Before I go any further, please understand that I am not speaking ill of any one person, nor am I trying to disrespect anyone personally. I, myself, have been personally offended by some folks with real good communication skills. When I mention full bloods, mixed bloods, CDIB carriers, state or federal recognition, etc. it is for the purpose of getting my point across. I am not on a crusade to help destroy anyone, overthrow the government or anything like that. I am not speaking ill of anyone who is a member of a federally or state recognized tribe, nor any of the unrecognized tribes, as many Indian people do not carry a membership card at all. That still doesn't change their heritage. Member cards haven't been around that long anyway.
This essay is in defense of those who are proud of their heritage and have been labeled as a whole. I am not defending those who have purposely made fools of themselves and asked to be called names. Those are the ones who have created the problems today for the rest. I care about this country and have served the flag proudly in the U.S. Army. I have my own opinions on many things, as that is my freedom. No, no one died and left me the boss nor am I a representative of all living things, nor am I some type of authority on these subjects. I am doing something that I normally do not do and that is express my opinions a bit more harsh than normal. I usually keep my mouth shut, even in the face of rude comments, as arguing does not solve anything. It is okay to speak one's mind, but you must use good judgment when doing so. Am I trying to insult anyone person in this paper? No. In some instances in this essay, I mention the term, "new ager" and many others. If this is what you consider your religion or practice, then that is your freedom of choice. In America, you have the right to believe as you please. So, just respect my opinions and I will respect yours to the best of my ability.
Some things that I have done to honor my heritage involved creating web sites, talking with other people, making trips to court houses, and contacting other researchers on the internet. I had no idea at the time, that so many people were trying research their native roots. Some were simply trying to see if they had any Indian blood at all from scratch. When I started mentioning what I was doing, some of the people lit up like you'd tossed a match in their gas tank. The mere mention of Indian blood research and my pride in such, just fired some people up. I was not prepared for this. They practically wanted to start examining my family tree, my teeth, my mating habits, my DNA, and my eye color to try to find a smidgen of truth in what I was saying. Good gosh!! I doubt that some of them could have yelled any louder at me than if you'd made them chew on tin foil with a mouthful of dental fillings.
People, whom I didn't know, wanted to see my "papers" or my "card" and the pedigree to go along with it before they would even consider that my family just might be telling the truth. I thought, "what am I, a mixed breed poodle or something?" Do you want to know if I have had my shots also? Am I AKC registered? I really didn't argue with anyone about it, but took some serious offense as to what they were saying. What was going on here? I don't remember ever eating Christmas dinner with these folks, nor waking up to find them eating my eggs and calling me "cousin". These were people that just knew. Now, it wasn't like I was trying to proclaim to them that I was something like the one and only true medicine man that descended from the chief of the kookamonga tribe. I just told them what I had been raised with and how it came to be. That just made it worse. I figured that there is something going on in society today that I was not aware of. I knew right then, that I had been in the woods too long about this and needed to find out why people treated me the way that they did and still do. In any rate, I continued my study and kept the pride that my mother and grandmother taught me to have, while examining the current situation in order to find out why this sparked such a flame.
Because of the above, I have been called a wannabe, money seeker, scam artist, liar, yarn spinner, and a few other names that I would rather not mention. Of course, those comments, though made to me, are basically directed at my ancestors by people who have never met me nor my family. At first, I could not understand what the term "wannabe" really meant until I started doing some reading on the internet. I found out that certain types of people have basically created a stereotype for the rest of us. Not only are Indians themselves stereotyped by many people as having to wear "war bonnets" and say "how" when they meet, all Indian women being called "squaws" (actually can be quite offensive), and that every Indian is this super type of spiritual person who is born with an innate knowledge of how to do sacred ceremonies, etc. Oh yes, and all Indians look like the ancient Plains Indians. They cannot be any of a lighter complexion nor can they make it through a day without eating Buffalo or show an inability to speak English. Don't laugh, some people think that. I wonder if some of these people get confused when they go to the Qualla Boundary and can't seem to locate the Tipis?
As I stated above, I did not really understand the concept of "wannabe", "twinkie",etc. until I started getting into the mainstream of N.A. research. I guess I could not understand why some full bloods or some members of the federally recognized tribes would not accept a mixed blood's or non federally enrolled person's loyalty to his or her heritage without labeling them. As I said, some and not all. Anyway, I found out that it seems a few have helped get most of us labeled and from hearing what I have, there is no wonder. I began doing some searching on the internet for many different tribes and the people that were claiming to belong to them (non-CDIB carriers). There are literally thousands of people seeking their native roots these days, so finding someone doing so, is quite easy. Now here again, I am NOT talking about everyone. I am hitting on those few (or those many) that have made it hard on the rest.
In case some of you do not know, a CDIB card is a certificate of degree of Indian blood or the white card. This card is obtained by applying to one of the Federally recognized tribes. In essence, it states your Indian blood quantum. The Cherokee Nation membership card, separate from the CDIB is a blue card. For further information on the aspects of registration and as a reference to the above, visit the Cherokee Nation. Blood quantum is actually a government imposed term that refers to the amount of Indian blood that flows in your veins. Before the days of rolls, allotments, etc. I don't think anyone knew what that meant. You either were or you weren't. Federal recognition of tribes falls under the Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs. Tribes will have a local office and agents assigned to that particular area or tribe. A tribe is a sovereign entity with some of it's assets held in trust by the federal government. For example, the Eastern Band of Cherokee live on a reservation of about 56,000 acres, spread out over a 5 county area in North Carolina. The lands belong to the tribe and it's members, but is held in trust by Uncle Sam. Looking back over history, you can see that this domain is no where near what it used to be. Now, why did that happen?
I did not decide to "become Indian" one day, nor am I a "new ager", nor did I fabricate Indian ancestry because I wanted to be in with a group, nor did I begin my study because so many other people were doing it. I began my study before I even knew that people cared about that part of their heritage. I did not grow up on a reservation and I don't claim to know all the problems associated with that. My study of my heritage began about 3 years ago (my heritage began when I was born) when I met a Cheyenne woman at my church. She was speaking to our congregation at the First Baptist Church of Locust, NC as she was a missionary to her own people on the tribal lands. While speaking, she told how proud she was of her heritage and how God had blessed her with such a family. At that moment, I realized that I had been neglecting to learn more about my lineage, which was taught to me since I was a boy of about 7 or 8 years old. For the record, I am a big "3.0." now!! I knew all of my life what I had been taught, but just never dug deep into the history of a proud people. I discovered much that I didn't know as I looked for all of the hidden Indians in my family tree as someone once put it to me.
Do I know everything about "being Indian" or anything for that matter? Of course not! No one does. Is there a book out there that you can buy that will give you Indian lessons? Absolutely not. Do I expect everyone to even agree with every aspect of this page? If I think that they will, then I guess there have been no lessons learned thus far on my part. People really do stereotype Indians today though. As a person of mixed Indian ancestry, you may or may not "look" Indian according to some people's standards. Who is the one who sets standards on looks anyway? Anyone who has studied genetics, knows about Gregor Mendel. I studied a good bit on him and his work when I was in pre-med (no, I'm not a doctor, but was once going to school to be one) . Traits will show up when and where they want to. Someone of mixed ancestry may not have the looks that television taught Americans to think is the way all Indians look. Oh, that word..television. That is another story when it comes to stereotyping.
I have heard some people say that they get sick of seeing all of the "white Indians" dancing at pow wows and walking around claiming their heritage. What about those members of the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band that don't "look" Indian according to these same people's standards? I have looked at many rolls of the Eastern Cherokee and at the Dawes roll on numerous occasions. As a matter of fact, I have the Dawes roll of the Five Civilized tribes scanned onto a cdrom. Now, when I look at some of the blood quantums that were there, now about 100 years ago, it makes me start to think. As you may know, the Dawes roll is what the Cherokee Nation West uses as their basic member requirement. In other words, to qualify for membership, you must be a DIRECT descendant of someone who was enrolled by the Dawes commission. Okay, suppose you locate your great grandfather on the Cherokee by Blood section of the Dawes roll. He is listed as being 1/32 Cherokee. That, by the way, was a common occurrence. You now have met the basic member requirement, but not all. By the way, your ancestors had to be living in what was then called Indian Territory for them to have been enrolled on this roll.
So, you learn that your great grandfather married a white woman and the family eventually moved back to North Carolina, and thus, you came to be. There were no further intermarriages with any of Indian ancestry. What is your blood quantum now? It should be 1/256th Cherokee. Well, you get your CDIB and finally, your membership in the Cherokee Nation. You are now a federally recognized Indian without ever living on a reservation. If you don't think that this case is possible, ask around. There are members of federal tribes that do not live within the tribes boundaries. My cousin has a good friend who is a member of the Eastern Band, but lives somewhere in south Georgia. all right, by now, you have have blonde hair and blue eyes because of intermarriages and simple genetics. As a matter of fact, some may not know that you were enrolled unless you told them. What if you decided that you wanted to dance at a pow wow? That's great, so you go for it. Well, along comes someone whom who over hear saying how it makes them sick watching those wannabes and white people out there pretending to be Indian, talking about you!
Would a statement like that make even a federally enrolled Indian mad? You bet it would!! Did the person make the statement based on what you looked like physically or because that you did not grow up on the reservation? Maybe if you checked that persons' card, they might be the same blood quantum, more or even less. Do I think that the person who grew up on the reservation had a harder life than the other? More than likely, they did. That certainly is a factor to consider, but does it change actual blood? I guess here is where you can get into a long discussion on who should and who should not be Indian, depending on the lifestyle and not simple blood ties to the nation. As in all things, that is still another matter of opinion. Now what if the 1/256 Cherokee that I mentioned above was not qualified to enroll, but had Cherokee blood that he or she was aware of from one source or another? Would they be any less Cherokee? What about those who did not reside within the territory during the Dawes Act? Are these people non Cherokee also?
I realize that there has to be standards in the case of federal tribes. I am also sure that they are totally aware that there are Cherokee who do not meet the requirements to enroll in the Nation. If everyone who was the least bit Cherokee were allowed to enroll, I think that they may have an administrative nightmare on their hands! I am not saying that anything should be changed as I have no right to suggest it. That is not what I am getting at. The fact is that, as in my example, people themselves, want to be able to say who is and who is not able to claim their heritage. Sometimes, I hate to use the word, "claim". It almost sounds like you are seeking money when you say it. Maybe I should use the word, "proclaim" instead. I still say that all of this goes back to some people making it hard on the rest. It appears that people have gotten away from what I heard a Cherokee Councilman say once on a video entitled, Cherokee. He said that Cherokee heritage was passed down and that only one of your ancestors need be Cherokee for that to be the case. He said that long ago, it was decided that if you were Cherokee, then your kids would be Cherokee too and so on.
More on Looks
When you go to a pow wow, be it intertribal, Cherokee,or whatever tribe is hosting it, you will be amazed if you are somewhat narrow minded when it comes to what an Indian is supposed to look like, according to stereotypes. You may see someone with blue eyes, red hair, or blonde hair dancing in the circle. Are they all full bloods? No, but they have Indian ancestry, unless some non Indians slip in somehow. You will see tall people, short people, etc. Other than the dancers in their regalia, you will see Indians wearing shorts, t-shirts,blue jeans and tennis shoes. Why aren't they all wearing their war bonnets? Why did you hear a few of them talking about the new movie that came out the other day? Why weren't they all talking in another language? Why weren't they all drunk and whooping it up? After all, that is what a pow wow is isn't it? Most of these questions have been asked before and many to me. And let me tell you that the word regalia is the proper term for the dancer's outfit and not costume.
Still hitting on the blood quantum and looks a bit. Did you know how much Cherokee blood that Chief John Ross had? He was about 1/8. From the many pictures that I have seen of him, and there are several, he might not fit your stereotype of what a Cherokee was supposed to look like. When you think about it, would some of the Cherokees from the past be able to meet the member requirements of some tribes today? I don't' have a CDIB and I'm really not worried about that too much. My girlfriend of five years, is currently tracing her Cherokee genealogy from Oklahoma and as it looks, she may very well qualify for one. By the way, she lives near Charlotte, North Carolina. I don't think I've told you about this, but her family moved away from the tribe about the time of the Dawes roll and ended up back in North Carolina somehow, but she still has relatives in Oklahoma.
Her great grandmother, raised her father since his mother was young and did not seem to be too responsible at the time. He called her "momma" all of his life and learned a great deal from her. She taught him about making flutes,and other traditional things that she knew about. She would not teach him about herbal medicine, as she said that was only for the girls. One big thing that she told him, was to keep his heritage to himself. She wasn't ashamed, and neither is my girlfriend's dad, but she told him how he would be treated if he let others know of his ancestry. This was back in the late 1940's, early 50's. I have seen pictures of her and there is no doubt of her ancestry; however, she is listed as white on all documents here in North Carolina. Imagine that? I guess that she could not possibly have been Cherokee due to that factor right? Wrong. Does that change the pride that her family has today that was hidden for so long? No. Does that make them any less Indian? No, but I am sure that would still create a debate among some as I talked about earlier.
Is this family trying to get money or are they trying to embellish their stories to make family life more interesting? Of course not. No, she didn't tell him that she was a Cherokee princess. She taught him about life as she knew it. Will you say harsh words to this man also? In fact, speaking ill of this man's grandmother is a sure trip to the hospital. She was practically his mother and everything about her is a cherished memory, including the Indian blood which still flows in his veins. When down grading his family for moving back to NC and accusing them of "selling out" or calling him a wannabe for wanting to learn more of his heritage today, you open up a real can of worms. You are talking about real people who are no longer alive to defend themselves, plus you are trying to destroy those are here that have to listen to it.
Some More Origins of Dreaded Wannabe Title
While I am on the subject of pow wows,(sorry to jump subjects so much) I want to express some things I learned about them. Yes, I attend pow wows. I am not going to go into all of that, but just wanted to express some things that I learned why attending these events. I remember about a year ago at a pow wow I was attending in North Carolina, what the MC, John Blackfeather Jeffries said before the Grand Entry. He started out by welcoming all who were there, native and white. He explained a brief history of the pow wow and what it was for. He also stated that we were not there to entertain anyone. The dancers were there to honor their respective tribes and otherwise, we were there to have fellowship with one another. He said that if we gave the idea that we were trying to entertain, then we needed to apologize for that is not what it was about. People were told specifically when they could and could not take pictures, but that request was ignored. They were told not to take any photographs when the circle was being blessed by an older gentleman who happened to be Apache. Still, people took pictures. People were asked to not throw their trash on the grounds, but still they did it. By the way, some of the litter bugs were Indian also. Does that fit the typical stereotype of all Indians looking at the trash on the ground with a tear in their eyes? Many do believe in taking care of the land, but Indians are people and not some type of fairy tale out of a children's book.
What am I getting at? Things such as these all add up in the realm of Native America. Combine disrespect like that with other things and pretty soon, resentment takes effect. When some of the people who did these things later tell one of the dancers, "oh, I'm Indian too", do you think that they are going to want to hear that? No, the person has probably just got himself labeled as a twinkie or a wannabe. There is no wonder that some people just don't have a chance because of how others act. I know of a person who is not Indian, but loves the spiritual side of the Native American. I am not real close to this person, but I know them. The conversation came up that I was of Indian ancestry somehow when we were talking about our families. Anyway, when this person heard this, they immediately started asking me for advice on things like: what types of herbs are the best to smudge with, how they had a dream catcher and wondered if I would bless it for them? I thought sure, I'll just wave my arms and murmur the secret words. Now, that seemed a bit foolish don't you think?
This person thought that just because I had Indian ancestry that all of this stuff came naturally to me and that I had been taught, as all Indians are(?),all of the spiritual ways. If I went up to my friend who is 1/2 Cherokee and asked him to bless my dream catcher and empower a crystal for me, he would laugh me six ways to Sunday. When this person asked me this question, I didn't know what to say, but "What?" I then knew that I had met one of those people that was making it hard on many of us. This person, who admitted to not having any Indian blood, was one of those people who have sought after the spiritual teachings of our forefathers and tried to fabricate it into their own religion. I will tell you that I am Southern Baptist and am a born again Christian. I know that my ancestors worshiped a bit differently from the way I do, and some still worship that way today, but I respect that history. I am not a teacher nor a student of Cherokee medicine nor any other old way and have never claimed to be. I can however recognize someone who turns my stomach and no doubt turns the stomachs of those who do worship by traditional means. Gez...I see more and more where this has come from.
Who I Am
I am not a full blood Indian. I am what some will call a mixed blood, breed, brunswick stew or whatever the going terms are now. What did I learn growing up about being Indian or "part Indian"(which part, my hand or my foot?) as most will say? I learned that people would treat you bad at one time and even still some today if you told them that you had Indian blood in your veins. I learned about the problems that Indians face, as everyone else does. Even in my own family, I learned what alcoholism, poverty, Diabetes, arthritis, and racism was. Oh, has no one ever told you about those things? Check the census records and see if they are there. If they are not, then they must not have existed. I learned to respect my elders, not to waste anything, and to be honest. I learned from my great grandfather, that Land is valuable and will pay for itself through what it yields. My mother taught me that the killing of animals was for clothes and food only. If I had both, then I was not to kill. No, the excuse of wanting a deer head on the wall like my friends wasn't good enough for her. I learned to love the mountains and spend a good deal of time on the Qualla Boundary, which my great grandfather spent much of his time. I learned that there were things in the natural world that cannot be explained and must only be accepted. I learned that nature has produced things that can help heal us and I learned about the rivers. I won't explain that one, as those of you who know, will just know. I learned to hold dear to me, things that others may consider waste. Other than that, I grew up wearing T-shirts and blue jeans. I drove several broken down cars (I still do today!) and did things as every normal boy does. Most of all, I learned that God created us all. It doesn't matter who you are, where you live, we are all His children.
I have found, in my cyber travels, earthly experiences,etc, that there are two different types of people who proclaim their heritage(?) proudly or are searching for it: 1. Those who are genuine and 2. those who are not. Some of these people are the ones who may or may not have Indian ancestry and are seeking to establish it, or find it, for whatever reason. This is fine, but with some, it doesn't stop there. Sounds okay so far. Well, here is where it all goes down the toilet. Some, again I say only some, will begin to contact the tribes via email or post messages at the tribal web site like you will see below. Again, sounds okay so far, but hold on. It probably would be okay except for the messages start to sound like this in some cases:
(the names have been changed to protect the
innocent, ha ha. This is more real than you think) Please, no offense meant
to anyone, this is just an example of what is happening....for real.
To: The X Tribe of Blah Blah
From: Thundering Raccoon Chasing the Lightning or Mary
Ref: My tribal heritage
Dear Chief Whoever,
You can call me Mary. I found out yesterday, from a friend, that
I am part Indian. Since yesterday, I have learned much. As
I sat under the moon, the spirits of my newly found people gave my
Indian name to me and told me to seek knowledge from you. Yes you!!
I am on a quest for knowledge and wish to become one with nature.
I am writing you to see if you can teach me "the ways". I know this
is my path. I have recently started up a chapter of "save the ground
hog" in my neighborhood and have also gone door to door asking for styrofoam
cups. We must work together to save the Earth!! By the way,
my 16th great grandmother was Janie_____. Can you do my genealogy for me?
I know that you will know of her because she was your tribal Princess in
1600. I am awaiting your call under the stars. 1-800-fry-bread
or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That's one type. Now here is another of the "extreme" letters, which deals with those who are not Indian, admit it, but wish to follow the "ways" as they may call it:
From: Bloody Pickle in the Spring Time or Eugene
Ref: The true ways
don't know me and I'm not Indian, but I have a deep respect for you people.
I feel bad about what the Europeans did to you guys and I just want to
take this time to apologize on their behalf. I know you people can't make
it on your own two feet, make decisions, or just be plain human,
so you will need as much pity as possible. Even though I am not Indian,
I am a member of the "Native American Church" I am so glad that I
learned about what you guys worship. My life is so much more complete
now. I met a medicine man on the internet, here in New York,
and he was sending out literature about his services. I was a bit
skeptical at first, due to his high prices, but I am glad that I signed
up. I am now a student of "the ways" ( wink :) You know what I am
talking about!!! Everyday, I do just like you Indians do, I go outside
every morning and become one with my brain. I can see much more clearly
now. I just wish that I had some Indian blood in me to make it more
sacred. I know that this stuff comes natural to you guys, so you'll
have to bear with me while I learn. My medicine teacher, Jim Scamsmybutt,
says that pretty soon, I will be ready to teach others. He adopted
me the other day into his tribe over the internet. I know you have
heard of us, we are the Gonnagetya Tribe. We are recognized by the Official
Association of Medicine Men of Iraq. As soon as I save up the $150,000,
I am going to get my certification to teach "the ways". I hope to go and
meet my teacher someday, but due to the "old ways", he cannot tell me exactly
where he lives. You know all about that don't you, brother?
Anyway, I was starting to get tired of playing with this tribe, and I was
wondering if you could adopt me as a member of yours? I figured you
could use a good medicine man in the tribe. After all, with all of the
scams out there, it is good to have someone who REALLY knows what the old
ways were like!!
Okay, these were extreme and do not represent
the majority. On the other hand, you might see a posting or letter
like the one below:
To Mr. Smith, Chief of the X Tribe
Ref: Seeking my Heritage
visited your tribe's web site and found it most informative. I am
a descendant of an intermarriage between an Indian woman and my 4th great
grandfather. My family told me that they were of your tribe.
I am trying to find more information about them and my heritage as I am
proud of who I am and who they were. I have visited some of your
pow wows and really enjoyed it. I think it is bad that people allow so
great a heritage to be hidden or simply slip it under the rug. I
feel that it is my job to carry it on and one day, pass all of the information
along to my children. If you can steer me in the right direction,
I would be most appreciative.
Okay, The first two letters are obviously full of B.S. I don't care if they descended from the first Chief and his two sisters, they are full of it. Their letters are foolish and are a complete embarrassment to themselves. They make a mockery of the culture and the second letter explains how not only was a non- Indian fellow stealing the culture, but the poor guy was being scammed. If he was that stupid, he deserved to have his money taken. The last letter was appropriate, polite, and genuine. It did not go over the limit, nor did it make a fool of the author.
Folks, who from the above, would you think DESERVED to be called wannabe or twinkie or whatever? The first two, right? Sure. I know that you may not think so, but I have seen the last example labeled that way also. Oh yes. Why? Probably because of the first two types of people. These examples are not as made up as you would think them to be. As a matter of fact, some of my ideas for the funny examples came from real posts that I have seen. The last letter is probably the most common and I do not see anything wrong with it. I cannot defend the first two people at all, they earned the title. The last guy, is probably as genuine as you can tell from just an email. No, he obviously isn't enrolled anywhere. He shows respect and is simply interested in learning of his heritage for real reasons.
If you slammed the third guy, you would do more damage than you think. First of all, you would probably spook him from wanting to mention his heritage anymore. He would then stereotype YOU and think that all Indians will treat him that way. Would they? Probably not. The first two types of people have ruined it for everyone else. Because of them, if you are blonde headed, blue eyed, and live in a big city, there is no way for you to mention your heritage without being labeled. I realize that families that left the tribal area for whatever reason, may be looked upon by some of the tribe members with animosity. I have heard their actions called, "selling out" in order to get a better life. Anger arises for those who hid their heritage in order for their kids or themselves to get a better chance at things the white man already had. I can understand that anger, but I cannot change the past. I wasn't alive then and it doesn't change my DNA,blood,or pride.
Could there be embellished stories that contain no truth to them in families? Sure. Anything is possible. Does that make everyone's story the same? No. I realize that there are story tellers in all families, especially long ago when there were no TVs. Do I think that some people may have tried to scam the government and get money on the Guion Miller Roll? I am sure that happened, but I cannot tell you who they were. As a law enforcement officer, I have learned that dishonesty in this world is quite frequent. But still, not everyone. Did my direct family try to get money on that roll? No, but some cousins did; however, there claim was a totally different line that I did not descend from. My great grandfather was an honest, Christian man, whom loved his family and worked hard all of his life as a farmer. Had he never mentioned our blood, his actions would have led someone to think that there was something different about him.
Do I know any "real" Indians? (with humor) Well, knowing what I think of that definition, I will still say yes. Some friends and acquaintances of mine are Lumbee, Cherokee, Choctaw, Monacan, Abenaki, Occaneechi and more. A good friend of mine is 1/2 Cherokee. We have known each other for a long time and have gone fishing, "hung out" and done other things that normal people do. No, he doesn't live on a reservation. As a matter of fact, he is quite economically challenged where he lives. I talked a gun out of his father's hand one night when he wanted to kill himself. The alcoholism and family problems got to him. Sounds like real problems that real people have doesn't it? Anyway, neither one of us has ever asked to see each other's membership cards. I guess I could ask him if it would be all right to scan his father's card onto the internet so everyone could verify this story, huh? Wrong. While in the United States Infantry Training Center -US Army, Fort Benning, Georgia, my best friend was a full blood from out west. Notice that I did not say which tribe. It is because I never asked him as it didn't matter. His first name was Lester,and if you see this Lester, it would be nice to hear from you again. Whoa!! (an 11 Bravo thing)
Now some will probably want to say, "oh my, here is another wannabe trying to hang out with Indians so he can become one ". You can print it in your history books that is not the case. Growing up, our lineage or our race was never mentioned or worried about for that matter. We just knew that we were friends and that is all that mattered. I didn't say, "wait a minute, before I can accept you as an Indian or as a friend, I will need to check your card and verify that your family isn't a bunch of liars". Had I done that, we would not be friends at all. Had they did that to me, we would probably not be friends, because it shows that you have no respect for other's families nor do you have a good way of presenting yourself as a human being.
Do I understand why labels have been attached to such people as mentioned here in this essay? Absolutely. It doesn't matter what area of life you are looking at. There is always a select few that create problems for the rest. Then those take on a band of followers and pretty soon, it looks like the whole bunch is rotten. Is there anything that I can do to change this whole situation? No. It will probably get worse before it gets better. Of course, one day, when people get tired of it all, another idea will take it's place. Those with genuine hearts, will know no rest. Probably only time will show.
One more point here that I feel has created some stereotyping of "white Indians". Indian names. Yes, many people have these. Long ago, an Indian name was the person's name. It normally stated something about their persona or some important event. They may have had several throughout their life times, maybe one at birth, another when they became adults, and maybe another if an important event warranted a new name. In any rate, it was sacred. A person's name is not to be disrespected. Do all people of Indian ancestry have Indian names? Probably not, but some do. Some may have been given one by their family or a respected elder of the tribe. If you really want to know what my true Indian name is, it is Brian. If there is something that my mother has called me, you probably don't want to know what that one is!
Now here comes the problem that has helped get many non recognized Indians get a bad rap. Some folks have acquired Indian names by some means and have caused some real anger between them and some other families. For example, if you met someone like the goof balls in the letters that I made up, and one of them told you that his or her Indian name was the same as your 4th great grandfather's whom died on the trail of tears, you would get mad. They might not have known that, but you would get mad. I have heard tale of some non Indians who seek Native spirituality methods, taking Indian names. Some of these names are historically attached to prominent Indian people. I take that as an insult and then some. Many times, and here again not all, you will see romantic names such as, "Whispering Water Swan" or "Master of the Wind Spirits", etc. I made these up, but maybe someone is using them?
The Genuine Non Recognized Tribes and the Scam Artists
Some final thoughts on what I think of all the Cherokee or other tribal groups out there who are not recognized and those who would be called scam artists. I think that these should be treated as anything else in this world. If someone is not obviously hurting you and committing a crime, then why not leave them alone? In my opinion, many fraudulent tribes and groups can be spotted a mile away and of course, some may not be. More than likely, if we did not know what the word "money" was, then there would be less trouble in this area and other aspects of life. Certainly, there are probably people, as my made up example in one of the letters above, who are obviously trying to take people for what they are worth. Just because a private group needs money to run their affairs does not make them frauds however. When I talk about spotting a fraud a mile away, I mean something like this:
Suppose you meet a fellow over the notorious internet (man this thing has caused some problems over the years), who says he is a chief of some unknown tribe. He says that he is out recruiting members who descended from this tribe or anyone of Indian blood in order to start up a new tribe. He promises that they are going to get land, and that an intent to petition for federal recognition has been filed for his new tribe. He states that he wants to hold onto the old ways and give everyone a chance to belong that deserves to. In return for membership and all of the bells and whistles that he mentioned, you will need to send him a fee of $250 for enrollment. He says that he doesn't require applications, only a letter with a money order. Oh, leave the "pay to" section blank. He explains this by stating that the tribal checking account is not yet ready and their may be some slight changes in the way they are going to be printed. His market will no doubt be the unenrolled people who just don't meet the requirements for enrollment, but want to pursue tribal membership. Okay, he's got their attention. Finally, someone who will accept me, right?
Well, the story goes on. Keep in mind, this is another one of my parables, but with a truthful meaning and lesson involved. Anyway, this so called chief has gotten his claws into what could be a very sincere person who is just proud of their heritage, but disenfranchised. Now, he leads his victim and many others like him or her, out for the kill. This chief, as he calls himself, convinces all of his new followers (in his chat room) that he is some kind of chosen one and needs money to really get the tribe going. As I said before, legitimate people do need money to do things also. However, this guy might ask his members for large amounts of cash to be sent to his tribal office. This tribal office might or might not exist. Anyway, the people have never seen him and should never send money to him anyway. After he tries to earn their respect and their money, he skips town. Now you have a few or a whole bunch of people who can't seem to locate their chief nor their money. Sound crazy? It can and probably does happen.
What was wrong with the picture above? Well, from a law officers point of view, I see what we call a "Bunco" artist. I think I spelled that right. You could call him a real scam artist who has taken people with a criminal intent. Other than the fact that this is a common criminal, he has defamed the tribal name, and created an embarrassing situation for those involved. It is called, learning the hard way. What clues did this guy give that gave away his identity as a criminal? At first, you just didn't know. To the unsuspecting person, or to one who is just hungry to belong to a tribe, it sounds just wonderful. Now I can be a member of a tribe, carry a member card, look forward to going to pow wows on our own land and everything! Oh buyer beware! Some of those folks who would have written letters like the ones above in my examples, will probably fall into this category.
As I said, to some people who do not understand how things are today, this might seem like an opportunity. The chief has offered to accept you into the tribe, made some nice promises to you and most of all, he has become your friend! Of course he has become your friend!! Some more clues now. First of all, beware of who you meet over the internet. I have met some super nice people on the net, but I have met some real whackos too. The victims of this scam should have started to worry when they met this guy. Here he is, a chief who has no people. Who made him Chief? Was he elected or simply erected? This should have been a big clue. Now, he asks for money early on in the introduction. The first thing that this guy probably told the people was send me some money. He is basically selling tribal memberships and at a real bargain, $250!! Wow! Is that all? What a guy!
After the money speech, he has to convince the people that they will be getting their money's worth. He told them about "future" tribal lands with this and that. He also won their confidence by telling them that his tribe has already filed for federal petition. Actually, sent a letter of intent to petition. Anyone can do that. It really doesn't hold water. Filing the actual petition is good, but even then, it is up to Uncle Sam if it was good enough. So, the unsuspecting person, who knows little of what they are doing, has been suckered. Now the person thinks that he has a tribal card coming in the mail, future land holdings, a CDIB in the works, and is a close personal friend of the chief. Heck, they may even get to be a council member! Well, weeks go by and by. No tribal card and no thank you letter. These people are now left empty in their hearts and their wallets. The guy on the other end? I am sure that he felt some remorse as he cashed all of those blank money orders.
Lesson number one is be careful and know what is going on before you jump into the river of life. Things like the above happen for real. Maybe not tribal fraud, but I have personally invested rip off artists who have taken people for thousands of dollars. They are everywhere and not just in the realm of Indian tribes or clubs. Lesson two is know who you are dealing with. This is where recognized tribes are much safer. At least you know that they are real. Anyone can start up a club or what they call a tribe. They don't have to be native american. I could start up the Super Secret Cherokee Rifle Club tomorrow and it have nothing to do with being Cherokee nor have any member requirements. I could ask you to send me money and I will print you a tribal card. You have paid for a piece of paper and nothing else.
Here is the sad part. There are many groups out there who are not state nor federally recognized that are indeed very genuine at heart. They may need some money to finance their affairs because they get no help from Uncle Sam. Because of the above example, they too have been labeled as wannabes, frauds, scam artists, and other names. Many of these groups contain some of the nicest, most sincere people that I have ever met. They are banded together as a group to stand proud of their heritage merely for the sake of that pride and nothing else. They don't have any benefits, they don't have state or federal recognition, and most do not have any assets, but they have heart. Most of these members will stand up for their heritage more proudly than anyone, but are still labeled. Here again, some bad seeds have helped ruin it for the rest. Will that ever change? Probably not.
Am I going to list a bunch of groups or tribes here that I think are right and a bunch whom I think are wrong? No. Who am I to judge which groups may or may not be scams. They already know who they are. They know how to scam those who are wanting to be tribal members and be proud of their heritage. They know which types of people are more likely to come to them. If you are without tribal membership and you are seeking that, then do what you feel is right. You don't have to be a tribal member to be who you are or to be proud of your family. If it will help you to join a local group or tribe, then do it. Just be careful who you deal with.
The moral of the story?
If I earn the title wannabe or goof ball, then I will probably expect you
to give it to me. If I show pride in my family and show respect to
you for being what I consider part of that family, all I ask of you is
respect for that. I don't care what tribe you belong to or what type
of card you carry. I will be a friend to you all. I probably
will never contact any of you and tell you that I am the only true medicine
man, sent here by the ghost of a dead Chief. If I do, the number
to the funny farm is in the book and I will need to go there. Try
to respect those groups who are genuine in their efforts and pride as Indians
who may not carry any type of card. If you run into frauds, that
you know frauds and can prove the intent of criminal activity,
then tell the right people. If I don't fit the profile of the whacked out
wannabe,study about my heritage, show pride in it, and you still call me
names, what am I to think of you? This is the story of me.
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The author of this web site has also published a book about his experiences as a law enforcement officer over the last 10 years. Included in this book, is a Christian message of hope for those involved in the field. Potential officers will find it educational, while veterans in this line of work will see that they are not alone in the battles that they face on a daily basis. This title is available through all major online book stores. You may also order it from any major book store that deals with Ingram books. Click on the book's cover graphic to be taken to it's promotional site.