness as Property
    • B. Affirmative Action: A New Form of Status Property?
    • C. What Affirmative Action Has Been; What Affirmative Action Might Become
  • VI. CONCLUSION

…Because the “presumption of freedom [arose] from color [white]” and the “black color of the race [raised] the presumption of slavery,” whiteness became a shield from slavery, a highly volatile and unstable form of property. In the form adopted in the United States, slavery made human beings market-alienable and in so doing, subjected human life and personhood—that which is most valuable—to the ultimate devaluation. Because whites could not be enslaved or held as slaves, the racial line between white and Black was extremely critical; it became a line of protection and demarcation from the potential threat of commodification, and it determined the allocation of the benefits and burdens of this form of property. White identity and whiteness were sources of privilege and protection; their absence meant being the object of property.

Slavery as a system of property facilitated the merger of white identity and property. Because the system of slavery was contingent on and conflated with racial identity, it became crucial to be “white,” to be identified as white, to have the property of being white. Whiteness was the characteristic, the attribute, the property of free human beings…

Read the entire article here.

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Down Blige Road: Where There’s No Place Like Home

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, United States on 2014-10-14 13:13Z by Steven

Down Blige Road: Where There’s No Place Like Home

Richmond Hill Reflections
Richmond Hill, Georgia
Volume 10, Number 4 (September 2014)
pages 57-60

Leslie Ann Berg (Photos by Callie Beale Photography)

Richmond Hill’s history is engrained deep within the walls of its old buildings, street names, and its land. But there is another place where history runs deep in Richmond Hill. It is a living, breathing history that not only thrived centuries ago, but is still thriving today. It is a history that courses through the very veins of the Richmond Hill people: It is the history of bloodlines.

Some of us are military families that found our way to Richmond Hill because of our duty, others transferred here for a job, and still others came to Richmond Hill for its quiet, safe community and great schools. But there is a very real and permanent group of people who live in Richmond Hill because it is home in the deepest sense of the word: Richmond Hill is where their ancestors settled and where they choose to remain. This group of people is the Blige family.

Meeting a member of the Blige family is like meeting an old friend. They are warm, welcoming, and full of jovial conversation. As I sat around Albertha Blige’s dining room table with her cousin Francis, and her mother Dorothy, and Uncle Pete, both in their 80s, we discussed Blige family history, traditions, and folklore. The women were tight-lipped when it came to telling stories, but Uncle Pete opened up and let me in on who exactly the Bliges were and are.

The Bliges made their way to Richmond Hill after the Civil War in 1875, when three brothers, Andrew, Benjamin, and Rently Blige, migrated south from Charleston, South Carolina. All three bothers married and had eight, nine, and 11 children respectively and so began the large Blige family of Richmond Hill. The brothers worked for wages at the Ogeechee River plantations. As their children grew, the family purchased land from Thomas Savage Clay, a man who owned several plantations in the Richmond Hill area.

Owning land was monumental for the families of emancipated slaves like the Bliges, yet life wasn’t easy. Uncle Pete, Benjamin Blige’s grandson and one of 20 children, recalls what life was like when he was a boy: “[My father] worked about 60 miles from [Richmond Hill]. He left on Sunday evenings and didn’t come back for 2 weeks. My mother was here taking care of the farm. The kids worked… that’s why they had so many kids. Kids carried the farm and my mother did the housework and watched the kids.”…

…Uncle Pete’s accounts of his family may sound like a typical African American ancestral history in the southeastern United States, but beneath the commonalities lies a forgotten history, a history that never made its way into the history books.

The Blige’s African American ancestry is vibrant and evident, yet they are also of Cherokee Indian decent. African-Native Americans? Yes, and in fact, African-Native Americans made up a significant percentage of Native Americans living in the South in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Yet their existence is not widely accounted for in history.

The American history that most of us are familiar with is one that paints a picture of segregated ethnic groups, depicting Whites as slave owners, Africans as slaves, and Native Americans as tribe members. In most of our minds, all three groups were separate and played a very specific and hierarchical role in history. Yet, before North America was widely colonized, distinct segregation did not exist, and the interaction between Africans and Native Americans was somewhat frequent. Enslaved Africans escaped to Native American tribes (some tribes even hosted stops on the Underground Railroad), some Native Americans were enslaved by Europeans alongside Africans, and some Native Americans had African slaves. Often times, the two groups worked alongside each other, lived together, and shared recipes, myths, legends, and herbal remedies. Africans and Native Americans intermarried and had children. In fact, relations were so frequent that when a census was taken in the early 1800s, 10% of the Cherokee Nation was of African descent; 100 years later, this number increased to 50%.

As interaction between the Africans and Native Americans increased, colonists felt a need to break their alliance and issue laws that secured the land and property the Europeans had acquired. Once the American government was established and began to thrive, such laws were carried out. Only then did the rights ot slave owners gain tremendous strength, while the rights of Africans and Native Americans fell to the wayside. In order to enforce the new laws and segregate the two ethnic groups, a census was taken to categorize all individuals as African or Native American. Categorization was based solely on skin color; consequently, much of the African-Native American history, culture, and ancestral lines were erased. Fast forward 300 years and most Americans know very little, it anything, about this fascinating ethnic group.

The Blige family shares in this incredible story of the African-Native Americans. Their bloodline is unique and in many ways, we wall never truly uncover the rich culture ot the African-Native American due to the lack ot documentation. But the Blige family has main tained a connection to their African-Native American ancestors in their ability to live off the land and their lifelong practice olt faith and spirituality…

Read the entire article here.

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Kaine pushes for Indian recognition

Posted in Articles, Law, Native Americans/First Nation, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Virginia on 2014-10-12 23:01Z by Steven

Kaine pushes for Indian recognition

Sulfolk News-Herald
Suffolk, Virginia
2014-10-02

Tracy Agnew, News Editor

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is making another push to recognize six Virginia Indian tribes, including the Nansemond, through his support of a proposed rule that would bring more flexibility to the process.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs governs the process by which tribes in America can gain recognition from the federal government, and the benefits that come along with it…

…Its stringent criteria require, among many other things, documentation of the tribe’s existence and lineage from 1789 to the present, according to comments Kaine made in support of the rule change.

But at least six Virginia tribes — the Nansemond, Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Upper Mattaponi, Rappahannock and Monacan — have found the administrative process unavailable to them because of the historical destruction of records.

Five of the six courthouses that held the majority of the tribes’ records were burned during the Civil War, Kaine noted in a letter to Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn.

Beyond this accidental destruction, a eugenics movement and fear of interracial marriages prompted officials at the Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics to systematically destroy the vital records of Virginia’s tribes beginning in 1912.

In 1924, Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act codified the existence of only two races: “white” or “colored.” The law remained intact for nearly 50 years, forcing Indians to choose one or the other.

Officials even went so far as to retroactively change records to list Native Americans as “colored,” Kaine noted in his letter. This phenomenon is known today as “Pleckerism,” after Walter Ashby Plecker, the first registrar of the bureau, who was among the main officials who pushed to eliminate the Indian race in Virginia, at least on paper…

Read the entire article here.

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Contours of a People: Metis Family, Mobility, and History ed. by Nicole St-Onge, Carolyn Podruchny, and Brenda MacDougall (review) [Haggarty]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Canada, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation on 2014-09-26 15:31Z by Steven

Contours of a People: Metis Family, Mobility, and History ed. by Nicole St-Onge, Carolyn Podruchny, and Brenda MacDougall (review) [Haggarty]

The Canadian Historical Review
Volume 95, Number 3, September 2014
pages 463-465
DOI: 10.1353/can.2014.0057

Liam Haggarty
Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

St-Onge, Nicole, Carolyn Podruchny, and Brenda Macdougall (eds.), Maria Campbell (fore.), Contours of a People: Metis Family, Mobility, and History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012).

Reflecting on the state of Metis scholarship in Canada, Maria Campbell writes, “It is crucial for us to research and document our own stories and to share and discuss them at a community level. To celebrate them is a part of our decolonizing” (xxv ). That lofty goal is shared by the editors of and contributors to this collection, which both celebrates the work of pioneers in the field, specifically Jacqueline Peterson and Jennifer S.H. Brown, and charts new paths of study. Although firmly rooted in the Western scholarly tradition, it seeks to focus greater attention on family, mobility, and connectedness – themes that will resonate in Metis communities beyond the walls of academia.

In addition to Campbell’s thoughtful foreword, the collection consists of an introduction and fourteen chapters that encompass a wide range of geographies (from the Great Lakes to British Columbia, from Wisconsin to Creole communities in Alaska), timeframes (from the eighteenth century through to the present day), and topics and methodologies (including women’s history, legal history, biography, discourse analysis, and historical geography). By and large, these chapters address ongoing areas of research and familiar questions in the field pertaining to ethnogenesis, cultural distinctiveness, homelands, key events, regional diversity, politicization, and identity. In so doing, they add significantly to the breadth, depth, and texture of Metis historiography and fulfill the editors’ mandate: to trace the contours of Metis peoples and communities, what binds them together, what separates them from others, and what it means to be Metis in specific places, times, and contexts.

Some contributors simultaneously push the boundaries of conventional Metis historiography by adopting innovative approaches that challenge basic assumptions about Metis histories and the lenses through which Metis cultures are often viewed. Historians Nicole St-Onge and Carolyn Podruchny, for example, problematize simplistic interpretations of Metis ethnogenesis by investigating the significance and meaning of “material and emotional ties of kinship and loyalty” (63) to Metis culture and lifeways. Similarly, historical geographer Philip D. Wolfart challenges us to view Metis ethnogenesis and identity aspatially, as concepts bounded not by places visited or land used but by “a system of social obligation and fealty” (121) based on one’s social networks and relationships, while historical and cultural geographer Etienne Rivard asks us to consider the influence that “oral geographies” (144) have had on Metis constructions of identity and senses of place. In the book’s penultimate chapter, Native studies scholar Chris Anderson surveys the challenges associated with translating nuanced interpretations of Metis mobility, communities, and identity into the juridical arena of the Canadian legal system, arguing that although the courts acknowledge the importance of mobility to Metis culture, “older settlement-based understandings” continue to carry greater weight (412–13). Lastly, Native studies scholar Brenda Macdougall explores the concept of ambivalence not only in the formation of Metis identities but also as a trend in Metis historiography that potentially obscures complicated and multifaceted expressions of biculturality, thereby perpetuating simplistic binary understandings of individual and collective identities. By thus situating family, mobility, and connectedness at the centre of Metis culture, these chapters de-centre Euro-centric frameworks of analysis and ways of knowing, and privilege Metis perspectives on the past and present.

These nuanced and innovative analyses also raise important questions that remain underrepresented in Metis historiography. The collective identities informed by ideas of mobility, family, and historical consciousness, for example, are about exclusion as well as inclusion. Who, then, is being left out of Metis communities through ethnogenesis and identity making? To what extent do gender and class relations, as well as other markers of difference, intersect Metisness? How have Metis identities been instrumentalized to exclude as well as include certain individuals and groups? These questions may lie largely beyond the scope of the text but they are nonetheless important to the type of decolonized scholarship Campbell calls for. Understanding the contours of a people requires us to engage both external and internal relations of power.

As a whole, this collection represents a valuable addition to Metis and Aboriginal historiography, and it is a fitting tribute to Peterson, Brown, and other pioneers in the field. By surveying a broad geographic area and covering a wide range of topics…

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Creoles and Melungeons: More Important Than Ever to America

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2014-09-12 19:42Z by Steven

Creoles and Melungeons: More Important Than Ever to America

Melungeon Heritage Association: One People, All Colors
2014-08-22

Nick Douglas

The unique origins of Creoles and Melungeons parallel and complement each other. Their genesis is a uniquely American phenomenon.

Creoles, like Melungeons, are a race of black, white and Native American people. Most Creoles and Melungeons have a long history of freedom. For Melungeons, freedom dated back to pre-colonial America. In my family, the first Creoles were free people born in Sante Domingue and Haiti, who emigrated to New Orleans in the 1700s and 1800s.

Both Creoles and Melungeons claimed Native American heritage in oral history but had little documented proof. Creole oral history is infused with Choctaw, Seminole and Natchez relationships and kinships. Melungeon oral history is infused with Cherokee, Tuscarora, Lumbee and Croatan relationships and kinships. DNA testing is now confirming Native American heritage for many Melungeons and Creoles.

Many of the first families classified as Melungeons were started by indentured white women who had children with black indentured servants, free men of color or slaves. This fact complements Creole stories of white fathers in New Orleans having children with free women of color or slaves.

Melungeon history directly contradicts a Southern taboo on relationships between white women and men of color. Among New Orleans and Louisiana Creoles, white men claimed to be black or free people of color to be able to leave wealth and property to their Creole of color children. These early examples of Melungeons and Creoles show how extensive and intertwined the relationships between blacks, white and Native Americans were, before racial designation became of paramount importance in the U.S…

Read the entire article here.

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I am not Pocahontas

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2014-09-09 20:44Z by Steven

I am not Pocahontas

The Weeklings (also in Salon)
2014-09-04

Elissa Washuta

AS A COWLITZ Indian child, white-skinned and New Jersey-born, I grew up fielding the question, “How much Indian are you?” without any sense of its meaning. Once I was old enough to know that my mother was Indian and my father wasn’t, I began responding “Half.” It wasn’t until my teenage years that I would ask my mother for the details of my ethnic breakdown. She pulled an index card out of her desk drawer. I knew that I was Cowlitz, Polish, Irish, and Ukrainian, but the card was full of surprising facts as well. What did it mean to be Welch? French?

The truly shocking information the card carried was my Indian blood quantum. I didn’t know that was the term for the sum of the fractions next to Cowlitz and Cascade. This was the “How much?” people had prodded me about, and it wasn’t the half I’d assumed. “What are you, a quarter?” people would toss out at times. It wasn’t that. The sum of the Cascade and Cowlitz fractions made an awkward hybrid. I decided it would be nobody’s business.

I grew up in the time of Native American proverb posters and mass-produced dream catchers. Disney’s Pocahontas was released in 1995, when I was ten. I had outgrown my Barbies then, but I still added a Pocahontas doll to my retired collection. I knew that she was a fullblood. She communicated with animals and never wore a jacket. She painted with all the colors of the wind. If someone had asked me to explain the difference between my plastic doll and me, I might have said that she was the real Indian and I was the fake one…

…Although my tribe doesn’t require me to demonstrate a minimum degree of ancestry, acquaintances’ innocent questions of “How much?” seem to gesture toward a desire to get at the truth about how far I am from ancestor plucked from Kevin Costner’s friendly and doomed band: a real Indian.

“How much Indian are you?”, however well-intentioned, implies that alive within me is only a tiny piece of the free, noble Indian that passed on long ago, a remnant from which I am far removed. The questions, individually, are borne from a place of curiosity, but the questions have embedded in a time when blood quantum was used to rob indigenous peoples of rights and, ultimately, lead to our being defined out of existence. Pocahontas, in the final scene of the Disney re-creation, sends John Smith back to England and tells him, “No matter what happens, I’ll always be with you. Forever.” What happens: the viewer is spared the discomfort of a mixed-race happy ending. What happens, historically: Pocahontas is captured by the English, marries John Rolfe, has a son, travels to England to serve as the Crown’s symbol of the civilization and Christianization of the “heathens,” and dies there from tuberculosis at the age of twenty-two. The Disney version, in which Pocahontas never fit her feet into heeled shoes and refused to leave the woods (until the afterthought of a straight-to-video sequel), persists…

Read the entire article here.

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